How well do residents impact policy decisions in Collingwood? What is the role of our elected officials – Collingwood Council? Municipal voting turnout is low and ongoing public oversight is even lower. Collingwood Staff run the Town of Collingwood and Collingwood Staff make recommendations to Council for approval to manage Collingwood.
In general; residents are not engaged in Town of Collingwood affairs and when they try to get engaged the municipal system frustrates and suppresses many efforts. In the case of coyote concerns – we face common challenges of being heard and taking action on behalf of residents but public safety warrants our effort.
An unfortunate case in point is that coyotes are roaming at large in Collingwood – killing pets, threatening residents and putting our streets, public parks and our yards at an unacceptable safety level. Of those residents who are aware of the coyote issue and the risks/threats from coyotes; what should they do beyond the odd conversation we have within our families and neighbors? Staff of Collingwood and Town Council have been notified and are not responding seriously to this issue and continue to allow coyotes to roam at large in Collingwood while attempting to educate residents to coexist and accept coyotes in Collingwood (often blaming residents for offering a source of food for coyotes – including pets)- posting signs to be aware of coyotes in the area and how to respond but with a confusing message – why should we be aware of coyotes – is there a danger and if so what is the danger – the few signs that exist imply danger. The Town website is helpful but not the appropriate or effective solution. Government resources fail to disclose the risk related to coyotes – the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) admits coyotes commonly attack small dogs. General consensuses by government sources is that it is unlikely coyotes will attack people – but there are cases of coyote attacks and killing pets and people – the more we dig the more cases we find while the government assures us it is unlikely.
It appears that in the mind of the Collingwood government that coyotes are not at a threat level that requires their removal – is it not the residents who should make this determination? The Collingwood government’s mandate is to serve the people – while other government agencies such as MNRF and Coyote Watch Canada are mandated to protect coyotes. The Collingwood residents should have the say in the level of their safety in Collingwood and this should not be compromised by conflicting interests of government agencies – who should not have jurisdiction in this matter.
Are residents engaged in this issue to engage Town Council to take action? Is Council only as effective as residents in uncovering this problem? How many pets have gone missing and have been killed – the policy makers control this information if it exists? Will the concerns and risks continue until a child is attacked and possibility killed by a coyote for the media to report this tragedy and create awareness of this issue – to engage enough people for the Town of Collingwood to take action. How many complaints are necessary for action to be taken in a city of over 20,000? (I have filed a Freedom of Information Request to see what the level of complaints is and how they have been dismissed by the Town of Collingwood – at a cost of over $300.00) Who is responsible for understanding this issue and taking action – the Town of Collingwood does not deal with wildlife – so why do we have by-laws in anticipation of issues coyotes have created – animal control and Collingwood Firearms bylaw which deals with animals roaming at large, noise issues from animals, prohibited species such as all canids (coyotes), nuisance and animals that threaten inhabitants? The laws are in place to act. Why is there a failure to act.
There does not appear to be a Collingwood staff member to oversee this issue. The official position is ” Town of Collingwood does not manage wildlife”. The OPP has rejected service calls to date and has recently announced that they will respond if there is “an immediate threat to public safely”. The OPP is under service contract from the Town of Collingwood. Therefore, the Town of Collingwood is responsible for safety in Collingwood (which would include safety issues from wildlife). If the Town of Collingwood deems coyotes roaming at large to be an immediate threat to public safety then the OPP must act and remove coyotes from Collingwood. Should residents have any say in what an immediate threat to public safety is? I think coyotes meet this threshold and should be removed from Collingwood.
The OPP does not trap coyotes and are reluctant to shoot coyotes in public or private areas. The OPP is not effective in dealing with coyotes. If there is an attack on a person; the response time would be too late. The action would potentialyl be to look for the “problem coyote” from the many in Collingwood and then shoot it or have it trapped by a trapper. This has been the case in other communities in which coyotes have attacked residents – adults and children.
The cost of live trapping and removing coyotes from Collingwood is several thousand dollars annually – assuming there are approximately 12 coyotes currently and others return annually. The OPP Police budget in Collingwood is about $5,063,4100.00 for safety in Collingwood – as per the current OPP Police Services Agreement.
How can the Town of Collingwood Council, OPP and Staff not justify the minimal cost of removing coyotes from Collingwood. This is an acceptable cost to protect our streets, parks, public areas and private yards from wild unpredictable animals who are killing our pets, putting our small children at risk while coyotes are openly hunted legally outside of Collingwood to control the excess population of coyotes. I even volunteered to pay this initially to avoid delays in possible appropriation of funds processes and delays.
Do we continue to go in circles?
Residents are hiring a trapper to begin to deal with the coyote issue in the Georgian Manor Drive area – it can be done and should be done by the Town of Collingwood in other areas of Collingwood.
What do we do as residents?
- We have to find a way to put pressure on the Town of Collingwood to take action. Petition, emails to Town of Collingwood Clerk Office, emails to Councilors, deputation to Councilors (to make Council aware of a problem that they should already be aware of and which staff is not acting appropriately on) All of these actions are are detailed at www.coyoteconcernscollingwood.com under Action” and “Petition“
- Organize as residents to engage other residents. Post signs on mailboxes, hand out information cards to households, direct people to www.coyoteconcernscollingwood.com to get a resident’s perspective on the coyote issue.
- Attract media coverage.
- Education: We have to counter the biologist arguments that coyotes are an important part of the ecosystem. We do not have a rabbit or mouse problem in Collingwood and if we ever did; coyotes roaming at large would not be the preferred solution.
- Education: We have to counter the argument that we have destroyed coyote natural habitat so they are forced into our urban areas. It is true that natural habitat is destroyed when developments are undertaken and responsible action to deal with wildlife at these locations are not taken. The more relevant reality is that coyote population is growing independent of the loss of habitat. They are extremely mobile, territorial and are finding new territories to grow their population; coyotes are not endangered. The MNRF has banned coyote hunting in the Algonquin area to protect a wolf species which is adding to the population issue.
- Education: We have to counter the argument that we do not want to hurt coyotes as they have the right to protection. The argument should be made to protect them in the wild but not in urban centers such as Collingwood where we need to protect people and pets from coyotes. Pets should have rights to protection and coyotes attacking pets in Collingwood should not be unacceptable.
- Education: We have to counter the argument that trapping is cruel and can harm other animals such as our pets – this has happened and can happen if not managed responsibly. Trapping by licensed experienced trappers can be done with a live trap to eliminate damage to other unintended animals. Hunting/trapping is cruel to many but legal and necessary to control the population of animals and deal with threats from wild animals. The laws permit trapping to deal with problem coyotes. Are the activists (including MNRF and Coyote Watch Canada) wanting to protect coyotes in effect putting our pets, children and ourselves at risk – should they have such a voice and influence on our safety in Collingwood.
- Take action ourselves and start trapping coyotes on private properties which is permitted by law if coyotes are damaging property or a threatening to damaging our property (pets are included in property). We are starting a live trapping program; hopefully this week with a number of approved residential properties. I have committed to funding this project with the support of donations from residents.
- Wait until the coyote concerns effects you directly – lose a pet, child or a threat or attack on you. (not a problem until it effects you)
- Accept the preferred position of the Town of Collingwood; Learn to coexist and accept the consequences and change the way we live in Collingwood – keep our children and pets close to us and/or inside and away from coyotes who are entering our yards day and night. Unfortunately this is the preferred choice of our government and our public funds are being used to promote this policy.