The coyote (Canis latrans) is half the size of a wolf and usually smaller than large domestic dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. Even with the coyote’s smaller size, you’re much more likely to see a coyote than a wolf. Why?
Unlike the gray wolves of Jasper National Park, coyotes can lose their natural fear of humans. This lack of fear by the coyote makes human encounters more common. Coyote behavior is unpredictable and they can pose a threat to humans. There have been cases where coyotes have tragically attacked isolated children in Jasper.
Parks Canada provides the following advice about how to handle a coyote attack:
“If you are approached by a cougar, wolf or coyote, send a clear message that you are NOT potential prey.
- Pick up small children immediately.
- Do anything you can to make yourself look bigger.
- Be prepared to use pepper spray if you have it.
- Fight back aggressively if attacked.
- DO NOT crouch, play dead, run, or turn your back to the animal.”
A coyote habituated to humans will typically be relocated to remote parts of the park or surrounding forest parks. In certain circumstances, the coyote must be killed.
What do coyotes eat?
Coyotes usually hunt for small animals like rabbits. If hunting in groups, coyotes have been known to take down livestock. Coyotes throughout North America have a varied diet, eating whatever food they can find in their environment, even insects and plants.
Coyotes also pose a threat to pets. To a coyote or pack of coyotes, your pet may look like a meal – even if your dog is extra-large. Parks Canada urges pet owners to keep pets on a leash and in sight while in the park.
Where to see coyotes in Jasper National Park?
You may spot a coyote wandering along the side of the roadway looking for roadkill. They’ve been known to wander through Jasper townsite and the many Jasper campgrounds while scavenging for food.
The best time to try to spot a coyote is at dusk or dawn, a common time of activity for many Jasper Park animals. You can try to look for them in fields, but actually seeing a coyote takes some luck. The best bet is to always be on the lookout for coyotes near or on the roadway while you are driving throughout Jasper.
Always stay at a safe distance – far enough away that the animal does not know you are there.
“There’s a wolf in town! There’s a wolf in town!”
Coyotes are easy to confuse with wolves. More often than not, the animal seen in close proximity to humans will be the coyote. Learn more about the coyote’s cousin, the good gray wolf of Jasper National Park.