A family living on Enderby farmland is in a bind due to more aggressive coyotes this mating season, and resulting bylaw visits that have left their guard dogs muzzled and their livestock exposed.
Danielle Smith’s family of four has lived in the Back Enderby and Old Salmon Arm Road area for the past four years. Their property has farmland classification but is also next to residential homes.
Farming is their livelihood. They keep chickens to sell eggs and raise hogs for meat processing each year – income that allows Smith to stay at home full-time to work the farm and home-school their two kids aged 10 and seven. Their farm is home to 100 chickens as well as turkeys, goats, peacocks and bunnies and other livestock.
This year the family ran into a new problem – coyotes that could be heard from a distance in previous years began encroaching onto their property, sneaking into their chicken coop.
Traps of any kind are out of the question, as the neighbourhood is filled with pets and children. The couple don‘t own firearms and are uneasy about using them to solve their coyote conundrum.
“This is the first time we’ve had an issue like this in four years,” Smith said, adding that in addition to a greater number of more emboldened coyotes, they’ve also had a lot more up-close bear encounters.
Coyote mating season runs from December until the end of March, a period in which residents are often reminded to keep dogs leashed, lest they be lured by a female coyote in heat.
On Friday, Vernon Conservation Officer Tanner Beck said there has not been an uptick in coyote reports lately.
“In fact it’s lower than usual. Probably because people aren’t outside as much. In the summer, spring and whatnot we get more encounters because people are out walking their dogs.”
For those who raise chickens or other livestock, Beck said the best coyote deterrent a fence around their properties.
The Smiths have fenced their property, but the coyotes and bears have demonstrated no issues with climbing over it. Instead, they rely on their trained livestock guard dogs to defend their chickens.
However, that has led to a second problem: bylaw officers have been called due to noise complaints related to the dogs’ barking to scare away the coyotes. Bylaw officers ordered the Smiths to keep their dogs muzzled and in a kennel at night.
They can either muzzle their dogs and leave their chickens exposed, or they let them bark and risk being handed bylaw fines.
Some have suggested hiring a coyote pest control company, which could be a viable option. Others have suggested moving somewhere else where their farm won’t be near any neighbours, but being in a neighbourhood was part of the reason they settled there in the first place.
“This is our dream property,” Smith explained. “We’ve worked very hard to get to where we are and find a place like this where we could be close to town and have neighbours and kids around for our little kids, and still have that sort of lifestyle of raising chickens and the pigs.”
They hope to be granted an exemption from noise complaints on the basis of their need to protect their livestock and livelihood, but mating season won’t end for a while yet.