City dwellers and wild animals
You may have heard, or read, news reports about coyotes menacing residents and snatching pets in the Riverside South area of Ottawa. It is in relative proximity to the place our choir, Atlantic Voices, gathers for two and a half-hour sessions every Tuesday night (all masked and staying five metres apart).
Nearby is a woodlot with several paths. I always like to arrive early to allow some time to walk those paths. Always, I remind myself that I am walking on the unceded territory of our Indigenous people. After watching a TV newscast report of the coyote pet attacks, I am also aware that perhaps one Tuesday evening, I might encounter one of them.
I love pets. I love wild animals of all species. I feel for those pets who become prey for the coyotes, as well as for their owners. I also feel for those coyotes, whose prey are smaller animals that sustain them. Coyotes don’t distinguish between squirrels, mice, birds or pets.
As we build our cities outward, we destroy the habitat of wildlife. Who can know how many wild animals have been displaced from their dens, their territory and sent scurrying off to other places? Who knows how many coyote pups were scraped up by large machinery and dumped in a heap of rubble?
The first home that we purchased in Gatineau was a modest semi-detached one in a new development near the Gatineau Hospital. At the time, you might describe the area as semi-rural. There were gravel roads. The buses wouldn’t even pass on these. Ducks flocked to a nearby pond, which is now covered by the asphalt of Highway 50. St René Boulevard West was a gravel road. Naturally, there was lots of wildlife nearby.
I wanted our little place to be a haven for birds and wildlife. I planted trees, a garden, lots of flowers and cedar hedges. There was a seed-bearing tree in the front yard; beneath it a bird bath. Another bird bath was in the backyard.
One winter, I decided to hang a couple of bird feeders from the clothesline. (We had a clothes dryer.) Many feathered friends came for a daily feed. One day, I observed two pigeons surveying the scene from a nearby rooftop. I certainly didn’t want pigeons at the feeders. They’re messy. Neighbours were using their clotheslines for proper purposes. They didn’t want their clothes soiled with pigeon droppings.
One morning, a notice from the city arrived in my mailbox. It was a warning of a possible fine. Down came the feeders.
City of Gatineau By-law No. 183-2005 regarding wild animals is extensive. In Chapter 4, #40 re pigeons, it states:
“No one shall keep, breed, feed or otherwise attract pigeons within city limits.”
Chapter 7, #54 states:
“No one shall feed or attract birds and in doing so create unsanitary conditions of health, safety, or comfort of any people in the neighborhood.”
The By-laws are extensive and necessary concerning the keeping, control and care of animals in the city of Gatineau.
As good citizens, we should always adhere to these by-laws. Wild animals, of course, have no way of adhering to them. Therefore, By-law officers try to capture wildlife within city boundaries and bring them to other habitat. At times, however, they have no choice but to exterminate them.