Some of the strongest wording so far in a delegation on the coyote problem.

By Stephen White

September 14th, 2022


Stephen White, co-author of the Burlington Oakville Coyote Management report that was given to the City Manager some time ago delegated to council this morning.  He did not mince his words.

I want to begin my remarks this morning by thanking the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk & Accountability Committee for the opportunity to delegate on the proposed Coyote Response Strategy Escalation Protocols.

Stephen White

My name is Stephen White and I have been a Ward 5 Burlington resident for 47 years. Prior to 2014 I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I saw a coyote. The only time most of us saw one was if we were down in Bromley Creek and saw one in the distance. Interactions were infrequent.

I had my first coyote interaction in November 2014. I assure you it was not a moment from a Disney movie. I was walking my dog at the time, an older Collie, at 5:30 a.m. on my street. Three coyotes sixty feet away approached me from around a corner, saw us, and got within twenty feet. The Alpha male approached us from the front, and the two smaller pack animals approached from each side. As I turned to the one at the side the other one advanced in a widening arch. Had it not been for the intervention of a delivery driver for the Hamilton Spectator who drove his car up on the sidewalk blocking their advance, my experience may not have been limited to a frightening encounter.

I have been actively involved in this issue since early 2015. I delegated at Council 7 years ago almost to the day on this topic. At the time, I stood in these Council Chambers, and I said the City’s coyote management program was ineffective and piecemeal.

I questioned why there wasn’t consideration of other control measures other than restricting feeding and reporting coyote sightings on websites.

I mentioned that the City needed to be more proactive and involved in eliminating threats from wildlife. I said, to the chagrin of Councillor Craven at the time, that if something more definitive wasn’t done that some Burlington residents were going to be attacked or seriously hurt. I take no great pleasure or pride in saying “I told you so”.

In June of 2017 at a public meeting on coyotes attended by over 200 Burlington residents at Mainway Arena, I and other speakers again delivered the message that this City needed to get actively involved in controlling the coyote problem. Once again, our message landed on deaf ears. In September 2020 I watched in horror one morning as my next-door neighbour’s 12-year old cat was ambushed and shredded by three coyotes. My neighbour was so traumatized by this event she was off work for weeks and had to seek medical care. In one week in my neighbourhood seven cats went missing. One member of BOCM living in Ward 4 had a coyote scale the fence in their backyard and attack their small dog, resulting in a severally injured family pet and several thousand dollars in emergency vet bills.

My fellow BOCM co-founder, Julie Martin, has met with multiple residents, and documented several cases in her West Oakville neighbourhood of coyote attacks and stalking. In early 2021, she started an online petition on calling for Oakville and Burlington to adopt a more focused, specific plan to control coyotes which received over 700 signatories.

In March 2021 following yet another frustrating teleconference on the issue of coyote management replete with no definitive action plans, no comprehensive strategy, and where Julie, who actually instigated this meeting, was not even extended the courtesy of presenting or delegating, both of us reached our limit. We decided to create Burlington and Oakville Coyote Management, or BOCM. Over the course of 2021 our group met weekly, and the culmination of our work is the Report that is an Appendix. It contains eleven specific recommendations that are intended to protect residents and their pets. These recommendations were predicated on a multi-faceted approach that encompasses Analysis, Education, Prevention and Protection. Underlying these recommendations is our belief that in order to combat this problem an integrated, multi-faceted approach is needed in conjunction with the Town of Oakville.

At the heart of BOCM’s recommendations is our belief that public safety is paramount. Every resident in Burlington and Oakville has the right, and expectation, to be able to walk down their street at 2:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., and know that they are safe. They should not have to carry sticks, pepper spray, stones, whistles, alarms, or any other personal protection devices, to protect themselves, their children, or their pets.

Julie and I, as well as members of BOCM, have read the proposed Coyote Response Escalation Strategy. We wholeheartedly support the measures embodied in this Report, and we are pleased to lend our endorsement. In doing so, I also want to thank City Manager Commisso, the Mayor, and Councillor Stolte for their tacit support of our efforts to raise awareness. I especially want to acknowledge, with sincere thanks, the support of Councillor Paul Sharman who has patiently endured my incessant pleadings for the City to get involved and do more, and whose steadfast encouragement of BOCM’s efforts over the past few months is genuinely appreciated.

That being said, let me be blunt: BOCM believes that it has taken this City way too long to respond effectively to this problem. The City’s previously passive, non-interventionist approach to coyote management which implies that reporting coyote sightings on websites, refraining from feeding animals, and essentially, learning to live with it, are somehow sufficient remedies. As the events of the last few weeks have clearly shown, they aren’t.

Simply, this reliance upon simplistic solutions has been ineffectual, naïve and short-sighted. The focus needs to be public safety, not coyote rights.

This approach has placed an inordinate onus on individual citizens, with far too little support, direction and engagement from the City. Cheery bromides such as “living in harmony with nature”, and “don’t feed the coyotes” are cold comfort to residents who feel unsafe walking down the street for fear of being attacked. The last time I checked, coyotes don’t pay taxes, they don’t vote, and they also aren’t on the hook paying thousands of dollars in vet bills for injured pets.

The recent attacks on several residents and children should serve as a clarion call to everyone concerned about public safety. Finally, to those who may say this is an over-reach, or unnecessary, let me respectfully suggest some of the probable consequences of not adopting the measures contained in this Report. If the current situation continues unchecked, my prediction is that one of, or a combination of, four things will happen in future:

1. A resident is going to be seriously attacked, or God forbid, killed.
2. The City is going to be on the receiving end of a massive lawsuit for damages from the individual or family of the person severely attacked.
3. There will be a public outcry that will make the recent publicity around coyote attacks pale in comparison. and
4. In the absence of clear and compelling direction from the City citizens will intervene and take the law into their own hands. They will l lay traps, or they will put down poison. When traumatized, untrained and alarmed people do things in a spirit of irrationality and anger bad things happen, and often, innocent by-standers are negatively impacted. And lest you think I am being alarmist, I’ve had it confirmed from one of my neighbours this is exactly what is going on in one Niagara Region subdivision.

In summary, BOCM believes this Report is responsible, balanced, and goes a long way to addressing a long-standing and serious safety risk in this community, and we urge Council’s adoption in its entirety of this Report.

Thank you.


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15 comments to Some of the strongest wording so far in a delegation on the coyote problem.

  • Wendy

    Anne, MMW just likes to be on TV and watch herself in adoration ! Her minions can’t get enough of her. So sick of her propaganda, she did NOTHING until people were getting bit.

  • Steve W

    What a relief that someone is finally telling the truth. Thank you Mr. White.

  • Mitch

    I attended the Mainway meeting in 2017. After over two hours then Mayor Goldring stood up and said I have heard you. I will commit to finding a solution. He did absolutely nothing. I think his cavalier attitude was partly responsible for his losing his election and job. And now we have these animals attacking people.

  • We were in Chambers today for Stephen White’s excellent and absolutely to the point presentation. We learnt that whistle’s, as promoted by the city do not work. Thank you Stephen for being as blunt as you were we now have the coyote situation as a code red emergency and top priority for the remaining life of this Council. The City motto is “Stand By”. This Council have surely done that and let the Coyote’s threaten the safety and lives of the community.

    • Bob

      So if you were to be elected Mayor, what would you do different ?
      Easy to criticize with no policy of your own.

      • Bob, while this was Anne and Dave Marsden’s comment I, Anne, certainly do have a policy that would have seen an entirely different result. That is why I have Dave’s full blessing to come out of retirement to run against the incumbent to bring back a “strong council” who make decisions as required by the Municipal Act and not the “strong mayor” approach supported by numerous changes to our Procedural By-law. We both really enjoy retirement, working with Canadian families to achieve justice through our Pro Bono Advocacy Ministry founded on “Work for the well-being of the city to which I have sent you.” Jeremiah 29:7, However we are prepared to offer my skills and experience to the people of Burlington. October 24, 2022 will determine whether our offer is acceptable to the residents of Burlington or not. If not we both will not complain about returning to the life of retirees and our Pro Bono advocacy that is well referenced as making a difference in many families’ lives.

        That policy is to lead this council in making decisions that comply with their legislated role to represent taxpayers, their well-being and interests. No-one who puts themselves up to serve has expertise in every single topic that affects “well-being” and “best interests” but those who put themselves up to serve in this way, MUST LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS SUCH AS STEPHEN WHITE and take the necessary action to protect the “well-being” of residents and employees. Is that not what risk management is all about. It was when I worked in that area in my career days.

        In this case, Council rejected Stephen White’s repetitive pleas to take action to prevent the situation we now have, many years later. It is only when a retirement home resident napping on her patio wakes up to a Coyote attacking her; several other attacks take place and where we go and what we do in this city is being restricted because of the Coyotes, that the leader of our Council is stirred into action other than promoting giving away free whistles that give a false sense of security and, according to the experts Committee heard, may end up making the situation worse and much worse still could result in Burlington’s first Coyote fatality.

        We have a Public Engagement Charter that promotes compliance with such a policy that has been completely and repetitively ignored. It was put in place by the 2010 Council on the advice of former Mayor Mulkewich and a very respected resident the late John Boich contained in the Shape Report. Boich forecast and refused to apologise for such forecast, a toxic council if there was not a change in terms of paying attention to those who come to the lectern with their own areas of expertise. There are many who say his words were prophetic.

        • Bob

          When Stephen White first reported in the Gazette about his delegation I asked then and I will ask again, what makes Stephen White and his group experts? The city has asked the provincial ministry for assistance. They are certified experts, what makes these citizens more of an expert and why would you Anne as the mayor choose their delegation over the Ministry experts?

          Editors note: Nothing – except that Stephen White was pushing the city to do something more than a year and a half before the experts were brought in.

          • Bob, I have not chosen Stephen White’s delegation over Ministry experts. I have supported Stephen White’s position that Council failed to act when they should have done to avoid the position we are in now and repeatedly failed to give his delegations a moment’s thought.

            It is a repeat of the Air B & B problem. Some citizens had made up to 10 delegations and suffered immensely in terms of the council ignoring pleas for action. As soon as the City decided to take the relevant action i.e. an Application for relief before the Court, the matter was resolved in favour of the City and its affected families. We would not have this problem of people continuing to be attacked when resting in their space if Council had given Stephen White’s pleas to protect the community when he first started raising the alarm. Like so many before him, his concerns for his community was ignored and now VULNERABLE RESIDENTS ARE PAYING THE PRICE. That is not fufilling the Council’s role of ensuring the well-being of Burlington residents.

        • Bob

          Anne, when Mr White delegated 7 years ago he was incorrect.
          He was incorrect 6 years ago, 5, 4, 3, 2 and this current year his prediction is bearing fruit. There is, according to the Ministry 1 family of problematic coyotes which was not a problem until 7 years after he delegated.
          What would YOU have done 7 years ago when it wasn’t a problem?

  • Wendy

    100% agree !!! and the stupid “free” (your tax dollars) whistles do NOTHING. There is a pack living in Bromley Park creek area, they howl whenever an emergency vehicles sounds their siren, which is all the time in this area. MMW does nothing! time to lock up your pets, children and seniors. I have a pic to add of these not so “cuddly” creatures we should cohabitate with according to MMW, but can’t attach it

    • Wendy you are not going to believe this, but after the statements at Committee that the whistles do not work MMW is stating on CP24 News that is repeating her message over and over again to the public beginning around 5 p.m., in answer to a question of what to do when faced with a coyote. “Make yourself big, make yourself loud, make lots of noise to scare them off, its called hazing and it does work. We have distributed over 3,000 whistles through our libraries.” AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Hans Jacobs

    I agree completely with everything that Mr. White wrote so eloquently. Hopefully the City will be sufficiently motivated now to act, before any of the four probable outcomes occurs.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Why do I get the feeling that what happened with BOCM is a proxy for how our council can sometime tackle serious matters. Coyotes could care less about Facebook, Instagram, radio and TV spots,and other publicity stunts. Our city boasts about engagement, but when people take the time to do what Stephen and Julie have done, instead of the rubber hitting the highway it seems like they got meetings, studies, reports, but mostly 7 years worth of delay after delay. How many citizens are willing to delegate, let alone for 7 years, not many. Even worse, is the attention now being paid to the Coyote file more about being re-elected than solving a serious problem? Time and results will tell. In the meantime, I for one will no longer ride my bike on the Centennial Coyote infested Bike Trail.

    • Joe, don’t forget all the false sense of security given by those like the Ward 2 Councillor promoted, by giving out free whistles to the community at Rib Fest etc. Obviously there was no consultation with those who have given their time as to the effectiveness, zero according to what we heard from the second delegate, before instilling false hope of fulsome protection from coyotes in a “free” whistle .

    • Stephen White

      Hi Joe:

      Thank you for your comments and observations, and thank you also to many others on this forum who have generously and graciously posted their observations and assessments, both pro and con. The feedback is genuinely appreciated! Special thanks to the Burlington Gazette and Pepper Parr for championing this issue.

      I came away from this experience with five revelations or insights which I offer below:

      1) Sadly, city administrations do not listen to people who delegate individually. I’ve delegated previously as an individual, and I’ve done so on behalf of a group, both for BOCM and Engaged Citizens of Burlington. Unless you are part of an organization, you are marginalized or flat out ignored. There is strength in numbers. The respect that should be accorded any individual citizen who delegates is deserving of as much respect and attention as that of organized entities.

      2) There is one incredible “blurring of the lines” between certain departments at City Hall and external advisory/advocacy groups. When I heard Coyote Watch discuss their previous work on behalf of the City of Burlington my jaw dropped. Why is a supposedly not-for-profit organization based in Niagara performing work on behalf of the City….or any municipal government? Are people who volunteer for this organization travelling around Ontario doing this for free? If so-called “volunteers” do work such as on site advising and clearing out coyote dens is that not a usurpation of the work that should be performed by City employees? Do we not have people at City Hall with the expertise to do this? If those City employees are unionized, and work is being performed by volunteers, is that not an unfair labour practice?

      3) There is often no differentiation between an “advocacy” group and an “advisory group”. BOCM makes no claim to being advisory in nature. We are not scientists, and we claim no technical or scientific expertise. We are advocates who believe community public safety is paramount. Conversely, Coyote Watch claims advisory expertise but, in fact, are advocates for animal rights. However, if one is in an advisory role does that not pre-suppose some professional qualifications?

      4) The commitment to public engagement is more perceived than real. My BOCM co-founder, Julie Martin, spearheaded an online petition with 700 signatories asking Oakville and Burlington to be more proactive in managing the coyote menace. Despite that, it was Coyote Watch that was tapped to present at the March 10, 2021 teleconference attended by over 100 attendees. Julie Martin instigated this meeting, championed the issue, but was never invited to speak or present. Why? So much for community engagement.

      5) You have to have a plan. BOCM’s 26 page report was complete with a detailed assessment and action plan. It contained pictures, and 11 specific recommendations. We made it crystal clear what we wanted and why. True, we didn’t have a pretty slide deck and a “dog and pony” show like our friends from Coyote Watch, but at least we tried to offer a path forward with unique and original ideas drawn from the experience of other jurisdictions across Canada. We didn’t keep reciting the same boring mantras or try to gaslight residents with cheery bromides.

      As they say: live and learn!

      BOCM’s focus going forward is the Oakville municipal election. The Ward 1 Local and Regional Councillors have been, to put it charitably, spectacularly unhelpful. Time to change the players.