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NNSL Photo/graphic

A coyote roams down Arden Avenue near the airport earlier this winter. Airport officials say coyotes must be destroyed to ensure airplane safety. - photo courtesy of Elizabeth Miller

Airport coyotes to be killed

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 14/05) - A howling population of coyotes at the airport has prompted a decision to kill them off out of fear that they are a runway disaster in waiting.

Airport manager Michel Lafrance said the animals frequently run onto the runway, forcing planes trying to land to either pull up quickly or slam on the brakes.

"For the last six months we've had repeated incidents where coyotes have all of a sudden surged in front of aircraft," said Lafrance.

"They've had to brake. Some aircraft had to overshoot. It's become a safety issue."

Lafrance said they've had at least 10 official reports of near misses the last six months, although many go unreported.

He said their normal response of trying to scare off the coyotes with bear bangers isn't working. Lafrance estimates that there are about a dozen of them living on or near the airport grounds.

Having coyotes at the airport is not all that bad, said Lafrance, because they drive away other problem animals, particularly birds such as sandhill cranes and kestrels.

"But now it's getting out of hand," he said.

Coyotes, whose traditional range ends at the south end of Great Slave Lake, first started appearing around the airport in the summer of 2000. It's believed they are attracted to the airport's open fields, which provide good homes for small mammals on which they feed.

Wildlife officers with Environment and Natural Resources plan to set snares and "soft" leghold traps to capture the animals. After that, senior wildlife officer Raymond Bourget said they will be destroyed.

He said relocation attempts for coyotes are usually not successful.

"To take an animal and relocate it to a new area means it's got to find a food source now, which is always harder on it," said Bourget.

"The other thing is the availability of food out there in winter time is greatly reduced."

He added that coyotes can easily travel 100 km in a day and make their way back to the airport. Bourget said the pelts will either be used for trapper-training workshops or turned over to local trappers.

The NWT SPCA's Janet Pacey said her group isn't happy about the cull.

"Hopefully they've looked at all the options," said Pacey.

She said the department of Transportation asked the SPCA to issue a press release, advising residents to keep their pets away from the airport.

Teri Arychuk, co-owner of Air Tindi, said none of her pilots have reported a problem with coyotes, but added that she supports the culling plan if airport officials are saying it's a problem.

Adlair Air owner Paul Laserich said he doesn't have a problem with the coyotes being around at all. He said his airline regularly feeds them.

"We feed them leftover sandwiches from our flights," said Laserich.

"We got a few of them that are almost like pets. Between them and the ravens, they're pretty good for the garbage out here.

"It's kind of nice seeing Wile E. Coyote running around. All that's missing is a roadrunner."