By Joanne McQuarrie
When Lisa Dziwenka and Gaugey, her long-haired German shepherd, went for a stroll on Lake Windermere the afternoon of January 25, an unexpected visitor changed the mood.
The pair had reached the middle of the lake when Dziwenka saw what looked like a dog approaching from the east.
Dziwenka lives in Windermere. She noted close to lake, “There’s an area within there; there’s houses around it. There’s one area where there aren’t homes; I’ve seen bears one out of there.” So it wasn’t unusual for wildlife to come out of that area.
After seeing the animal, Dziwenka put GAugey on a leash; she started barking when she saw it.
“As it kept walking toward us I thought, ‘Oh my God – it’s not a dog'”.
Turns out the visitor was a coyote.
“I kept telling it to go away,” Dziwenka said. But the coyote kept advancing toward them.
This occurrence was something she hadn’t encountered before. “We’re always in the bush – my husband and I. I’m always… a bit cautious. I find that they (wildlife) usually go away – they don’t keep approaching.”
But this coyote did.
“I didn’t think it would come this close to me,” she said, estimating it was about six metres away. “It was pretty close when you’re in the middle of the lake on your own.” The coyote’s behaviour was confusing – Dziwenka said it didn’t present aggression, but it kept heading toward her and Gaugey’s way. Gaugey was barking, but only in intervals.
Many scenarios ran through her head about why the coyote didn’t turn around and head back to shore. “I was playing frisbee with the dog – maybe it was curious,” she hypothesized. “It seemed more curious to me, or it wanted food. I was thinking it was a fed coyote.”
The out-of-the-norm scenario caught the attention of a couple of folks on the south side of the lake.
“We saw a woman in the distance with a dog; the dog seemed to be a little worked up,” said Heather Van Riesen, in her van with a friend. “We saw another animal approach them. We drove out there, (said) ’That’s a coyote.’”
The friends asked Dziwenka if she needed help. “She said yes. We drove behind (the coyote)…steered it back to the shore. Then we drove back to Lisa and asked if she would like a ride back to her vehicle, which she did.”
They all drove to the south shoreline, where Dziwenka’s vehicle was parked.
Dziwenka didn’t look back after getting in the van; she was happy to get out of there.”I was a little bit shaken up afterward,” she said. “This isn’t normal behaviour for a wild animal.” She wondered what would have happened if, for example, it had been “eight or nine year old kids skating by themselves” and had a coyote approach them.
That ponderance is exacerbated by what Van Riesen saw just after she dropped Dziwenka off. “We saw the coyote approaching the skating rink on the lake below Akisqnuk First Nation. It was approaching a group of people on the skating rink. We went over there in the van and intercepted it before it got to the skating rink, and pushed it back to the shore. Then we told those people we thought they should leave, and they did leave.”
Like Dziwenka, Van Riesen is confounded by the coyote’s behaviour, and said she has “no clue” as to why it kept approaching people.
Dziwenka urges everyone to be careful with wildlife. “We’re in an area where we have to be more careful – not feeding these animals, being more aware of (their) surroundings. I feel the food factor is there – I think this animal had been fed before.”