Walk softly...

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Coyotes spotted at Miners Museum

Walk softly...

By Christopher Gooding

The Record

SPRINGHILL Russell Phalen would have preffered to have never seen a coyote in his life but a pair of wild animals changed that, giving Phalen a startling close encounter.

A tour guide at the Miners Museum, Phalen inspects the mine weekly during the off-season to make sure water pumps are operational and all is well. Earlier this month, though, all of his worries were no longer underground.

I came up to the corner and one came out from behind the steps [of the gift shop]. I backed up and thats when the second one came around the corner baring its teeth at me.

Phalen had spooked the animals and, in turn, they gave him a fright. Convinced the animals were going to attack he used the closest thing at hand to fend off the beasts.

I had a blow torch canister so I threw it at it and hit it on the right side. I figured they were going to attack. It was eight or nine feet away from me when I hit it and then they took off. Thats the first time I seen one up close. I didnt realize how huge they are.

Tracks surrounding the Miners Museum indicate the comings and goings of the two coyotes. Talking with the Department of Natural Resources afterwards, Phalen speculates there might be a den nearby. This time of year is mating season for coyotes and that might explain the hostile reception Phalen received.

Coyotes compete for the same food as red foxes and that can include everything from rabbits to small dogs and cats, Donnie Rushton with the Oxford detachment of the DNR explained. Rabbit populations are on the decline and community sightings are up. The coyote population itself, Rushton says, is stable but since an attack that claimed the life of an Ontario women visiting the Cape Breton area the dangers of coyotes is prevalent in everyones mind.

Not to take any chances, Phalen has taken to walking softy and carrying a big stick during his Sunday inspections of the Miners Museum on Black River Road.

cgooding@springhillrecord.com

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Oxford, Ontario, Cape Breton Black River Road

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