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Word of the Week: Canid

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Canid [can-ed] or [kay-nid] (noun): a member of the family of carnivorous animals (Canidae) which includes coyotes, wolves, jackals, foxes, and dogs.

This year has brought quite a few coyote sightings to the Toronto area. Does High Park have coyotes? Yes, although not a large population! Coyotes are smaller than their cousins the wolf, weighing between 9-23kg and just under a metre in length (81-94cm, not including their tail). Coyotes are generally not dangerous to people, tending to be long gone before we even get close thanks to their amazing sense of smell and hearing.

Coyotes are one of the many animals you can see all year long in High Park, although you are more likely to hear them than you are to see them. Coyotes tend to live in small packs or family units and are extremely vocal, communicating with pack members via howls, yips, and other incredible vocalizations.

The coyotes found in and around High Park are most likely hybrids, the descendants of western coyotes (Canis latrans), eastern timber wolves (Canis lycaon), and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). There has been ongoing debate about the classification of these hybrids. Sometimes called coywolves, these coyotes are larger and more wolf-like in appearance and behaviour than coyotes found in western Canada.

Despite their scary reputation, coyotes are an important part of the park’s natural ecosystem. Their diet mostly consists of rodents and small animals, making them quite helpful in keeping down rodent populations.

Remember, although coyotes look similar to domesticated dogs and may be acclimatized to humans, they are still wild! Always be cautious around coyotes and, of course, never approach or feed them.