Regulating Fear in the City: Managing and policing coyotes in Toronto

Authors: Susannah Bunce*, University of Toronto - Scarborough, Bronwyn Clement, University of Toronto
Topics: Animal Geographies, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Animal geographies; more-than-human; urban policy; commons
Session Type: Paper


Sightings of coyotes in Toronto neighbourhoods have co-produced a discourse of fear and panic in which coyotes are portrayed as ‘stealth-like’ urban invaders – creatures that may steal away family pets, randomly attack humans in broad daylight, and increasingly disrupt the social fabric of residential areas. Starting with the shooting of a coyote by a Toronto Police Services officer in the gentrified downtown neighbourhood of Cabbagetown in 2013, our paper traces how a discourse of fear about coyotes in Toronto has been crafted through human encounters with coyotes, police interventions, and media reports, which connect with broader assumptions and expectations about human safety and security in cities. Through a study of the City of Toronto’s Coyote Response Strategy (2013), interviews with staff in the City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards office and Toronto Animal Services, police officers, and residents of the Toronto Islands - a residential area and public park with increased coyote sightings over the past few years - we explore how coyotes are regulated and managed and how their existence within urban spaces is enforced through different human interventions. Following on notions of dispossession and the ‘right to the city’, we contemplate the question of a right to urban space(s) and building commons for non/more-than-human animals.

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