August 15, 2009, The Globe and Mail TORONTO - In a battle of man versus beast in Neville Park, it seems the beast has emerged victorious.
But if you ask John the coyote catcher, he'll be the first to tell you the game was rigged.
"At no point in time was I able to do what I can do. ... I just feel handcuffed," John said yesterday. "I wasn't given the opportunity I needed to use to get the job done."
The Durham-area animal trapper, who owns a company called Critter Gitter, asked that his surname be withheld due to animal activist backlash.
The veteran trapper was hired by the city this year to capture Neville, the infamous coyote who's been prowling around the Neville Park area in Toronto's east end. The coyote gained notoriety after eating a pet chihuahua in February, and is also the prime suspect in two other dog attacks.
But today, Neville remains at large and the city's efforts to catch and relocate the wily coyote have failed. The city is now giving up the chase and officials confirmed on Thursday that the box traps rigged around Neville Park Boulevard were dismantled about eight weeks ago.
But John remains convinced he could have captured Neville, had the city not restricted his methods.
The eccentric trapper - described by one Neville Park resident as "Coyote Dundee," wearing camouflage and "some tooth hanging off his neck" - claims he has yet to meet a coyote in Ontario he can't catch.
But then again, other coyotes aren't media darlings living in well-to-do Toronto neighbourhoods.
"There's a lot of politics in that neck of the woods," John said. "When you hear the word leg-hold [trap], everyone throws their arms up in the air and starts squealing. ... unfortunately, public perception is of utmost importance down there."
According to John Almond with the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Critter Gitter is "probably one of the best coyote trappers in Southern Ontario."
Mr. Almond advised city officials when they first began hunting Neville. He said in rural settings, trappers typically use humane leg snares to capture coyotes.
Along Neville Park Boulevard, however, there are too many people and pets around for traps to be safe. The same goes for guns, which are also commonly used for rural coyote removal.
"Based on the circumstances, they just weren't really viable options," Mr. Almond said. "It was a difficult thing."
So city officials were forced to be creative. First, they tried scare tactics, using paintball guns and air horns to scare Neville away.
Then there were the box traps, as well as a scheme involving bright green nets and an Animal Services worker, paid $28 an hour to yank on a rope should Neville come running by.
The city's last-ditch effort was to enlist the help of the Toronto Zoo and try shooting Neville with a tranquilizer dart, Mr. Almond said, another improbable task.
"You've got to be within 20 to 25 metres of the animal and the animal must be still," he said. "Without just the perfect situation happening, you could spend a lot of time getting the dart into the animal."
These days, Neville is lying low, although recent sightings have been reported. The city says the coyote is no longer demonstrating aggressive behaviour and they are monitoring the situation.
If Neville does start acting up again, however, John said he would gladly return at the city's request.
But next time, he would probably prefer to bring his gun.
"If you ask me ... how a coyote is to be captured and removed, a bullet's No. 1," he said. "I don't have a whole lot of faith in people who name coyotes, I'm sorry. A coyote is a wild animal."