A Toronto-based wildlife organization has condemned the killing of a coyote that was roaming a downtown Toronto neighbourhood.

The Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) says shooting local wildlife is not an appropriate way to deal with what amounts to fears and misconceptions about coyote behaviours, even in an urban setting.

"People have unrealistic fears about coyotes, and it’s unfortunate that the police have validated this fear by shooting an animal to death that was doing nothing wrong," Nathalie Karvonen, executive director of the TWC, said in a statement.

The centre issued the statement Tuesday, a day after police shot and killed a coyote in the wake of several reports of a wild animal roaming the Sackville Street and Carlton Street area.

While many animals that live in similar communities are potentially harmful, "coyote attacks on people are virtually unheard of," said Karvonen.

"Dogs, on the other hand, frequently injure people yet we would be outraged if the police shot a dog just because it was seen in someone’s neighbourhood."

Police started fielding calls about a large coyote in the area Sunday evening.

Police shot the coyote because it was repeatedly entering the neighbourhood, acting aggressively in search of food, Const. Wendy Drummond told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview.

"It had come up from the Don Valley area right into the residential neighbourhood, several times coming in to close proximity with residents," she said.

Officers tried to track the coyote, but it ran off into a ravine near Wellesley Park. Police issued a public safety alert advising residents to take steps to avoid an aggressive coyote.

On Monday, a coyote was again spotted repeatedly in the same Cabbagetown neighbourhood, Drummond said.

Later, officers encountered what they believe to be the same coyote on Amelia Street. Police shot and killed it.

The TWC says hundreds of coyotes live peacefully in Toronto’s green spaces and natural areas along with hundreds of other species. They tend to venture into neighbourhoods in search of something to eat during the winter season, when food supply is scarce.

"It’s unfortunate that the police didn’t seek information from wildlife experts in how to handle this situation. There were resources available to them," said Andrew Wright, team leader of TWC’s Rescue Program.

Drummond said police are aware that coyotes live within Toronto’s green spaces and for the most part it’s not an issue.

"However, it does become an issue when they do start to behave aggressively and come into the residential areas without any sense of fear," Drummond said.

In the safety alert, Animal Services said coyotes have been more active during what had been a mild winter season.

Drummond said residents should continue to be cautious and never to leave small children or pets unsupervised.