Coyotes may soon be hanging out in your backyard
A coyote is seen on a golf course in La Quinta, California, in 2010.
October 8th, 2012
08:51 AM ET

Coyotes may soon be hanging out in your backyard

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

Those creatures  had Dorothy worried on the yellow brick road in "The Wizard of  Oz" - and now you may need to worry about seeing them and other large carnivores in your backyard, an Ohio State University researcher says.

OK, there shouldn’t be any tigers - they aren’t found in the wild in North America - but lions (mountain), bears, wolves and coyotes are finding urban areas to be just right for a comfortable existence, says Stan Gehrt, an associate professor of environment and natural resources.

Gehrt says coyotes are leading the urban invasion by formerly rural carnivores.

“The coyote is the test case for other animals. Raccoons, skunks, foxes – they’ve already been able to penetrate the urban landscape pretty well. The coyote is the most recent and largest,” Gehrt said in a university press release.

One pack of coyotes has established a territory and is thriving about five miles from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the third busiest airport in the country, according to Budget Travel.

“That’s an indication that they don’t have to go far to find food and water. They’re finding everything they need right there, in the suburbs of Chicago,” Gehrt said.

Coyotes spotted in New York City

And he said the urban environments may be even better than rural ones for the coyotes, with pups surviving in urban areas at five times the rate they do in rural settings.

“They’re so adaptable and so opportunistic,” Gehrt said. “In adjusting to urban life, they may change dietary items and habitat use, and become nocturnal, whereas in the country they’re active day and night. But with other things, they don’t change at all. Here, they’re able to maintain their social structure, territorialism, packs and mating system, even in the face of all these challenges of trying to live among 9 million people.”

In an earlier release, Gehrt said one trait that may be helping coyotes thrive in urban areas is their monogamy, which means dads are around to help raise the kids.

“If the female were to try to raise those large litters by herself, she wouldn’t be able to do it. But the male spends just as much time helping to raise those pups as the female does,” he said.

The urban coyotes pose little danger to humans, Gert said, and can be easily scared off by yelling at them or throwing a rock at them.

“You’re doing them a favor. They show a healthy respect and fear of people and that’s the way it should be,” he said.

Have you seen a large carnivore in the city? Tell us about it.

They also eat rodents and even bugs which can pose dangers to human health, he said. Of course, they may also eat your dog or cat.

The abundance of carnivore food may also bring larger carnivores into urban settings.

Gehrt said a mountain lion was recently killed in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago.

Sightings of mountain lions and bears in suburban areas are increasingly common. And they can pose a bigger danger to humans.

“They are going to be an even bigger challenge,” Gehrt said.

Mountain lion shot dead in California

Gehrt’s coyote research has been going on for 12 years. His team has tracked about 680 coyotes by placing radio collars on them.

Gehrt spoke at the EcoSummit 2102 in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.

Mountain lion treks from Dakotas to Connecticut

Mountain lion hunt in Ohio

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Filed under: Animals • Bears • Coyotes • Mountain lions
soundoff (397 Responses)
  1. Jim

    "The urban coyotes pose little danger to humans, Gert said, and can be easily scared off by yelling at them or throwing a rock at them."

    Couldn't agree more. Other "Urban Life" is far more dangerous...

    October 8, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Yote Skinner

      Tell it to the numerous children and small/handicapped adults who have been the victims of predatory attacks by coyotes.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • guysaults

      Coyotes are killing cats on a regular basis in my neighborhood.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      GuySaults, you should advise the cats to try yelling or throwing rocks to ward off coyotes.

      October 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ag

      Responsible cat owners keep their cats inside.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bayousara

    We in the Pacific Northwest have lots of "mountain lions." But we call them Cougars. The term "mountain lion" kind of means a generalization of the same species. They are called something else depending on where they are located in the US, but they are all the same critter. Gun-happy police like to shoot Cougars whenever they get a chance. Then the animal's carcass is given to someone to stuff. In fact, sometimes people who want a stuffed Cougar will report one as being a nuisance when it isn't being a nuisance just so it can be killed and stuffed.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Piranha

      Cougars, he he he they're fun when they come out at night dressed to kill.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Peter

    "The urban coyotes pose little danger to humans, Gert said, and can be easily scared off by yelling at them or throwing a rock at them.

    Coyotes have attacked toddlers in the LA suberbs, they have attacked and eaten many cats and small dogs in my community – the above statement is not true."

    October 8, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sarah

    I think the idea that they don't pose a threat to humans is not necessarily true. Like wild dogs, they are opportunists, so small children should be supervised when outdoors. We have them in our neighborhood. I hear them almost every night yipping and squealing.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lee

    "easily scared off "?!? Tell that to the little boy in Winfield IL that tried to fight-off a coyote with a baseball bat that was killing and eating his pet dog.

    In 1960 when I was a kid growing up in rural IL, if you killed a coyote and clipped its ears off the county clerk would pay you a bounty of $2.65. There will be a bounty once again. It is only a matter of time.

    We think we are compasionate. We are really only being stupid.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    Let's not forget, it was humans that moved into the wildlife's territory, not the other way around. I live in Jasper National Park, in Canada, and we live in harmony with many large carnivorous animals such as Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Mountain Lions, Wolves, and Coyotes. If the proper steps are taken to prevent them from viewing your home, car, or yard as a food source you will be very unlikely to encounter any of them. If you are fortunate you may see one of these magnificent animals in there own environment while on a hike or a drive through a forested area. I hope that the presence of these animals spawns education and awareness rather than an attempt to exterminate them because people are uncomfortable.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • D00SH

      "we live in harmony with many large carnivorous animals such as Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Mountain Lions, Wolves, and Coyotes"
      Until you meet one in the woods and it kills you. Tree hugger.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      DOOSH, I'm far from being a tree hugger! I just don't agree with harassing and killing wild animals for doing what wild animals do. If my cat gets out and finds its way into the stomach of a predatory animal that's my fault for not ensuring she stays indoors, not the wildlife's fault for seeing her as a meal. I have encountered many bears, wolves, and coyotes during hikes and walks in the forests and have never had one threaten my safety because I have taken the proper steps to ensure they know I'm coming long before I ever know they are there.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • aMom

      Jeff, do us all a favor and shoot the dang coyote if you see one. Thanks.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Yote Skinner

      Looking forward to Jeff's Timmy Treadwell moment.

      Hope it's filmed. We could all use the laughs.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Amen Jeff. Its their planet as much as it is our planet, if not more so.

      October 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Janet

      Please think about what you said "we moved into their territory." Where in the world is "our" territory? Animal species that evolved first were "there" first. So does that mean that animals that evolved later should be viewed as intruders?

      Large carnivores like coyotes, deer, bear, and the like do not belong in urban or suburban areas. We are their primary predators and it is our responsibility to maintain their populations at a level that minimizes conflict with us and does not lead them into worldwide extinction. In general–not always–but usually, when people kill predators, the death of the predator is quicker than a "natural" death. Wild animals die of starvation, untreated injuries or diseases, or by being eaten alive by predators. They do not die peacefully in their sleep of old age.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Hey I know lets bring back small pocks and polio, after all they were here first! We've invaded it's territory. Never ceases to amaze me how many buy in to the "They were here first" junk.

      January 3, 2013 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. seyedibar

    I can recall in my youth sharing my region with coyotes, bobcats, pumas and bear. Now those have all nearly hunted to extinction or killed by road traffic. These days, they're a rare sight indeed. i can only hope we find a way to preserve some of them before they are gone completely.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • aMom

      We have found a way, seyedibar, the predadores are moving to the suburbs.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. MontanaTrace

    They will eat your pets and can be a danger to unattended small children.

    Out here they are a major consideration in the wolf controversy. But that is a completely different debate.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ericl777

      They won't eat your pets or bother your children, unless occasional howling bothers them while trying to sleep.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • MontanaTrace

      Interesting number: The United States has 1.93 billion acres of land. 108.1 million acres of that land is "developed" land. In Montana, something like 1% of our land is populated.

      Coyotes, etc. come onto the farm and into backyards for easy meals. Sheep, ewes, calves, piglets and yes, small dogs and cats. It is not the toddler that is unattended. It's the young boys and girls playing in the local stream or running thru fields that must be cautious. The coyotes do what they are designed to do. Survive. Can't blame them. Just have to be smarter. Locals are.

      Some commenters would not like it here.............. for long.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. tellie

    i dont remember coyotes in the wizard of oz

    October 8, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. edward

    attacked toddlers? where were the parents?. Have you seen a coyote? they're smaller than a shepard or lab. Keep your cats inside.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • pgh

      agreed. People not keeping their cats inside is leading to exploding populations of feral cats basically nationwide because cities are too broke or don't care to deal w/ the problem. Then the feral cats drive bird and other small animal populations to the verge of endangerment. They can also carry rabies. My vote is for coyotes, wolves and even mtn lions which would all handily tackle the feral cat disgrace.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Ericl777


      October 8, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • jen

      pgh and edward – I agree that there is a feral cat problem just about everywhere but be careful what you wish for. Coyotes are a problem. Just because they are smaller than a g. shepherd doesn't mean they aren't a problem. They roam freely in small packs and will attack your kids playing in your yard or park if the opportunity is right. You want mt lions so you can get rid of cats??? Have fun going for a jog or a bikeride outside.... mt lions are bad news.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      goole search the following-

      woman+killed+coyote+nova scotia

      October 8, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andrew

    If someone's dog is small enough to be eaten by coyotes, is it really a dog, or a stunted byproduct of human capriciousness? Why is it that we think our animals lives are more valuable than others?
    And what responsible parent would let their toddler near any stray dog, let alone wild animal? Healthy respect all around is the key.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • jen

      about 5 coyotes attacked my friends 2 horse while they were in their paddock and did some serious damage. Cuts and lacerations everywhere. Sure a smaller dog might get killed/eaten faster, but they will go after larger dogs too

      October 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Owl96

      Toy breads of dogs are still dogs, just like a Great Dane which is bred for specific physical traits and expected behaviors. All dogs will recognize every other dog as a dog. That fact kind of baffles me, but my Husky/Lab mix wants to stop and greet every other dog we pass no matter what the size.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bubbish

    I live in a heavily populated, non-rural area. 2 yrs. ago, I got up one morning and was shocked to see 2 coyotes at my back door. When I told my family, they said: "Are you sure it wasn't dogs?" I know the difference between coyotes and dogs. Then one of my outdoor cats (who never left the yard) went missing, and it wasn't hard to know what had happened to her. I posted signs in the neighborhood, warning residents to keep small pets and food dishes in at night. I work 2 blocks from my home, and the coyotes have come through and killed several of the feral cats that hang around the industrial complex. I feel for the coyotes, as I know they are being driven out of their normal habitat to seek food elsewhere. What saddens me is, once trapped (here in So. Ca.), they will not relocate the coyotes but euthanize them.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ericl777

    I've lived in areas where coyotes inhabit for 40 years, and not had a single problem other than their howling waking me up some nights. They are kind of nice ot have around- leave them alone and they won't bother you.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mk54

    We saw a coyote run through our backyard, western suburb of Minneapolis, first time in 27 years here, this summer. The coyote was hot on the trail of a rabbit.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. pgh

    The reason why deer populations are exploding in suburban areas is that the coyotes, wolves and mtn lions were all driven off first by agriculture then by McMansions. Deer are not harmless (Lyme Disease, oh and they also eat your garden). If you're worried about your Shi Tzu or your toddler keep them inside. Pet cats should already always be kept inside but too many people are morons and let them out to kill native birds.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
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