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. Chris

    So behind the times. I have seen a coyote crossing the road near I680 in Milpitas at 6pm on a winter evening several years ago. We had a mountain lion run over near Davis St and I580 a few years before that. Berkeley cops shot a mountain lion in the center of the city, further from the hills than the university and Laurence Berkeley Labs and since then a family of three has been seen in the hills just above the university. Fortunately this time people were just warned to watch out for them, no more trophies for the cops.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • thedarkelf

      The great thing about seeing predators is they are a reflection of a healthy prey animals.The more predators the more animals so take pleasure in seeing them.

      October 9, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Grim Reaper

    Take away their habitat, reintroduce apex predators like wolves-what do you expect? Don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Burbank

    Had both a bear and a cougar within 100 feet of my house last week, but I live in a little 5000 person town. We also have lots of deer and basically all get along. People don't go for walks at night but that's a small price to pay for living in nature's beauty.

    October 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  4. OvernOut

    We've had coyotes for about 15 years, mostly lone males just passing through, but my neighbor had a female with a litter last year. There's a fire station not too far from here, a few years ago we knew we had a coyote hanging out in the wooded part of the yard, because it howled along with the fire engine every time it went out on run. We live about 40 minutes NW of Detroit. We have everything else living here, why not coyotes? The snakes are better mousers, though, seen that with my own eyes.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave Miller

    How long before we hear "The coyote at my baby!!!" ???

    October 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    We have a few where I live, too, but nothing to raise a public alarm about...yet; but as the urban sprawl keeps creeping ever outward, these animals have to go somewhere.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      This has nothing to do with "urban sprawl."

      Coyotes are not native to Canada, nor to most of the US.

      They are non-native pest animals and should be dealt in the same way that brown rats, starlings and burmese pythons are dealt with.

      October 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BOMBO ©

    There are hundreds of them in Edmonton. The cops had to shoot one that tried to attack a toddler a few years ago not far from my house.

    Stop that BOMBO, stop giving out so many hints about who you are and where you live on the internet.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. James

    There is a coyote population in the Cleveland Metroparks, which has caused spillover into the suburbs. More to the point though is the abundance of deer throughout the area. Forget about parkland; we're talking inner-ring suburbs. Deer and heavy traffic patterns are not necessarily a good fit.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wonder

    I have coyotes running through our neighborhood all the time. The worse thing they do is get my dogs barking, eat the squirrels and rabbits. I have noticed the cat population has declined.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James70094

    Reading this, I thought of the 80's movie Wolfen.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ma & pa

    Coyotes were almost unknown east of the Mississippi River and some distance to the west when this land was settled by our forefathers. Red and silver fox were plentiful and kept the damaging rodent population in check. The predatory coyotes have overrun the land, killing foxes, pheasants, quail, low or ground nesting birds of all kinds and our companion dogs and cats. As they become bold they kill calves, ponies, baby horses and sheep weighing more than 200 pounds. These deaths cause unmeasurable heartache to the caregivers of these domestic animals. Coyotes have killed or disposed of people. Over much of the United States, the coyote was Not 'here first' and is an expanding danger. When their jaws are on your sleeping throat as you camp you may not be strong enough to pry them off. You may not like our words but we know of what we speak. Get your heads out of soft fuzzy movies, for your own sake. Don't say noone warned you.

    October 9, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. francisco cervantes

    I live in Tucson Arizona, a city with a population of almost one million people and I've seen coyotes, wildcats, deer and javelina running around in almost every major intersection of the city. I think, these animals get used being around people and the urban environment very quickly. Some of them might been kind of dangerous, but if you respect them and act with caution around them; at the end it is a great experience to have the opportunity to seen them in person.

    October 9, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. giles12345

    I live in the outer suburbs of Galveston Texas and there is at least one large pack living on some land near my house, my mom and sister were jogging in my neighborhood and started getting chased by at least five coyotes packing IN the subdivision.

    October 9, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. A2Boiler

    One coyote might not present a danger to a human. A pack definitely does. Packs of coyotes routinely take down a fully grown whitetail for a meal.

    October 9, 2012 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. thedarkelf

    I love to watch them when they appear. It is a comfort to see them it directly shows that the number of animals that they live off of are stable and growing

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