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. Chanda

    We've seen cougars in the Dallas Suburb of Garland. One animal in particular was crossing a 4 lane road at about 2 am. It was headed toward a small wooded area inbetween two housing subdivisions. Also, in our own neighborhood, we've seen coyotes walking down the sidewalk in the early morning hours.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. Judy

    Coyotes are not new neighbors....they've been there just have no where to hide and you see them more often. Poor things!

    October 9, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      Correct. Habitats are shrinking and they adapt and roam around in our backyards. I saw one yesterday in my wooded subdivision, in mid morning. He looked tired and agitated. I worried someone may have tried to poison him. Poor thing...too many people and wildlife trying to survive, more and more visible as they have no place to hide.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • suta

      Poor things till you find cat's carcass in your yard.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • BettaBetty

      If you're so worried about these wild animals, which were here before you were, keep your dogs and cats inside as you should. People are so stupid. "A coyote ate my cat!" Why not if you don't care enough to keep them in?

      October 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dude

    On the plus side, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, and bears will make kids at the bus stop take PE Classes seriously.

    October 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim

    If you have a dog, you should know how coyotes hunt. One coyote from the pack will venture out alone, and play with your dog. The coyote will still act like it's playing and it will run into the woods and your dog will follow. Then the rest of the pack attacks. So, it'll be cute for a few minutes, but then your dog will be dinner.

    October 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brooke

      Take responsibility for your animals and you will have no problems. I have lived with coyotes as my neighbors since I was born. I grew up with dogs and cats and still have them in areas that are heavily populated by coyotes. As my animals' owner I am responsible for keeping them out of harm's way, so I don't let them outside unsupervised. Coyotes have to eat too.

      October 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kelly

    I live in the San Diego area and have seen many coyotes at night while driving. They will run on the side of the road and not even step in the street where there is traffic! They are adapting to the city life and come out at night to hunt. I have been sleeping and hear the scream of a terrified cat or duck! Yes! Lots of ducks in our neighborhoods by the ocean and lagoons. Also, seeing many coyotes at night in L.A. when driving over the canyons. They are coming in closer to the homes then ever before. Maybe one day they will be our pets! LOL! Feel so bad for them as we continue to build on every piece of unoccupied land we can get our hands on! We have taken their home away from them! We are so greedy! We have to build, build, build!!! Animals don't have voices so we must be their voices and stand up for them if we can!

    October 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Coyotes are not native to southern California.

      They are a non-native pest and should be treated as such.

      October 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rafael Gutierrez-Uribe

    These animals are "so adaptable and opportunistic" as there are banks and investors invading the natural habitats of many animals.

    October 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. larry5

    The world would be a better place if humans valued family and pack life as much as coyotes. Where I live there are a lot of coyotes and I've been observing them since I was in grammar school. It's amazing to see how they help each other and how they stick together. When I was 10 (1955) I took a coyote home that had been hit by a car. The local vet helped me nurse him back to health. What happened next was all the reward anyone could ask for. I released "Buster" in an area near where the pack lived. The pack showed up and they all came up to greet their lost friend and danced around in circles and started howling. A few days later Buster came out of the trees into the open about 50 yards from me. He dropped a dead rabbit and went back into the trees. Over the next couple of years I saw Buster a few times. He would stop and sit down, but I never tried to approach him. I have admired coyotes ever since my encounter with Buster.

    October 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • coyotefriend

      What a great story! I have coyotes in my backyard area and sometimes I see a sick or injured one and I resist helping it for fear I will ruin it forever. I also have dogs, one small and one large (100 lbs), and I built a tall fence to keep them in and the coyotes out. So far so good! They stay away from the big dog and he can't get out to be lured to the rest of the pack. This protects the little one as well. Of course they sleep inside at night. Hopefully we can all coexist.

      October 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sarah12

    I live in Iowa and you will never hear someone say poor coyotes, they get more than enough food here eating our live stock and anything else they can, we have too many here and sorry to say but we hunt them for game.

    October 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      I live in the mountains of Virginia and coyotes are eating our livestock as well. They prefer livestock to feral cats (which we have way toooo many of). We too have to hunt the coyotes out of necessity.

      October 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lweba

    Remember also they could become rabid!

    October 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. january2454

    It's insane to let coyotes in the neighborhood. They have been known to eat small dogs right off the leash as they're being walked. They eat cats who are doing nothing more than minding their own business in their own yards.

    And yes, they do get even more aggressive than that. They're been known to harm children and even challenge adults. They need to be eradicated as a threat and as a pest. There's plenty of non-rural land for them to live in.

    October 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ma & pa

    When we must confine our pets and children to save their precious lives from predatoes it is time to ELIMINATE the predators, both four legged and two legged.

    October 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ma & pa

    Do people not recognize how predators insinuate themselves into positions of advantage to maim and kill the innocents we love, and us? They do it by appearing as nonthreatening, family-oriented, soft-fuzzies and winning helpful coaches and authority figures, then skulking into the brush and acting all cute and nicey innocent when their mayham is discovered.

    October 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. little mister©

    I have pet coyotes.

    October 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ma & pa

    We know the feeling of both safety, and sickening, betrayed terror in the grasp of the predator. There was a time when cats, dogs and people could go for a walk together under the evening stars and be safe, peaceful and happy. That was before predators that would harm them were tolerated and coddled. Maybe, nowdays, people don't know what it feels like to walk in peaceful safety so they accept the increasing invading predators. We choose pets, good people and peace and will defend those against any recognized threat to them.

    October 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cchristopherw

    I live on a golf course. I've seen the same coyote around the green across the street from me several times that past week. Leisurely walking around the green and pond pouncing on voles and frogs. Almost ignoring the golfers. Fantastic!

    October 9, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
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