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. 2birds

    Coyotes are primarily nocturnal, unless they have contracted rabies and their circadian rhythm is disrupted (which is usually not the case). They also tend to hunt in packs in the woods, but scavenge solo in the city. Coyotes up here in New England were introduced to the area by humans and bred in with the wolves we once had making them the largest in the country; yet I can't recall hearing about attacks on humans, even people camping out in their environment. It's very true that a large stick can scare them off, especially if they are alone, because they are keen and know not to attack a human who is armed.
    Back to the nocturnal thing – how often are toddlers left alone outside after dark? Not often. So the chances of this being a problem? Slim.
    And as far as your pets, I have lost a few to coyotes and fisher cats and it's very sad. But it's still just as likely your pet would be hit by a car, or simply get lost, if you live in the suburbs or the city. Please don't blame wildlife for endangering your pets when you choose to allow them outside knowing full well there are risks.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • MichaelCarey

      "can't recall hearing about attacks on humans" – Two coyote/wolf cross-breeds stalked and killed a female jogger in a park in Nova Scotia 2 years ago.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Their was an incident in Tucson where a man left his toddler in the car while bringing groceries in the the house and when he came out witnessed a coyote trying to drag the child out of the car,true story.I hear them often around my place at night,but my property is well fenced.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • ADingoAteMyBaby

      In the heart of Denver, at dusk, I was circled up by FIVE full grown coyotes as big as any wolf or Husky I have ever seen. They were trying to have my two 50# bull dogs for dinner. Might have attacked me if I had not been able to rip a fence plank off and use it as a weapon to swing at them. Good thing I am a big, aggressive individual, as I am afraid of what might happen to a mom with her 6-year old in the same situation. I called the cops to report it and they had no interest in the situation. I am not of the opinion that we should be "Naturalists" on this subject. Trap and relocate would be my vote.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Boom Toast

      I once got in a big fight with the triads... you ever heard of the triads? Beat down like.. 50 of em. You should have been there... it was on.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dasea

    Coyotes are tricksters and you would be better off worrying about anything else 99.99% of the time.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. ELL

    So long as people do not feed or half-tame the coyotes, things will work. What I fear is URBANIZED coyotes, who become dependent on people and while not tame, lose their fear of people. Then there is increased risk to people from rabies. Urbanized coyotes will not accept being relocated away from man and it ends up there is a rabies threat and an outcry to exterminate them.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Isgot

    Cool! Why not?
    They welcome in my yard, I will just secure the dustbin lid and leave the scraps out for them.
    Also means less chance of rats and such around the house, even better than having a cat.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. Harry

    Rabies is as easlily contracted from your household pet as any wild animal.
    In fact it is proven that there is a higher risk from domestic pets, as wild animals are a lot faster moving than domesticate pets and therefore less likely to get bitten by a sick animal.
    Anyway there is now a human vaccine for rabies, I was bitten by a rabid cat, and the risk if treated appropriately is virtually zero.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    Beep – beep.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Wonderer

    Remember this God created planet earth for animals and sent us here as his emissaries. We do not belong here we are here just like a visitors and so just like a good guest we should respect all living things and take only what we need essential for our survival.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • casper

      beautifully said my friend!

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

      god? what god?

      October 8, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Warren

      Someday this planet will shake humans off like a bad case of fleas.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Lou629

    Just so there are no anvils or mis-firing acme brand rockets falling from the sky, lmao

    October 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Eduardo

    They will eat pets and maybe children.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. Boo

    Big deal....there's been sightings of them in Central Park in NYC. I'd worry about muggers and murderers before I'd worry about coyotes.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Grinning Libber

    We have coyotes as neighbors and always have. You rarely see a live one, once in a while road kill. And you hear them howling – or "talking" to each other sometimes at night. Just don't feed them – or leave the cat out at night and all will be well.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. KwTexas

    I live in a private community of 6000 people that borders a rural area. The coyotes raid the community at night. For those of you that say they won't eat your pets you are wrong. The coyotes have taken every cat and small dog that they can, even coming up on our porch to tale 2 of ours. They have dug under fences and taken dogs that were confined in their backyards. They even took a neighbors dog when she was watering her flower bed in broad daylight. I found one of our cats that they had killed and buried it under 5 feet of soil and the coyotes dug it up. They do nothing to help control the deer population. Here the deer population is out of control and the community has to manually control it every year. These are the facts where I live. If there are coyotes in your vicinity you should take precautions with your pets and small children.

    October 8, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • pgh

      If you live in a situation like that it's prudent to either 1) Move, or 2) Keep your animals under closer watch or walk them instead of leaving them in the fenced backyard for a long time. If it's a recognized problem, change your behavior or your locale. WE took their land away from THEM in urban sprawl, remember?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cherries

    I'd take cyotes over gang bangers in my nieghborhood any day!

    October 8, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • pgh

      Amen, friend. At least coyotes won't pistolwhip you after dark and steal your $2,000 laptop like they are doing here to college kids in Pittsburgh all the time.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Totally Awesome

      Who pays two grand for a laptop??

      October 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NovaScotiaGirl

    We have had a few attacks in Nova Scotia, where coyotes attacked humans. One was fatal, as another poster spoke to. There have been attacks on people camping in tents, and one on a girl just walking to school (thank God someone in a car close by saw the attack blew their horn, and scared it away – she had minor injuries). The point is, these animals are getting braver, and yes, they do attack humans. They are becoming more and more comfortable in an urban environment – and it's probably only going to get worse. –People should not be comforted by the thought that they are easily scared away. This is not necessarily the case

    October 8, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. snowdogg

    We have some coyotes for neighbors already... the two-legged species. LOL

    October 8, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
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