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. mac jones

    All it will take is one human baby to suffer an attack and these things will be eradicated from suburbia. Just a matter of time IMHO.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Pepe

      How many human babies have been mauled or killed by pitbulls, other pet dogs or... pet snakes, even? They are still around in abundance. I myself was nearly killed by a neighbor's pitbull while playing next to its yard, for no reason it attacked me. The police were notified, and another child was attacked, nothing was ever done! A coyote will not hunt a human baby, perhaps a small dog, as mentioned above.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • oregonreign

      pepe-you're so wrong about not hunting babies

      October 8, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • ericl777

      Yes, a dingo took my baby... big problem in the US, lol.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. Pepe

    I have spent much time camping/being in the wilderness with predators, never had any trouble with them. Just don't feed coyotes (or any wild animal as they may become demanding), don't leave little yappy dogs outside, or any small animals as they may eat them. Packs of domestic dogs, pitbulls or alligators are the real nonhuman danger. Mace/pepper spray doesn't really affect them, not that you'd have any reason to defend yourself against a coyote.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • ChuckB

      If you see coyotes or fox wandering around when it is light, think one thing: rabies. These creatures are not called "wild" for no reason.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Gator attacks are about as rare as coyote attacks, maybe rarer.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. History Bear

    In the quest for "space" and getting away from it all and in answer to the greed of real estate agents we've moved into areas thatwere home to wild life. Now we complain about the inconvenience. Bears wander where they will, but wolves don't want to be any closer to you than you to them in most cases. Get used to it people. Be a rather lousy world if nothing exist but us.

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

      Is there ANY place in this country that was not once home to wildlife?

      We just have more people than in the past.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. ChuckB

    A lot of folks gave Rick Perry heat when he said he carried a .380 cal auto when he walks his dog. My only complaint is that no one should carry anything less than a 9mm. I live in a semi rural area in PA. A pack of coyotes makes the rounds and comes by my area every few month or so. I haven't seen them in daylight; usually I see them skulking around in the twilight. Bear have also been observed in my area. Don't be too sure about the coyotes not being dangerous. Apparently in the East coyotes have been mating with wolves and hybrids have been seen. In fact it is strongly suspected that a young girl hiker was killed by one of them in a provincial park in Eastern Canada. Wild life that moves into an urban area will soon lose its fear of humans. In rural area they are more skittish as a lot of folks are armed and will take pot shots at them. Once the deer start eating expensive shrubbery and coyotes start culling the cat population we will see how dedicated urban animal lovers (who, up until recently only experienced wildlife in Disney movies or the zoo) are to the cause. I have already experienced suburban dwellers becoming downright bloodthirsty after deer cleaned out their bushes. Coyotes think cats are finger food and will jump 12 foot hight fences to get at them.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Oakspar

      .380 is a perfectly acceptable round for coys – though it is often criticized for a self defence round, it is the same caliber as the 9mm, only a few mm shorter case (less velosity, and usually around 20 grains lighter on the bullet).

      It is what I carry when I want to carry something that is not only concealed, but completely covert.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • pgh

      If the granola crunching, Birkenstock wearing, Prius driving, Greek yogurt eating liberals would do such a simple thing as to allow routine ARCHERY takes of problem deer and problem coyote (not even firearm takes) in urban and suburban areas, it would go a long way toward solving the problem –and filling the local food bank's freezers. Heck, sell the meat and maybe even generate a profit for the city's coffers. But no, we can't hurt Bambi, can we? Thus the Prius gets totalled by one.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Some people are just to attached to their bushes. I just choose less tasty plants for my yard now.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • ericl777

      There's no reason, ever, to carry a gun to defend yourself from coyotes. If you do, please hand in your man-badge.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • pingpaul

      That brings up a point: it is estimated that Americans own a huge number of handguns. In many states, including Texas, carrying a concealed handgun is permitted. How come there are not more shootings of coyotes and other animals?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Get Real

      When coyotes breed with Eastern Democrats you can have a serious problem. They will eat your pets, tax the krap out of you, and tell lies until they believe their own BS. They are called CoyCrats. Watch for them.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. riff

    see them all the time in lisle(chicago suburb). i have had them come within 20 feet. they wont hurt anyone.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Richp

      The fact that you are even seeing them indicates you have a problem and don't know it. They will go after small children. I imagine there are also a bunch that are feeding the cute little doggie lookalikes too to further reduce their fear of people.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. pingpaul

    Coyotes are already here. The drought has eliminated many of their food sources, and most of the water. They are seeking new territory that has these things. Retention ponds, lakes, and open garbage attract them. They like greenbelts and parks with lots of cover, precisely the things coveted where I live. There is a five-mile long greenbelt that meanders behind upscale backyards near where I live. Small dogs, cats and other easy prey have gone missing. Some folks feed deer, a coyote prey. Coyote also like pig. The drought has caused farmers to release hundreds of pigs into the wild rather than feed them. Pigs are attracted to green lawns and flower beds, like those found in many neighborhoods. The drought, coupled with human hubris and ignorance of the area in which they live, has upset the ecological applecart. Coyotes are taking advantage of that.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Get Real

      Wait until the democrats show up demanding handouts and free healthcare

      October 8, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  7. Get Real

    I would rather have coyotes and skunks for neighbors than democrats.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Laura

    I live in Chicago suburbs. There have been several stories on the news for a while now about attacks on dogs. Its scary that people are letting dogs out into fenced yards and they are still being attacked. One was the other day and the girl went outside to yell at the coyote and the animal didn't even react he just kept walking off with the dogs head in its mouth. Luckly the dog is alive but its scary you can't even let your dog out in the backyard anymore.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. MarkinFL

    They have been moving into Florida for the last couple of decades. They are now pretty common down here in central Florida. I am not sure how much further south they have made it so far.
    In our area (Tampa Bay) I have not heard of any human attacks, some pets have been attacked and some people walking dogs have been stalked without any contact.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Richp

    They have a really good upside, they get rid of feral cats which virtually destroy the rabbit and bird populations, they also do job on loose dogs, unlike loose dogs they don't chase you when jogging or riding your bike or are just out walking. The main downside is they can be tough on fawns but hunters can control them.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • weezer

      I have several loose women in my neighborhood...

      October 8, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. wildone

    Because of increased white-tailed deer populations, due to reduced hunting pressure in many areas (fewer hunters), coyote's have become the "alpha" predator. Fawns, as well as injured adult deer are targeted as food sources by coyotes, (and not just carrion). Nature has a way of controlling animal populations where human beings fail to control them. Human beings, on the other hand prefer to control their own overpopulation by killing each other in what they call "war". One wonders which species is more brutal in their activities.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. ericl777

    I am much more afraid of mosquitoes and ticks in the Northeast, than anything walking on 4 legs.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • pgh

      then you should be all for coyotes, wolves and mtn lions.... as the earlier poster mentioned, they often target deer. Even in solidly urban parks here in Pittsburgh, people are starting to contract Lyme disease from deer ticks.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. cacique

    There used to be coyotes around my place, I could hear their cry not too far from here. But as the area became more populated the coyotes had to leave farther out. Sadly, they have not learned to cross highways and are often killed by motorvehicles. As a result of not having a regular coyote presence, quails and rabbits numbers are growing. Those little quails a really beautiful to look at and the rabbits found peace in the haven of my yard, but a pair of coyotes are needed to keep them sharp and alert

    October 8, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. moe

    Counties used to pay a bounty and the pelts used to be worth hunting /traping to keep populations down. Now, no bounties and the bottom fell out of the fur market, so now the critter's are just taking back.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  15. timeismoney

    My neighborhood is full of dumb dirty dogs.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
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