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. FredUp

    Populations of coyotes are thick here in the Kansas City suburbs, with younger ones getting more bold over the past year. It's gone from an occasional sighting to some of them actually shadowing on late night dog walks. One came head on within 10 ft a couple weeks ago and just seemed curious, but then the others were seen flanking us between houses. Shooed some off into the darkness only to have them almost magically appear directly in front of us again a couple of times. When they start howling is the time you realize the size of the packs. Sounds like over a hundred all around the subdivision here, out in the trees and fields. The only good thing is they don't seem to be tearing into the trash for now, and have driven away most the bunches of skunks that were. Deer have also been really dense for a few years now, and a lot of them are visibly covered in ticks.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Fiona

      Fred, young coyotes that have just left their parents are naturally curious about other canines, and a bit lonely. Every year I see young coyotes engaging my dogs in play along the fence. They mean no harm - they even do play bows. Now if you and your dog are followed by a pair or group of adult coyotes, you might want to buy some SprayShield replant, or even pepper spray.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • seyedibar

      I bought a coyote pelt from a Kansas furrier just two weeks ago.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dd

    The Chicago papers have reported coyotes killing dogs in the suburbs. By next year, it will be small children. Then, guess what will happen to the environmentalists who supported the population of animals to kill children? The people might elect to react quite violently to Greenpeace! to liberals! When you select animals over humans you are a uncivilized barbarian.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Your Dad

      This is an article about coyote populations, not the elections, you stupid fool. If you're that scared of a coyote uprising, then kill yourself before it's too late.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Fiona

      Oh, please. It is not a logical leap from dogs to "small children". Grow up.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      yeah, because there are reports of coyotes killing humans every day, all over the place.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ralphiec88

      There are already coyotes in the backyard in more towns than you think. They're common where I live. No one lives in fear for their kids.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • HA25

      Yes, you're right. Best we kill anything that breathes that could possibly hurt children. Of course, that may include dogs, moose, deer (via car accidents), billions of insects (EEE, allergic reactions) and pretty much any large carnivore on the continent. Better wipe out all peanut farms while we're at it. Of course anyone opposed to that is a Greenpeace loving liberal. Perhaps we should kill them too.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • L8te

      Hey dd, did you here about the little boys that killed there Grandmother for pizza money? You know what that means? Get ready you know how many little boys love pizza....lock your doors.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mona

    There is a pack in my neighborhood, they are shy and keep their distance. When they hear me in the morning they run back up to the hills. Please stop calling them carnivores, they are omnivores. They eat mostly fruit and berries, spilled birdseed and garbage if they find it. When they are "carnivores" they mostly go after rats and mice which is a good thing. The bad is SMALL dogs and cats which should be kept indoors anyways. I live around not only coyotes but mountain lions,bears and rattlesnakes. Keeping pets outdoors is dangerous.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  4. Karl

    In my neighborhood we've lost 12 cats and two puppies in the last year alone – live in Northern Komifornia. My neighbor, a cop, now shoots them from his balcony with his 22-250. They only killed at night which is good, however I've seen quite a few during the day. They could easily go into someone’s yard and kill an unattended small child and would if they had the opportunity.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • me

      who's your cop neighbor, karl? addresses, please.

      there's an ugly horse-face woman that walks my neighborhood and talks about shooting at coyotes. told her to stay off my street because i shoot at horse-face women. she didn't think it was funny but she worries about me now. of course, i wouldn't even shoot a coyote let alone a human but i can't believe people think it is okay to try to harm these animals. why would anybody want to hurt anything in that way? they are trying to survive with their little pea-brains and they don't have weapons like humans do.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Naturalist

      Coyotes don't kill small children, and the don't hunt in packs. Too many urbanites and suburbanites have been taught to fear everything in nature. Calm down people, and just throw a rock if a coyote is bothering you. And please, keep your small pets indoors at night.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. weezer

    Never been a report of one attacking a human, but I did see an article about a toddler being dragged towards the woods by one once until his parents intervened. Not sure if it was true. I'm sure the reports of impending doom and kiddie-coyote snacks are exaggerated; however, they are a medium-size carnivore and nature will out. I don't think I would be comfortable with a pack of 12 around me on a night stroll in the neighborhood.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • chessyjames

      Tell that to Taylor Mitchell!

      October 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rob Collins

    Coyotes do hunt for sport, and they can understand fear. Yelling and chasing them. If they're too close to you and your dog, aggressive, noisy pursuit to run them off is best for people AND coyotes.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. n'oreaster

    interesting fact is that when coyotes renew their numbers, the number of Lyme disease occurrences drops, because coyotes eat the vermin carrying ticks. It seems instead of trying to fix nature, we should let it take care of itself. Seems to work much better in the long run. Have had coyotes off and on for the last 20 yrs; no harm, no foul

    October 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • ralphiec88

      Got anything scientific at all to back that up? My town has plenty of predators: fisher cats, coyotes, weasels, hawks, owls - and plenty of Lyme cases too.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. M.E.

    This isn't exactly new. Hell as a kid in the 'burbs northwest of Denver in the 90's, my parents always warned me about coyotes in the open spaces and around the golf courses. Mountain lions weren't unheard of either, though the bears generally stayed closer to the mountains and usually only turned up in Boulder. Even living it central Denver now, you'll see the occasional fox, they follow the creek down from a state park. I saw one a couple years ago trotting bold as brass down a four lane street at 2am about a block from the capitol building. A couple halloweens ago I was walking through a park with my man to a party and we heard a barking that sounded like an injured dog. We looked for it in care it was an injured dog but nope, just foxy woxy.

    As long as you don't leave small pets hanging around outside be they cat or anything smaller than a labrador, you should be fine. If you see one, make yourself look big, yell at it, and throw anything that's handy. They'll scare off. If it's a lion or a bear, just go inside, lock your doors, and call animal control or state wildlife patrol.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lance corporal

    get rid of the urban road runners................

    problem solved

    October 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jane

    I think it was unnecessary to spread the coyote population around all over the U.S. They only lived in certain parts and since people wanted to develop so many businesses and houses in those areas..we all have to suffer and the coyotes too having to adjust and live in parts of the country they're not accustomed to. They are killing farmers livestock, peoples pets etc. It should have never been approved to spread these dangerous animals around, but rather issue limitations on construction projects that knew before hand that land was already occupied by these animals. They are breeding and overpopulating rapidly!!

    October 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BRod

    Coyotes are extremely clever, sneaky, and often hunt in packs. They have killed people before. Don't be fooled into thinking that they are "easily scared", like this article wants you to believe.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. lance corporal

    those of us who have lived in semi urban areas are waaaaaaay used to this

    they will only kill SMALL dogs and SLOW cats

    if you have a child SMALL enough to be in danger of coyote attack and that child is left unattended outside.........
    your a BAD parent!

    I used to go hiking/skiing in the adirondaks with a guy from NJ who was afraid of the coyotes, never made any sense to me

    I've been followed by them (curiosity/territory), seen them on the ridge etc, NEVER ONCE did they bother me
    (and I mean out in the woods on THEIR territory) out of 100s of times I've been around them.
    in urban environments they are going to be less aggressive not more.

    some of you just need to be bubble wrapped in your condos and protected from every thing but it doesn't sound like much of a life to me, yeah nature comes with a little bit of risk, you might get scratched........
    but then a REAL life is worth a little risk!

    October 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      Following is also what they do when hunting.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yote Skinner

      Those of us who bother to do a little research are aware of the numerous - and increasing - number of attacks by "urban" coyotes on humans and pets.

      Coyotes in town should be killed on sight.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • littlejohn

      Amen, some of the suburban myths and fears here are almost comical. Trouble is, this type of thinking has uselessly killed many animals in the past.Small pets are a concern but the most anyone will probably ever lose is a picnic lunch left unattended.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • littlejohn

      Ok Mr. Skinner the researcher, please tell me of an incident involving a coyote 'attack' of a human.

      October 8, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      LittleJohn:
      G00gl e Marie Simon of Saint-Charles: An attack in 2010
      Then try Jill Happel another attack in 2010

      A little reaserch and it's not hard to find news article after news article about coyote attacks on people, kids and pets. Not to mentoin livestock.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    This isn't news. When I look into my backyard in Northwest NJ, I see a myriad of animals. Black bear, coyote, fox, deer, bobcats are all there.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BRod

    Naturalist, your lack of knowledge about coyotes, leads me to believe that you are not much of a "naturalist" after all. They do hunt in packs (anyone who had ever camped in a rural location knows this), and they HAVE killed lone hikers before.

    October 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • chessyjames

      What about the pack that killed Taylor Mitchell?

      October 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. korgri

    It's really no new thing round here. We let them into the house with us. They really are like
    the proverbial friendly stray dog; curious, affectionate, eager. Even as I write several
    are gathered around me right now, how are you fellas doing today? (pets the nearest
    coyote on the head) good boy. It doesn't tale long to see that much of what is thought
    to be known about these fine dogs comes mostly from scurrilous myth; why just the other day
    we were...what are you doing under there, boy, that tickles, ha ha. Like I was saying...uh..
    easy with the teeth there big fella, we'll have to get you a..hey..ow! C'mon, boys we can play later..
    hey...that's a little too strong...what the...oww! knock it off...Okay, out you go...what th-
    (sound of a ravenous, feral dog pack tearing into it's prey...)

    October 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
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