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. Thinks2010

    There have been coyotes in parts of San Francisco for years. I used to see them regularly as I crossed the city to and from my home in the Southwest corner of the city to the Northwest part of the city. I saw them in the Sunset and Richmond districts mostly at night, but I'd see them in the Presidio and Sea Cliff both in the daytime and at night. The city's Parks Department posts signs in parts of Golden Gate Park warning dog walkers to stay away during the the time of year when there are coyotes with pups and whelps around. I have never heard any of the city coyotes howling or yelping like I do when I am out in the country, however, that may be because I was not in their territory long enough. The people and coyotes in San Francisco seem to be getting along just fine. I think it is a very positive sign.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Unplugged

    The author obviously hasn't visited southern California. The coyotes here have been quite aggressive, to the point of grabbing small dogs on leashes while the owner is walking the dog. One coyote actually knocked the lady to the ground and grabbed the dog she was carrrying.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrin

      Good to hear, I can't stand those dumb, little fifi dogs anyway. Go get 'em Coyotes!

      October 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Duke

      Pics or it didn't happen.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yaya land

    we've encountered mixed coyotes in lower lafitte on the goose bayou island of louisiana for years. don't know how they've faired since hurricane rita flooded the area, as i moved at that time. however, they were in the woods, and that's where the (very) young children would go to 'play' with their pellet guns to kill squirrels and rabbits for their (unlucky) moms to gut, skin and cook for supper. i remember one day a young kid proudly came home with his kill. about half an hour later, a truck pulled up to their house with an 80 pound coyote dead in the bed. his claimed location of the coyote kill was about 500 yards from where the 60 pound kid killed his critter for his mom. too close for comfort in my estimation, but nobody else even batted an eye.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Arrowhot

    Last week I looked out my bedroom window and saw black cat body parts strewn in the front yard. A head and two front paws. My elderly neighbor across the street said we had a coyote come through in the early morning hours. This was about 10 miles north of Disneyland in Orange County, CA. (Have photos.....kinda gruesome.... looks like a cat buried in the front lawn from the neck down.)

    October 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Libertyforall

    Coyotes are dangerous to small children and pets. They are dangerous rarteoly though usually afraid doesn't mean always.

    October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darrin

      There are zero fatality or even attacks of coyotes, on kids. The author correctly pointed out that coyotes have a healthy respect for humans and don't bother them, which is absolutely true. I live on the edge of a Nat'l forest, in Flagstaff, AZ, and have coyotes around my house, all the time and have 3 cats, 1 dog and a bunch of chickens and have never had a problem with coyotes. They are great at keeping the groundhogs, rats, rabbits, etc. population down but they won't hurt your kiddies.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Duke

      Posting fake coyote scare stories is worse.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Christopher Hudson

    I'm patiently awaiting photos of the DMV mountain lions...

    October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. msquared2

    The only dogs that have to worry about coyotes are lap dogs. Coyotes aren't very big and wouldn't stand a chance against larger breeds, even in large numbers. Coyotes are way down the list of dangerous predators (compared to wolves, bears, mountain lions). They're right above foxes. Mice have more to worry about than cats. Unless city dwellers raise chickens (their favorite target), the worst they'll do is wreak havoc on your trash cans. Small children (infants) might have something to fear from coyotes, but unless the coyote was rabid or starving, it wouldn't likely attack a child past the age of 7.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • sinixstar

      msquared2 – In a typical environment, you would be correct. In the wild coyotes are not terribly dangerous. More of a nuisance than anything else. However, when these animals start becoming attracted to densely populated areas, it's because they are simply not finding the necessary food sources to survive in a wild environment. At that point the typical behavior patterns and expectations go right out the window. Coyotes are generally scavengers and rely on the leftovers from larger predators, and typically only hunt when they need to. If there's nothing to scavenge, and not enough prey to go around – at that point they become desperate. You said it yourself – rabid or starving... If they're coming into these areas, it means they're starving.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ned

      I live in KY and a single coyote chased my 50 lb border collie out of one of my fields. They are breeding with domestic dogs and are losing their fear of man.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • warnercc

      Not necessarily true. I have seen coyotes in our area that are as big a German Shepard's. I'm sure if they became aggressive to humans, the result would not be pleasant.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sinixstar

    To be honest, this is what happens when you upset the natural balance of an eco system – and do not take steps to restore it. The "they're not bothering anybody, just leave them alone" mentality is EXTREMELY harmful to the long-term wellbeing of the species. As generations of young are brought up and taught to find food in urban and suburban areas – they do not develop the skills needed to survive in a wild environment. At that point they become dependent on human interaction to survive, and that's when you see serious problems.
    When you start seeing predatory animals who should naturally fear humans – seeking out densely populated areas for food – it's a sign that the natural eco system is out of balance. The population has grown beyond the bounds of the natural food sources, and they have to seek out alternative sources to survive. People don't like to hear this – but it means the local predator population needs to be culled. Over-population will eventually lead to the human dependence I described above, and can also lead to disease and a whole range of other problems. Since humans are the ones who disrupted the natural balance of the system in the first place, it's our responsibility to take steps to put some balances in place.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. grannylady

    My son lives in the Edgewater area of Denver, definately a city neighborhood of closely spaced houses. He frequently sees a fox trotting through the neighborhood and has for the last two years. This guy is quite comfortable with his city lifestyle. Fox and coyotes are very smart and adaptable,, as long as they can find food and shelter, they will thrive.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Diane

    I love coyotes! Send 'em my way. Now that community leash laws prohibit dogs from running free, the rabbit and squirrel populations have exploded in the suburbs. Coyotes will help put things back into balance, and I think my 80-lb. Doberman can take care of herself.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Deb Ed

    City folk will need to study up on coyotes. We live in a rural southwestern state. Most often, they are in packs. When our big dog growls, I step out on the porch with a flashlight and you can see the coyote's eyes. Not often I see only just one.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sinixstar

      It's generally when you only see one that you need to be concerned. Coyotes are pack animals, and one by it's self means it was cast out of the pack for some reason. It's likely either diseased, or there is not enough food to go around – and it was one of the weaker animals that couldn't fight for it's place in the pecking order. Either way it's going to be desperate and unpredictable.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mona

      They live and meet up in their pack but hunt/forage alone. There is a pack in my neighborhood, they separate and go down streets alone eating fruit, birdseed, anything they can find then when they hear people outside they meet each other on the main road and head back up to the hills. They avoid people at all costs.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. geeworker

    as more of the rural area is gobbled up by those who want to get away from the city thinking that the country is the place to be, wild migratory animals who require vast open land such as the coyotes, timber wolf and mountain lion will move into the city of course is doesn't help when miss managed, ill informed Department of natural Resources releases the same wild animals into parts of the country where a sustainable environment such as farm land where their normal diet is replaced with farm animals.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. gg

    I live in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Los Angeles.area. We sometimes see coyotes or , more often, hear the pack howling at night after they've made a kill. It can sound terrifying or have wild and romantic. They lived here long before we did. They help take care of the rodents and jack rabbits that eat our garden. They often hunt in pairs and sometimes come into our yard, which is on a hillside. Pets, infants and small children should not be left outside alone, even for a minute. Not that the coyotes are always here, it is not so frequent, however, they could be at any time. They look too thin. They are amazing creatures.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tracie

    We have had coyotes in southern Caifornia for years. Outdoor cats and small dogs are definitely in danger. I see coyotes while hiking and they have never been aggressive at all but I also do not approach them or engage in any other foolish behavior. I give them their space as they are wild animals. Keep your cats indoors and walk your small dogs during the day. Use your common sense and you can probably peacefully co-exist with them.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. palval

    It is ridiculous to think we are just allowing this to happen. Number one: do coyotes kill humans. Yes. In my neck of the woods, a young woman was killed while hiking two years ago. She was attacked by two young coyotes and it was not pretty. People in that area have been attacked since but there have been no deaths. No one walks without a golf club or a baseball bat. Number Two: Environmentalists say that if we kill the coyotes, they will respond by breeding more often. Maybe. What about birth control? Shoot them with something that controls the population. We have the means, let's use it.
    WE HUMANS HAVE AS MUCH RIGHT TO BE HERE AS THEY DO...for anyone who brings forth that nonsense.

    October 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
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