Urban coyotes

 Images Articles 2006 Mar Phenom 353-1

An interesting article in the new issue of Smithsonian Magazine looks at why coyotes seem to be moving from the rural plains into Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other big cities. From the article:

Until the 1990s, the farthest that coyotes had ventured into Chicago was to forested reserves near the city limits. But "something happened," says Stan Gehrt, a wildlife biologist at Ohio State University, "something we don't completely understand." Within ten years the coyote population exploded, growing by more than 3,000 percent, and infiltrated the entire Chicago area. Gehrt found territorial packs of five to six coyotes, as well as lone individuals, called floaters, living in downtown Chicago. They traveled at night, crossing sidewalks and bridges, trotting along roads and ducking into culverts and underpasses. One pair raised pups in a drainage area between a day care facility and a public pool; a lone female spent the day resting in a tiny marsh near a busy downtown post office. Perhaps most surprising to Gehrt, Chicago's urban coyotes tended to live as long as their parkland counterparts. No one knows why coyotes are moving into cities, but Gehrt theorizes that shrewder, more human-tolerant coyotes are teaching urban survival skills to new generations…

Should the urban coyote be viewed with trepidation? "Some people have fears that kids are going to be the next ones to be eaten," says (biologist John) Way. "I tell them coyotes have been at the edges of their neighborhoods for years." Way emphasizes coyotes can be an asset to urban ecosystems, keeping a check on deer, rodents, Canada geese and other animals that thrive on the suburbs' all-you-can-eat buffet.