“What’s being thrown at the coyote in urban areas is a giant buffet of prey.”
By Dan Zarlenga Missouri Dept. of Conservation
Jan 31, 2020
ST. LOUIS — A peculiar, high-pitched sound suddenly emerges through the urban bustle — something between a yelp, a whine, a howl, and an eerie laugh — raising hairs on the back of the neck.
It’s not at all something you would expect to hear.
Surely it can’t be. But it is. The call of a coyote.
Scenes like this are becoming increasingly possible and even common in Missouri’s metro areas. Coyotes, or Canis latrans as they are known in the scientific community, are moving in and taking up residence in cities across the state. It turns out that these creative canines take well to the urban lifestyle.
Joe DeBold is MDC’s urban wildlife biologist for the Kansas City region, and he’s seen video of coyotes captured by security cameras on Country Club Plaza.
“If they’re there, you know they’re pretty much everywhere, from dead center to the outskirts of town,” he said.
But why are coyotes moving into these urban environments? What draws them, and how can they survive in a place so alien to their traditional habitat? There are a couple traits that help coyotes fit in so well among humans.
COYOTES AREN’T PICKY EATERS
As omnivores, coyotes can sustain themselves on either plant material or meat.
According to Tom Meister, MDC wildlife damage biologist for the St. Louis region, “Coyotes eat anything and everything and don’t have a specialized diet. They can adapt to their surroundings because they don’t mind eating whatever is available to them.” DeBold agrees:
“What’s being thrown at the coyote in urban areas is a giant buffet of prey. Within this urban area, you have a higher density of prey resources because people feed birds, squirrels, raccoons, and deer. This human feeding concentrates all these animals.”
DeBold added that the higher density of people in urban areas and large venues like sporting events can concentrate food sources such as litter and dumpsters, which can influence wildlife behavior.
A study by the Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scat samples from urban coyotes and discovered the most common food items were small rodents, which made up 42 percent of their diet.
Deer and rabbit contributed about 20 percent each. The study also revealed that fruits comprised about 23 percent of what coyotes ate.
Human garbage can also be a source of nutrition for coyotes … Read more.
Urban Coyote Attacks Increasing on Humans and Deer
by James A. Swan, Ph.D., June 3, 2018
NRA – A 5-year-old boy was walking with his father on the campus of California State University-Los Angeles when a coyote came up and bit the boy on the leg. The boy was taken to the hospital for a rabies shot.
Later on the same campus, a woman was approached by a coyote. As the coyote fled, howls from other coyotes nearby were reported. Since then, more coyote sightings have been reported on the campus.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) plans to use a mix of professional trappers setting traps, armed game wardens and electronic calls that mimic the sound of an injured rabbit to draw in the coyotes and euthanize them.
Not far from that incident, CDFW game wardens reported a coyote attack in late 2017 on a 5-year-old girl. The girl had sustained bites to her head and neck and scratches on her back. USDA Wildlife Services assisted in the response efforts. A female coyote was captured and euthanized.
Forensic evidence from the attack scene matched the euthanized animal, confirming the coyote was the same one responsible for other attacks on area pets.
These two incidents are examples of an increasing problem in Los Angeles County, Calif., as coyotes expand into urban areas.
Coyote attacks are nothing new. According to University of California-Davis professor Robert Timm, Director of the Hopland Research and Extension Center, and his colleagues: “… between 1998 and 2004, we listed 89 coyote attacks in California when one or more coyotes made physical contact with a child or adult, or attacked a pet while in close proximity to its owner.” In 56 of these attacks, one or more persons were injured. In 77 additional encounters, coyotes stalked children, chased individuals or aggressively threatened adults.
When the first European settlers explored the United States, they didn’t see coyotes until they crossed the Mississippi and reached the western plains. There were plenty of wild game for coyotes to live on in the Great Plains, but wolf packs preyed on coyotes. Lewis and Clark never saw a coyote until they got to the middle Missouri River in present-day South Dakota in the fall of 1804, and they thought it was a new kind of fox.
Settlers ultimately began killing the wolves that attacked their livestock, coyotes bred quickly and had a more varied diet. As wolves disappeared, the coyote population spread eastward. That inspired a campaign to eradicate coyotes by shooting and poisoning them. In 1931, Congress passed a bill to spend $10 million eradicating both wolves and coyotes with poisons and sharpshooters.
Between 1947 and 1956, Wildlife Services in the Department of Agriculture killed approximately 6.5 million coyotes. By 1970, attitudes toward poisoning coyotes changed, and Present Richard Nixon ordered that no more poisons be used on public lands.
While wolves have made a comeback, all of North America except for Hawaii has coyotes—and their numbers are increasing. Current population estimates are as much as 100 million. And as I pointed out in another NRAHLF.org article, they now are breeding with feral dogs and wolves resulting in hybrid animals that are larger and have less fear of man.
While it’s open season on coyotes on rangeland year round, today coyotes are found in nearly all urban areas nationwide. No wonder coyote attacks on humans are increasing.
In addition to Los Angeles, Hollywood and Irvine, Calif., there have been coyote sightings in numerous other cities including Denver, St. Louis, Chicago and Seattle, all of which report over 100 sightings a year.
You can also find them in New York City, but by far the most urban coyote sightings and attacks have been in Southern California. Read more.
Urban coyotes feast on pets, study finds
Apr 12, 2019
The Guardian – Doug McIntyre let his cat, Junior, out of the house on a sunny summer morning last June.
As Junior walked down the path and into the world, he paid special attention. “I had a funny feeling … just an odd sensation that something was off,” McIntyre, a journalist and radio host, recalled in a column at the time. So Many Cats. So Little Time.
Junior, a beloved part of the family, had been found five years before living in the parking lot of a Los Angeles radio station, covered with fleas and suffering from a blood infection.
All day, McIntyre waited for Junior to return, to no avail. The next morning, as he and his wife were putting up missing pet flyers, they ran into a neighbor who said her husband had seen Junior in the mouth of a coyote.
It’s a common story in southern California, and one now backed up by research: a new study by the National Park Service has found that 20% of urban coyotes’ diets is made up of cats.
Once restricted to the western plains, coyote populations are surging in cities across the US. They are master adapters who have learned to survive in urban environments – a recent study found coyotes present in 96 out of 105 cities surveyed. But many communities are struggling to figure out new ways to deal with predators in their neighborhoods.
In Los Angeles there were 16 coyote attacks on humans in 2016, up from two in 2011. For small pets, the danger is even greater. Reports of coyotes attacking cats in the daytime – even in Hollywood – have popped up on social media. A neighborhood in Culver City recorded 40 pet deaths from coyotes in just six months last year.
“Coyotes are the top – besides us – in urban landscapes,” says Justin Brown, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area … Read more.