Coyotes in Our Midst - The Growth of Suburban-Dwelling Eastern Coyotes - A blog of biology by a person who lives with coyotes

For those of you who don't live in the United States, you should know that we actually have 2 species of coyote in this country: The Western Coyote and the Eastern Coyote. (Wiley Coyote from Looney Toons is a Western Coyote). 

Coyotes of both kinds have always been with us here. They have roamed this land since the days that Native American tribes wandered the trails. But... apparently Eastern Coyotes are causing a new problem for the modern world.

The Western Coyote is the one that sticks out in the public imagination. Smaller creatures, bigger than a fox but far smaller than a wolf that roams the desert landscapes between the cacti... or so the imagination conjures.

But the Eastern Coyote is different. It is far bigger and stronger than the Western species and has roamed the Mid-West and Eastern United States for centuries. Biologists say that the Eastern Coyote is not a "true" coyote actually. It is actually the result of a long-ago natural cross-breeding between the coyote and the American Gray Wolf (Canis Lupis). This hybrid is the creature than wanders among us... in fact... they live in my very neighborhood.

The Eastern Coyote (Canis Latrans) is usually extremely shy and elusive. You kinda have to live among them to even have a chance of seeing them. How do I know I live among them? Several people in my neighborhood... including my father and myself have seen them... fleetingly... before they disappear like shadows into the woods again. 

When we first moved to Cincinnati, my father saw a coyote among the suburban woods for the first time and reported a coyote sighting to the authorities. ... They laughed at him. No one believed him that there were coyotes here.... at least until their numbers grew to the point that people all over were seeing them and some even had to call animal control to remove a mother and her pups who had nested under a porch.

Now... it is common knowledge to the long-time residents of this area that we share our neighborhood with coyotes. They are elusive... but stick around long enough and you will see them. Two years ago my father was getting ready for work in the early morning before the sun rose and as he went out to start his car, he saw an adult coyote staring at him from our dark front yard. As soon as he stepped off the porch, it fled. But it is no doubt what he saw. They are unmistakable.

I saw one myself on the way to a night class at my local community college. It was standing in the light of the setting sun in an open field. At first I thought I had seen a large dog (About the size of a German Shephard.) But when I looked closer... it didn't really look like a dog at all! It had large bat-like ears and a long bushy (fox-like) tail. The animal never looked at my passing car but stood there in the field.

Later when I told my father what I had seen, he confirmed that it was a coyote.

It looked a lot like this one... except that the tail was longer:

The coyotes are starting to become problems as urban sprawl spreads. They are roaming suburban residential neighborhoods, getting into people's garbage and nesting under houses, getting trapped in garages... etc.

There also have been increasing reports of attacks on small children and pets. - That's why it's a really bad idea to let your cat out at night here. Coyotes will eat them. Still... some people are dumb enough to do it anyway and act dumbfounded when their pet's carcass is found torn up.

There's really no need (in my mind) to be afraid of these animals... they are excellent carnivorous hunters and need to be respected. If one invades your lawn and won't leave you alone... by all means! Scare it off! But there's no need to go nuts and try to wipe them out... like the horrible mistake we made with the Gray Wolf.

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Tags: animals, biology, coyotes

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