Wily Coyotes in the City

  • Coyotes have started to lose their wildlife habitat, and now they are adapting to cities and suburbs. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

As wildlife habitat is displaced by subdivisions, some animals are adapting to their new surroundings. That’s created new food for some kinds of predators, such as coyotes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports on how their range is expanding:


As wildlife habitat is displaced by subdivisions, some animals are
adapting to their new surroundings. That’s created new food for some
kinds of predators, such as coyotes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports
on how their range is expanding:

Wile E. Coyote hasn’t always had the greatest life out in the wild.

(Sound of Roadrunner)

So… some coyotes are moving into the city, and why not? There’s a
smorgasbord for coyotes in the city.

(Sounds of ducks and geese)

We’re in Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago. Coyotes are occasionally
sighted around here. Rob Curtis has seen one in his neighborhood a few
miles north of here, but the wildlife photographer had a close encounter
with a coyote here in Lincoln Park.

“Well, I knew that it was living there because people had seen it before,
but I hadn’t seen it. And then, I was trying to photograph a rare bird that
was in front of the fence there and I was camouflaged and it came up
right in front on the other side of the fence without it noticing me, and
then it just walked on.”

The coyotes eat just about anything they can get a hold of: rats, young
geese, squirrels… and… sometimes pets. In the Chicago suburb,
Arlington Heights, coyotes have been a problem.

Police Sergeant Nick Pecora says sometimes coyotes are pretty brazen.

“In the last 18 months Arlington Heights has lost one Yorkshire Terrier,
taken off the patio in the owners presence, and in one case the dog had an
electronic collar on and when the coyote took it, it received a shock and
dropped the animal and ran away.”

Pecora says some Arlington Heights residents haven’t been too keen on
what some see as an intruding predator.

“Coyotes are indigenous to the area and – maybe it’s the perception that
this is a large animal and the bunnies, the skunks, the squirrels, that’s
what Arlington Heights is used to, and a 35-pound animal walking
through your yard, I think they’re perceived as the big, bad wolf, if you

And… although there hasn’t been a documented case of a coyote
attacking a human… some worry that they might.

Not too far away researchers are putting radio collars on coyotes to see
where they’re going and what they’re doing.

(Sound of tires on gravel)

Justin Brown is with a research project out of Ohio State University.
He’s just located the spot where a coyote is hiding. We can’t see him,
but we know he’s there because of the signal his collar is emitting.

“We very rarely see them, especially during the day. At the night —
during the night, occasionally we’ll get good visuals, but for the most
part during the day times you never see them.”

Brown and his colleagues are trying to figure out why there are more
coyotes in the suburbs and cities. One of the reasons is car and deer
accidents. Coyotes feed on the carcasses. The huge increase in Canada
geese is another reason.

“Food ranges from deer to geese to even just dog food people leave out.
There’s definitely a high variety of foods available to them. For habitat,
it can be anything, any little wood lot, anywhere that they can find a little
hiding spot for the daytime and then during the evenings they run (in) a
lot of areas you wouldn’t expect such as residential areas and
commercial parking lots. They pretty much run it all, anywhere that they
might come across a meal.”

You’d think there wouldn’t be that many places for a coyote to hide in
the city and suburbs. But, Brown says they hide in parks, golf courses, in
wood lots, graveyards… anyplace with a little cover. Brown’s research team
leader, Stan Gehrt, estimates there are something like two-thousand coyotes
in the Chicago metro area.Justin Brown says the truly amazing thing is that
coyotes have learned to adapt so well… and even survive a lot of automobile

“We’ve actually seen animals where they’re actually figuring out traffic
patterns. They know which roads are going which ways. We’ll see them
cross roads where they’ll actually look only the direction traffic should
be coming and then go and then stop in the middle and look in the other
direction for traffic and then go. So, they’ve definitely figured out how
the road systems work. It’s just amazing to see how they survive in this

And, the experts say, the coyotes are probably here to stay. Most
residents don’t want the police to shoot the animals. So some
municipalities tried to trap and relocate the animals to a more rural area,
but coyotes are very territorial, and they immediately head back to the
place where they were trapped. Often they’re hit by cars on the journey
back, but sometimes they make it home, and the predator in the suburbs
is back and hungry.

For the GLRC, I’m Lester Graham.

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