Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Urban coyote

Editor's note: A dear friend and co-worker, a constant friend of animals who despite her hectic work schedule devotes a considerable amount of time to a feral cat colony lost a friend and companion of thirteen years this past weekend. The cat came to her as a wild kitten and stayed even as it retained its feral ways and in my friend's words, "Lived life on her terms." But wild is a hard fate to ignore and meeting coyotes in the midst of an urban landscape my friend's friend met a wild thing's end and now her companion is left to mourn and at once wonder at a life so well lived.  

From Maine to Florida and from California to the Atlantic seaboard Americans are increasingly coming face to face with one of nature's most determined and successful predators, the coyote. Once confined to the western territories by more powerful cousins like the grey and red wolf the coyote has spread its range to farm yards and suburban back yards throughout the United States.

Often this first encounter with humans ends in misfortune for the most innocent, the family pet. Coyotes are opportunistic hunters and will prey on any food source in its range, small dogs and cats are no exception. The fact that human companion animals and small farm livestock are attractive to the coyote is in large part why farmers very early on determined that livestock needed to be confined and protected. The same holds true in towns and cities. Animal control laws require that domesticated pets be on a leash or confined under supervision to the property of their owner, not just for our protection but theirs as well. Dogs and cats allowed to roam freely will inevitably encounter other animals both domestic and wild, the result can often be tragic.

Animal control officials concede that trying to eliminate the coyote would be both expensive and ultimately futile. Left to their own devices coyotes will naturally fill the niche created when larger predators are driven out by human development.

Coyotes prey on mice, rats and other small rodents, even insects; coyotes are the ultimate carnivore and while their hunting activity may keep pest populations under control when preying on pests give way to hunting pets, public opinion changes.

Coyotes are wary of human contact and attacks on humans are very rare, unfortunately for our pets that natural wariness doesn't carry over. Alternately, uncontrolled dogs attack and kill increasing numbers of children and pets in the United State each year and still people continue to ignore existing animal control laws.


The coyote is one of the most successful land predators on Earth, behind the grey wolf. Its name comes from the Aztec word 'coyote' which means "barking dog". They have an incredible range in size and coloration. Coyotes from the north are larger (avg. 75 lb. (34 kg)) than those farther south, such as Mexico (avg. 25 lb. (11 kg)). Their color is generally a light grey with black ticking and pale under-parts. Coyotes that live in the mountains tend to be darker and desert coyotes tend to be more yellowish in color. They may have cinnamon markings on their face and sides of their body.*

Coyote's range includes Canada, the contiguous 48 States and Mexico. They are found in a wide variety of habitats, from tundra to forest to scrub land to the outskirts of cities and suburban settings. They will thrive in any area just as long as there is a prey base.

For a first hand story of coyotes in an urban garden read Fab Five by our friends at "The Tucson Gardener. "

*Coyote data: The Canine Specialist Group

No comments:

Post a Comment