The Urban Coyote

Urban coyotes are coyotes that reside in North American metropolitan areas such as cities and suburbs. Coyotes thrive in suburban settings and even some urban ones, because of the availability of food and the lack of predators. One report described them as "thriving" in U.S. cities, and a 2013 report in The Economist suggested that urban coyotes were increasingly living in cities and suburbs.

Adaptations to Urban Environments

coyote on a lawn
"Get off my lawn!" In major U.S. cities, Urban Coyotes are holding their ground.

Wildlife ecologists at Ohio State University studied coyotes taking over in Chicago over a seven-year period (2000–2007) and found that coyotes have adapted well to living in densely populated urban environments while avoiding contact with humans. They found that urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas. The researchers estimated that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in the greater Chicago area and that this circumstance may well apply to many other urban areas in North America.

In Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park coyotes den and raise their young, scavenge roadkill, and hunt rodents. "I don't see it as a bad thing for a park," the assigned National Park Service biologist told a reporter for Smithsonian Magazine. "I see it as good for keeping animal populations in control, like the squirrels and the mice.”

Unlike rural coyotes, urban ones have a longer lifespan and tend to live in higher densities, but rarely attack humans or pets, according to one report. The animals generally are nocturnal and prey upon "rabbits, rats, Canada geese, fruit, insects and family pets", especially small dogs and domestic cats. Coyotes were reportedly living underneath decks in suburban Stamford, Connecticut and in some instances chasing after large dogs. Coyotes in all Canadian provinces can be attracted to food left out for birds, or prey upon stray cats, and tend to live between apartment buildings and in industrial parks throughout major cities from Vancouver to St. John's.

coyote on a lawn at sunset
"Sunrise / Sunset" Urban Coyotes are crepuscular (usually active at dawn or dusk).

Coyotes tend to be opportunistic and clever, according to one view. One study in Tucson, Arizona found that urban coyotes had similar antibodies and pathogens as coyotes in general, and had a survival rate in the city of 72% for any given year, on average. A study in 2007 suggested that coyotes were "successful in adjusting to an urbanized landscape" with high survival rates, and are frequently in "close proximity" to people. Both studies suggested that a major cause of deaths of urban coyotes was collisions with motorized vehicles.

In another testament to the coyote's habitat adaptability, a coyote nicknamed "Hal" made his way to New York City's Central Park in March 2006, wandering about the park for at least two days before being captured by officials. New York's parks commissioner Adrian Benepe noted this coyote had to be very adventurous and curious to get so far into the city. In 2015, there were reports of coyotes howling at night in New York's Central Park. An incident also occurred in April 2007 in the Chicago Loop district, where a coyote, later nicknamed "Adrian", quietly entered a Quizno's restaurant during the lunch hours; it was later captured and released at a wildlife rehabilitation center near Barrington, Illinois. In February 2010, up to three coyotes were spotted on the Columbia University campus, and another coyote sighting occurred in Central Park. Up to ten coyotes have also been living and breeding in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Gallery Links Back to top