Animals: They were here first
North American Song Dog
Coyotes have a reputation. To some, they’re seen as calculating opportunists and cunning predators. To others, they’re seen as a top carnivore, keeping the food chain linked up, and our ecosystem in balance. To wildlife observers they’re seen as a highly intelligent animal who is an expert at adapting to changes in its environment.
Coyotes have survived the past few hundred years under the attack of humans intent on driving them to extinction. Their story can actually inspire anyone who wants to learn how to get past adversity and move into a prosperous future: know when to move on, work with what you have, seek greater resources, and become more valuable in your ecosphere.
For most of their history, coyotes mainly roamed the plains of North America, staying out of the way of greater predators like wolves and bears who occupied the forests. Native Americans co-existed for centuries in peace with all three of these magnificent animals. Things changed when Europeans arrived, intent on conquering the land without taking the time to understand the importance of respecting the natural balance of life. The wolves and bears were driven out easily, but not so for the coyotes; they simply adapted to a life with their new co-inhabitants.
Today, coyotes can be found from Alaska to Costa Rica, and from Golden Gate Park to Central Park. Coyotes are providing a valuable pest control service in urban areas. Rodents are a staple of their diet. Because people create an ever increasing amount of opportunities for rodents to thrive, coyotes are stepping up to keep the food chain in balance.
Since coyotes have increased in numbers rather than dwindle to extinction, you may have a greater chance of running into one, even though they prefer a rather reclusive lifestyle, avoiding human contact unless they can’t help it. If you do come upon a coyote while you’re out strolling in the park, here is a handy list of tips from San Francisco Environment and Project Coyote:
• While coyotes are largely carnivorous, they can eat just about anything, from fruit to insects to vegetation. To prevent coyotes from coming into your yard, try to minimize or reduce attractants by cleaning up fallen fruit in your yard.
• Clean up birdseed, and feed cats and dogs inside. Birdseed and pet food can attract rodents, which coyotes prey on.
• Keep outdoor grills clean.
• Especially during the drought, water can be a big attractor for wildlife, including coyotes. For this reason, minimize outdoor access to water, such as water bowls for pets.
In parks and open spaces
• Be aware that coyotes live in our open spaces and parks. Be especially vigilant during pupping season (between April and August) when coyote families may try to protect their young from off-leash dogs.
• Do not feed coyotes.
• If you see a coyote, appreciate it from a distance.
• If you are approached by a coyote, act big and make loud noises.
• If a coyote is acting aggressively or exhibiting strange behavior, call your local animal control agency.
Coyotes are called the North American Song Dog because of their morning and evening symphonies, long ago treasured by native tribes, and now can be enjoyed by urban dwellers. To learn more about our invisible neighbors, visit Urban Coyote Research, which is an organization studying the coyotes of Chicago. I learned a few interesting facts, like coyotes can easily jump an eight-foot wall, scale a cyclone fence of any height, and run up to 40 mph.