This past October, I helped organize a symposium entitled “Carnivore conservation in human-dominated systems: Ecological, ethical and social dimensions” at the EcoSummit conference here in Columbus, Ohio.  The purpose of the symposium was to bring together international scholars from several disciplines to examine the ecological, ethical and social dimensions of carnivore conservation in human-dominated landscapes.  Dr. Stan Gehrt’s presentation on urban carnivores, in particular caught a lot of media attention.  Dr. Gehrt has spent more than a decade studying coyotes and other carnivores in the Chicago metro area, and has found them remarkably adept at negotiating urban environments.  For example, in one video recorded by his research crew, a coyote walks down a relatively quiet street and pauses at a busy intersection in front of a red light; when the light turns green, the coyote takes off, successfully crossing the street.

Dr. Gehrt posited that one reason for coyotes’ success in urban environments is increased tolerance among human populations, and he noted that other carnivores have also begun to be successful in urbanized settings.  Here is one, slightly sensationalized article that came about because of his presentation: Why Wild Animals Are Moving Into Cities, And What To Do About It.

Excerpt:

It’s reasonable to assume that these animals are moving to the city because they’re being displaced by climate change and habitat destruction, but that’s only part of the explanation. One of the biggest factors is that there are more large carnivores than there used to be—primarily, Gehrt says, because of successful conservation efforts. As we make our cities greener, they become more attractive to humans and animals alike. Finally, the relationship between humans and large predators is changing. “We’re now seeing generations of certain carnivores that have had fairly light amounts of persecution by people,” Gehrt says. “They may view cities quite a bit differently than their ancestors did 50 years ago. Then, if they saw a human, there was a good chance they were going to get shot.”

 
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About The Author

Jeremy Bruskotter

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter is an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University where his research interests are centered around the human dimensions” of wildlife conservation and management. Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer. Most of all, Jeremy is concerned with bringing the tools and techniques of the social sciences to bear on pressing issues in wildlife management.

67 Responses to Where the Wild Things will be: Carnivores in Urban Environments

  1. avatar Nancy says:

    “They may view cities quite a bit differently than their ancestors did 50 years ago. Then, if they saw a human, there was a good chance they were going to get shot”

    I’m leaning towards habitat loss and adapting to the changes because as most of us know, who live here in the rural west, if they (coyotes) see a human, changes are they will still be shot.

    • avatar JB says:

      Nancy:

      Interesting observation. What you’ve written is probably true–in the West. However, it is much different in the Midwest and East. And remember, we’re talking about urban areas. Today, most municipalities prohibit discharging a firearm.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        Unless it is on your own property. Then you can, especially for unwanted critters. And many people don’t observe the laws.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          I can’t imagine myself owning a gun, but at the rate things are going, I may have to to protect myself from humans and not coyotes! My home has been broken into by what turned out to be drug addicts. Yuck. I’d probably only throw it at the guy and scream though. :)

          • avatar Savebears says:

            If someone breaks into my house, I have no problem putting them down, shooting someone is the last resort, unfortunately in this day and age it is the only solution.

            I have faced the situation, him or you and I am going to ensure it is him, then I will deal with the aftermath.

            I am not saying it is easy to kill another human being, but after my stint in the middle east, I am glad it was him and not me, it has taken a long time to come to terms with it, but I am glad I am still here, as is my wife and family.

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              I’m glad you are – I don’t know what I would do in the same place, if I could, but they say you never know until you are in that predicament. I hope I never am. It was pretty upsetting to have my house broken into though.

              • avatar Savebears says:

                Ida,

                I sincerely hope you never have to face that type of situation, agree of disagree, I would never wish that on anyone.

              • avatar Rancher Bob says:

                Ida
                If you do choose to buy a gun take a good defense/gun usage class before the purchase. It will reduce the chance that you become the statistic.

        • avatar JB says:

          I can’t discharge a firearm on my property unless it is in self defense (inside). Too close to other structures. For most in urban areas it is the same.

          • avatar WM says:

            An alternative to the classically defined “firearm” is the pellet gun, or air rifle. Some in urban areas, citizens are resorting to air rifles, equipped with a scope, to dispatch unwanted urban wildlife. It does not meet the definition of firearm (and most air rifles require reloading, and recharging the piston cylinder after one shot). Some are rather quiet if the projectile is shot at a speed lower than that of the speed of sound (1,100 ft per second), at .22 caliber. No citation for shooting one in the city, unless it is in the wrong direction, in which case there could be one for “reckless endangerment” or its equivalent under a county or municipal code. Of course, there is the part about not being caught, as well.

            Heck, even Lewis and Clark had an air rifle on their famous expedition, and there is some history of air rifles being used in military combat, I think in the late 1700’s in Europe. For some reason the idea didn’t catch on, even though the reload was faster than a musket.

  2. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    For example, in one video recorded by his research crew, a coyote walks down a relatively quiet street and pauses at the intersection in front of a red light; when the light turns green, they coyote takes off, successfully crossing a street packed with cars.

    How smart. :)

  3. avatar Robert R says:

    This is all great and the coyote can adapt very well and in some cases to well. Watch what you wish for!
    Check out coyote attacks on domestic pets and people in just California alone.
    In the east where the coy-wolf exist it has been said they are even more aggressive.
    Hypothetical ? What if wolves took on the urban setting ?

    One good thing that will come out of the urban coyote is they will thin the feral cats and dogs out and maybe even some rats.

  4. avatar mikepost says:

    The absolute preferred food of the urban coyote is the house cat. Low risk, easy take down, high nutrition (we feed them well) and large prey base.

    One crazy phenomenom I have run into is coyotes taking housecats in local parks. They are so selective that they slit the belly, take the internal organs and fat and leave the meat. The cat skin on the belly can be slit with a sharp canine just like a razor. Local residents who find them immediately think that the cat has been killed in Satanic rites of some sort and all the local goth kids get the evil eye. You have to peel the hide off the neck for them and show them the bruising from the canine teeth during the neck shake before they will believe it. More urban disconnect….

  5. avatar Mark L says:

    Where are these aggressive coywolves in the East? Are you saying a dog/coyote or a wolf/coyote hybrid?
    Adjacently, I suggested a few years ago introducing red wolves into a semi-urban setting rather than purely wild one to aid in meso-predator release issues.

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Mark I will let you judge for yourself by googling coywolf. Or someone here can give a definition.
      Far as I know it’s a wolf coyote hybrid and from what I have watched the coywolves have wolf DNA.

      • avatar Jon Way says:

        Eastern Coyotes/Coywolves are far from aggressive. Just like western coyotes these guys live mostly quietly among ppl. MA has had the most bites from coywolves and it has been 5 in the past 50+ years. None have been lethal. Yet dogs kill, let alone bit, many 1000s of ppl a year. The eastern coyote/coywolf is larger yet is just as shy around ppl as most coyotes are. And they are probably filling an ecological niche/role in between smaller western coyotes and the original 60 ish lb eastern wolf that lived through most of the NE.

        • avatar Jon Way says:

          That should say dogs bite 1000s of ppl a year. They kill roughly 20 ppl a year in the US. I don’t know about other countries.

  6. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    I have never heard of any aggression from coywolves and I live in the East. We have the usual, infrequent reports of attacks on pets by coyotes, nothing more. One woman is upset about wild turkeys menacing her. As elsewhere in the country, if amything that even remotely resembles a wolf is spotted in the more rural areas, there’s usualy a shoot first and ask questions later response.

    • avatar Savebears says:

      Ida,

      Your stretching again with your statement about shoot first ask question later.

      • avatar Ida Lupine says:

        SB, what I mean is people have shot them thinking they were coyotes, or so they say. Later examination showed them to have wolf DNA, (I don’t know how many have been found, this is just one incident I read about). But it’s a knee-jerk reaction. I know I’m cynical, SB, but I have the history of the world to back me up. ;)

        I don’t buy the armchair general argument, either. Just because you don’t live in an area, doesn’t mean you can recognize when something is wrong. A person’s rights extend to their personal property and nothing more. Public lands belong to all. We think the world revolves around us and our activities, but it really doesn’t. There’s noone to stop us is the only reason why we continue to do what we do – we make the rules and there isn’t anything non-humans can do about it. It’s a very one-sided business. We should try to work with nature and not against it.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          sorry, that should be “can’t recognize”.

          I was glad to read the post in the Bozeman Gazette about the unusually high coincidence of Yellowstone collared wolves targeted.

          • avatar Savebears says:

            Coincidence, does not equate fact, everybody has an opinion about what happened, but nobody has any credible evidence to show collared wolves were targeted.

        • avatar Savebears says:

          Ida,

          Yes we do need to work with nature, but knee jerk reactions is not the path to success, it has not worked for either side and it just keeps getting worse.

          Public lands, do belong to all of us, including those you don’t agree with, public lands equals public use of those lands. I disagree with a whole bunch of people, but I also recognize that even if I don’t agree, they have the same say as I do.

        • avatar Savebears says:

          To add, we are never going to have the Utopian world, that some seem to want, there are over 7 billion different opinions out there, each one is unique, we may reach equilibrium, but there is never going to be agreement.

      • avatar Nancy says:

        SB – Ida’s right, there’s been more than a few incidents in the news over the past couple of years with regard to the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality when it comes to coyotes and mistaken identity:

        http://timberwolfinformation.org/info/archieve/newspapers/viewnews.cfm?ID=4174

        http://sdoa.areavoices.com/2011/01/13/wolf-shot-by-woonsocket/

        http://www.southernenvironment.org/cases/coyote_spotlighting_risks_endangered_red_wolves

        And lets not forget this bizarre incident:

        http://www.policeone.com/patrol-issues/articles/2016002-Ga-officer-mistaken-for-coyote-fatally-shot/

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      Well, there’s one in 300 million.

      • avatar JEFF E says:

        unless it was u

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Then it was my time to go. I’m not in the slightest concerned. For others, try to be alert and careful.

          • avatar JEFF E says:

            that’s true.

            but the point is, is that it happens.

            It is only rare for the ones that did not get attacked. Just trying to put another perspective on it that some here, including you, dismiss as inconsequential.
            It is also rare to win the lottery, millions and millions to one, but the lottery keeps being won by someone.

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              I hardly said it was inconsequential. What I am saying is it isn’t realistic to imply that wiping out wildlife will diminish human risk entirely, especially when people don’t take care to protect themselves. There will be accidents and sometimes they will be fatal. When you put it in perspective of automobile accidents and gun deaths in our country, we really overreact about the effects of wildlife. They put a school on lockdown in my area for a single coyote sighting, but yet gun deaths are an everyday occurrence. You can’t compare it to a repetitive game like a lottery.

          • avatar Ida Lupine says:

            I had forgotten about that – that was in Nova Scotia, a young woman hiking alone in a National Park. It was never proven that the coyotes were coywolves. I was say in my general US area of the East, there occasionally are reports of wolves coming over from Canada and they are usually shot on sight. Other than that, you get reports of coyotes attacking pets that are not kept indoors, and occasionally someone out walking a dog will report it, but no human fatalities.

            • avatar JB says:

              Ida:

              The “coyotes” that reside in Nova Scotia are “coywolves” (i.e., coyotes with some wolf DNA). Regardless, I don’t think it is proper to draw conclusions from one incident–especially when it deviates so much from what is observed/expected. Suffice it to say that the coyotes/coywolves involved acted very differently from what is expected.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                JB I’m sure Jon Way can speak to this issue but I thought I remembered reading that the woman who was attacked and killed may have been jogging, head down, not paying attention and behaving like prey. I was trying to find that reference but can’t tonight, if anyone else remembers this please post. Jon Way of you know of why the coywolves may have behaved this way please do comment.

              • avatar Savebears says:

                Louise,

                I am sure she was wearing a very short mini skirt and acting provocative as well. Lets blame the victim.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                Savebears as JB pointed out the incident and the way the coywolves behaved deviated from the norm. Why don’t you let Jon Way or someone else here with experience in studying coywolf behavior answer the question instead of being in attack mode just for argument’s sake.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                SB,
                case in point

              • avatar Jon Way says:

                I agree with JB. While I didn’t personally follow the case in detail, it is obvious that these coywolves (like coyotes every where outside of the Northeast) behaved very apparent. I am not going to speculate what/why it happened other than these animals live throughout the country, both rural and urban, and don’t behave like that where they are hunted, and also where people don’t kill them. We may never know but I am pretty certain the authorities killed the correct individual animals in that circumstance and it did seem like 2-3 animals killed her which is quite remarkable since the poor women is only the 2nd person to fall victim to coyotes/coywolves, with the other one being a 3 yr old in CA in the 1980s.

              • avatar Jon Way says:

                sorry, they behaved aberrantly or abnormal (not apparent)

              • avatar WM says:

                Here is a pretty balanced article on this 2009 incident. And, it is interesting to note the RCMP officer who investigated noted two aggressive coyotes were present, and shot one. Also, note reference to coyotes breeding with wolves. Food conditioned and habituated, with no reason to fear humans, going for the easy meal.

                http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2009/11/special-report-coyote-attacks-and-death-canadian-folk-singer-taylor-mitchell

              • avatar Savebears says:

                Louise,

                You have been in attack mode since the day you found this blog, you get what you deserve with your attitude.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                the fact that there are only two deaths from coyotes does not mean that in dozens of other cases the coyote was not trying, only that the attack failed (in the coyotes eyes)

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                WM thanks for that article. They mentioned this
                “According to Timm, trapping, rather than shooting, quickly re-instills wariness of people in coyotes. Timm further believes it’s only necessary to take a few animals from an area, not try to wipe out an entire population.” Jon Way do you have any idea why this party would think trapping would instill more fear in humans then shooting. It seems counterintuitive. I would think if coyotes heard a shot and associated a hunter with the shooting that would be a greater deterrent then a hidden trap? I don’t understand the logic here, unless its easier for the agencies to trap so they promote that? Got any ideas?

              • avatar JB says:

                WM:

                One correction. As I understand it (this comes directly from one involved in the analysis), the coyotes involved showed no obvious signs of food conditioning. (Some early reports suggested they were fed, but these were later found to be false). It’s another oddity about this tragedy.

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              It’s a wildlife/human with articles about humans living with wildlife, not humans versus wildlife blog – and nothing happens in a vacuum. If we are talking about the risks to humans from wildlife, it’s best to put it in perspective with the things that cause the highest level of human fatalities in our society and culture for comparison purposes. Not to bring them up to discuss by themselves. People get irrationally nervous at the mere mention of coyotes – and the odds are quite slim that you’d be harmed or killed by a wild animal. If coyotes or other wild animals become a problem in urban areas, they can be removed by animal control or wildlife control agencies, sometimes lethally which is now the case. To bring up an isolated case that didn’t happen in an urban environment is needless. And I don’t know what kind of parent leaves very young children outside unsupervised, two and three years old.

              • avatar Savebears says:

                Yes,

                People in urban environments get nervous when coyotes are spotted, us living in rural environments don’t. For the most part, I don’t even really think about coyotes, they are a fact of life, they are very successful species that adapts to its environment.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                Yes, I’m in a more rural environment by choice – but I do love the cities too. When I have wildlife around I’m happy to have them, and they pay little attention to me. A coyote yipping around my back porch was a bit startling though, but in a good way. The one I saw loping through my yard didn’t even look my way. Needless to say, I keep my pet inside.

  7. avatar Mark L says:

    Why no articles on how many are injured by elk yearly?
    Or fallling out of trees while deer hunting?
    Or shooting each other (while wildlife hunting)?
    I think spider bites (wildlife!) are still above coyotes wolves combined. We should run!

  8. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    In an interview with The Gazette, Brad White, a coyote expert at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario said they might have been coyote-wolf hybrids. However, Don Anderson, a biologist with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, said he has seen no reason to suspect the animals were coyote-wolf crosses. Don Anderson noted there are no wolves in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Dr. Brent Patterson of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, however, concludes there is sufficient physical evidence that these coyotes were so-called “Eastern Coyotes.” Eastern Coyotes of the Canadian provinces are distant hybrids of Canadian wolves and coyotes that go back generations when the Western Coyotes of the North American Plains regions of the United States, migrated to the Ontario region, and interbred with native wolves. This possibly instilled the dominance and aggressive behaviours displayed by the Cape Breton coyotes. Stan Gehrt, a coyote expert at Ohio State University’s school of environment and natural resources suggested that the coyotes were rabid.[12] This theory, however, was proved to be invalid through post mortem examination conducted at the University of Prince Edward Island, of the six exterminated coyotes, three of which could be directly linked to the attack.

    I still don’t see any proof that the animals were wolf/coyote hyrids. Couldn’t it have been found in a necropsy and wouldn’t it have been one of the first pieces of information they would look for?

    It’s not the same kind of blaming the victim, and in both cases, you’d take care not to go out into the woods alone. As has been stated, we are not living in Utopia.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      My info was from Wikipedia, sorry.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      So an Eastern Coyote is still a coyote; distant wolf genetics today don’t make it a wolf, more like a distant cousin. Do I have that right? If my post seems alarmed, I just fear that this kind of information might lead to people freaking out about coyotes and needless destroying of them take place. Animals should be removed by a professional means – not having hunting contests that are beneath civilized humanity, and are throwbacks to bludgeoning jack rabbits as a family fun outing during the Great Depression. *cringes*. The guy I saw may have been “grayer” than the ones I’ve seen out West – and larger? A playful appearing guy who again had no interest in me as I was hiking, but seemed fascinated with a trash receptacle at a park building. But it was dusk so I can’t say for sure about the one in my yard. Their voices carry, and it always reminds me of a time when land was undeveloped.

      Anyway, that’s all for me – Happy New Year everyone.

    • avatar JB says:

      Ida:

      Jon Way can speak better to this than I, but eastern coyotes (or coywolves) have wolf DNA. The cross occurred many generations prior. So no, they were not coyote x wolf crosses (one parent was not a wolf), but they do have wolf DNA. This is what differentiates larger, eastern coyotes from there western cousins.

      • avatar Robert R says:

        JB from what I have read and what was said on the show Invaders a male wolf will interbreed with a female coyote but not the other way around.
        This happened mostly with low wolf populations and in eastern Canada.

  9. avatar Dan says:

    In a former life I worked as a logger. On one job in the east side of the Cascade we were salvage logging a burn area. The area was full of mule deer. On one particular slope, a doe and a fawn crossed our skyline (a cable that raises high into the air and also falls rapidly to the ground) a few times. The doe had evidently paid close attention to the skyline because we saw her a couple of times approach the line wait for it to fall and then upon raising into the air cross the skyline’s path.

    I had a buddy who lived in a town over from here (pop. approx. 500). He put a trail cam in his backyard and got a sweet picture of a bobcat.

    In our little town (pop roughly 35) we routinely see animals and tracks from coyotes, deer, beaver, mink, wolves, weasel, bear, moose, raccoon, cougar, bobcat and probably a few others if I think about it long enough. Oddly, the elk are seen regularly on the slopes around town but never in town.

  10. avatar Cristie Janulewicz says:

    Almost all spiders are venomous. That’s how they hunt. Most spiders are too small, or their venom too weak, to be dangerous to humans. Some spiders are pretty well known and seem to get blamed for most of the spider bites out there.,.”^

    Our own internet page <http://www.healthmedicinejournal.com/

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey