ON THE LOOSE: URBAN COYOTES THRIVE IN NORTH AMERICAN CITIES
COLUMBUS , Ohio – Even in the largest American cities, a historically maligned beast is thriving, despite scientists' belief that these mammals intently avoid urban human populations.
This animal's amazing ability to thrive in metropolitan areas has greatly surprised scientists, says Stanley Gehrt, an assistant professor of environmental and natural resources at Ohio State University. Gehrt is in the sixth year of a multi-year study of coyote behavior in urban Chicago.
Since the study began, Gehrt and his colleagues have found that urban coyote populations are much larger than expected; that they live longer than their rural cousins in these environments; and that they are more active at nighttime than coyotes living in rural areas.
Coyotes also do some good – they help control rapidly growing populations of Canada geese throughout North America .
“We couldn't find an area in Chicago where there weren't coyotes,” Gehrt said. “They've learned to exploit all parts of their landscape.”
And while his coyote research is concentrated in Chicago , the results likely apply to most major metropolitan areas in North America . Gehrt has even seen a pack of about a dozen on Ohio State 's campus in Columbus .
The study began in Chicago in 2000 when Gehrt was a research biologist for the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee , Ill. In the 1990s the foundation was increasingly inundated with complaints about coyotes taking pets and reportedly stalking children.
The number of calls grew, and in the late 1990s the Cook County Animal Control agency asked Gehrt to gather information on coyote populations in metropolitan Chicago .
The study was only supposed to last for a year.
“Nine million people live in the greater Chicago area,” said Gehrt, who is also a wildlife extension specialist at Ohio State . “We didn't think very many coyotes could thrive in such a highly urbanized area. We also thought that the few animals that were causing problems were probably used to living around people.”