Coyotes here to stay in urban areas

October 10, 2012 · 2 minute read

The Outdoor News Hub had an interesting piece recently on a topic I’ve written about a couple of times in Times-Dispatch columns: coyotes in urban areas.

Apparently, researchers recently discovered the smallest known coyote territory ever observed. “For at least six years, a coyote community has maintained its existence within about a third of a square mile.” And what’s even more amazing about the discovery is that the territory is located just 5 miles from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Stan Gehrt, an associate professor of environment and natural resources at Ohio State, led the tracking of coyotes around Chicago for 12 years. Few others are doing what he’s doing in terms of research, but most experts agree that this isn’t an isolated case. Put another way, if there are coyote communities in Chicago, there are coyote communities in or near most urban areas, including Richmond.

It’s something we might as well get used to, because these animals are so adaptive and reproduce successfully under such a range of circumstances that there is really no way of getting rid of them. And is that really what we want, anyway?

“It used to be rural areas where we would have this challenge of coexistence versus conflict with carnivores. In the future, and I would say currently, it’s cities where we’re going to have this intersection between people and carnivores,” Gehrt said. “We used to think only little carnivores could live in cities, and even then we thought they couldn’t really achieve large numbers. But we’re finding that these animals are much more flexible than we gave them credit for and they’re adjusting to our cities.”

When I lived in Woodland Heights, just south of the James along Riverside Drive, there were periodic reports of coyote sightings in the neighborhood. That’s an area just a couple of miles from downtown. And with the James River and its park system running through so many urban neighborhoods, it’s not likely these animals were isolated in Woodland Heights. Coyote/human interaction will only increase in Richmond in the coming years. The only thing we can go is educate ourselves.

As Gehrt said, “…under typical circumstances, coyotes are not prone to attack humans. For those people who see a coyote and do feel threatened, waving one’s arms and yelling, or even throwing a rock in its direction, will very likely scare the animal away.

“You’re doing them a favor. They show a healthy respect and fear of people and that’s the way it should be.”