A Christmas coyote highlights human/wildlife proximity

December 26, 2008

My wife and I were walking on Christmas Day with our dog through some heavily forested trails in a suburban park north of Dallas when we came across a coyote cruising on the paths ahead of us.

We have seen coyotes in the same park before — it is part of an almost unbroken system of forest that wraps around Lake Grapevine near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — and it was a nice reminder that wildlife and humans in the early 21st century often live in close proximity if not always in peace. The same park contains deer, wild turkey and other critters.

The coyote is in many ways a classic example of an animal that has thrived because of human activities and has long fascinated me as a result. From their original hunting grounds in the North American west they have extended their range into virtually every ecosystem on the continent south of the tree line.

Some natural historians have speculated that they have rushed to fill niches opened up by the extermination of the wolf over much of its range. I remember the first reports of coyotes in my native province of Nova Scotia in the late 1970s; now they are a common feature of the environment back home (to the chagrin of deer hunters and sheep farmers among others).

The broader point is that some animals seem to do well because of human activities, finding opportunities (such as the elimination of larger competitors). Coyotes are predators and scavengers and will eat any and everything – including domestic cats. This seems to make them ideally suited to life in the deep bush as well as the edge of urban life. They are also a common sight in more urban areas of Dallas and other North American cities (as this picture from downtown Vancouver illustrates).

For many seeing wildlife so close to our urban homes is cause for celebration (unless of course they eat our pet cat!)  But their presence is also a reminder of the impact that humanity’s footprint can have on ecosystems. Some would argue that coyotes do not belong in some of the places where they now roam; but they are there only because of us.


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I am not sure that this is a “nice reminder”… the very fact that you considered it noteworthy indicates quite the opposite of what I take to be your point, that animals and humans are coexisting. I do not agree that it is a cause for celebration that the only animals left anywhere near human civilizations are the ones that are willing to eat garbage and peoples pets.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

unfortunately in major cities that is the truth. cities are a wasteland and its obvious darwins theory of “survival of the fittest” is true. we need to embellish whatever wildlife we have left.
in conclusion, we need these articles that tell us there isn’t much wildlife left in order for the right people to fully realize for them its a problem.

Posted by heather b | Report as abusive

The photo says a thousand words. It is a shame that “civilization” has destroyed so much land, including what was natural habitat for many animals, including the coyote. How sad that we think “progress” is made by building cities when cities are anti-nature and are all about commerce. Did not America use to be agricultural, where people lived out in the country, in harmony with nature, before the Industrial Revolution? Unfortunately, humans believe that machinery, industrailization and moving away from nature is progress when the opposite is true. Now we think, of course, that technology will save us from global warming and all sorts of calamity we have brought upon ourselves. The coyote is a reminder of what human beings are, a part of nature, not apart from nature. As much as I love “culture,” I love nature more and would rather see coyotes and other animals than skyscapers.

Posted by r | Report as abusive

Coyotes are very adaptative animals in over 35 years of personal experience with them, I have seen them pursue and consume just about everything from grasshoppers to healthy adult male deer (bucks) being opportunistic I have also seen them scavage everything from roadkill to hamburger wrappers. I have also observed them consuming gleanings or left over fruit and vegatables in orchards and garden areas – theres a pretty well known saying out in the Western U.S. stating “After Armageddon, all that will be left are coyotes and cockroaches. I do ot believe these animals are necessarilly being “pushed” out of their natural habitat as much as utilizing the opportunities that are available to adapt and prosper.

Posted by A z | Report as abusive

To get rid of the Coyote; Bring Back the Grey Wold and the Red Wolf; Get Bigger House Cats, like Maine Coon Cats. Old China Prover: on Districts Where there are (Siberian) Tigers; their are there are no Wolves. To keep Wolves out of Villages, Suburbs, and away from Domestic Animals, and Cities; keep Anatolian Shepard Mastiffs; Works in Turkey. To keep Two Legged Wolves out of your house and yard; also keep Anatolian Shepard Mastiffs; Works in Turkey. Sicilians use double barreled shotguns, with short, open choked/cylinder, thick barrels, to fire buckshot at wolves, professional hunters in Africa use similar shotguns on wounded Lions. African British Farmers use .303 Bolt Action Former Military Rifles on Lions; Canadian Eskimo’s use these against the World’s Largest Bears, the Polar Bears.

Posted by Xeno77777 | Report as abusive

Coyote attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote. However, coyote attacks on humans have increased since 1998 in the state of California. Data from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Department of Fish & Game, and other sources show that while 41 attacks occurred during the period of 1988-1997, 48 attacks were verified from 1998 through 2003. The majority of these incidents occurred in Southern California near the suburban-wildland interface.
Due to an absence of harassment by residents, urban coyotes lose their natural fear of humans, which is further worsened by people intentionally feeding coyotes. In such situations, some coyotes begin to act aggressively toward humans, chasing joggers and bicyclists, confronting people walking their dogs, and stalking small children. Like wolves, non rabid coyotes usually target small children, mostly under the age of 10, though some adults have been bitten. Some attacks are serious enough to warrant 200 stitches.
Man is the most dangerous animal in this living planet-which is evidentally proved-because it kills many more animals unwantedly which is meaningless-while the animal attacks to kill other species of animal only for its survival. The survival of mankind, does not depend always on killing animals.Human being has greater ability to survive in the world with its own power of intelligence.Mankind can easily avoid any unnecessary carnage of animal which is the significant cause of extinction of a larger numbers of species in the animal kingdom.

Posted by PRANAB HAZRA | Report as abusive

R: “Did not America use to be agricultural, where people lived out in the country, in harmony with nature, before the Industrial Revolution?”

The idea that humans in pre-industrial times lived in harmony with nature is a widespread misconception. Even with the arrival of the hunter-gatherer progenitors of Native Americans this continent witnessed mass exctinction (wooly mammoths, cave bears, etc.). White settlers were even worse, causing mass deforestation by the early 19th century with thier farms and insatiable demand for firewood and building materials on the eastern seaboard. I imagine the wolf was all but eliminated from its eastern range by this time too. These are just a few examples. I’m sure one could cite many more from pre-industrial Europe as well if one were so inclined. The Roman Empire’s elimination of nearly all lions in north africa and Mediterrenean Europe/Asia comes to mind. My point is that this is not a new problem, and lamenting a more pastoral existence is misguided.

Posted by Kris | Report as abusive

Well “Chris” lets think about the coyote. It does what it was designed to do, no more no less. Yes it eats small dogs, cats, rats, garbage, carrion and whatever else it can locate, but that is what it was desgned to do SURVIVE->> I agree it is not nice that a family pet may get eaten by one, yet what the heck does that have to do with this story? Survival is survival. This story is about the adaptablity of this fine creature no more no less.

Posted by matthew | Report as abusive

I do appreciate the post trying to find a positive angle. The ability for this animal to adapt and thrive. But I know that it has spread to systems it was not meant to be in. And it’s presence will have a negative impact on that system. It survives at something else’s expense.

Posted by Michael Harvey | Report as abusive