Copious Coyotes
October 10, 2021 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Do coyotes really have an increased presence in urban and suburban areas of North America in recent years?

From what I've read on social media, such as Facebook and NextDoor, people in urban and suburban neighborhoods seem to be reporting more coyote sightings in recent years than in the past, including both daytime and evening in-person sightings and nighttime video recorded sightings.

In my Southern California neighborhood, there are definitely far fewer cats outside than there used to be 5-10 years ago (I miss the enjoyment of greeting numerous cats on my neighborhood walks), and I presume that's because they fell prey to coyotes and/or because people are being more cautious about letting cats go outside. I've also read a lot of comments about people being afraid to let their small dogs go unattended even in enclosed backyards because of reports of coyotes scaling walls and fences. Regardless of whether one thinks those people are overly concerned, there's a distinct impression that there's a bigger coyote presence than before.

Is this a real trend, and if so, is it more so in certain parts of the continent than others, and/or more so in certain types of locations, such as suburbs?
posted by Dansaman to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, Coyotes are growing into the niche left by the removal of wolves, and their territory expands to wherever there is food.

I’m in the center of Denver, and I know they prowl my urban neighborhood at night.
posted by nickggully at 8:37 AM on October 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't have data, but anecdotally, this is definitely true in Berkeley, where outdoor cats are now killed regularly by coyotes, even in very urban areas where coyotes were rarely if ever seen a decade ago. Because the drought is so severe here, I think they've started ranging farther out of the wild areas in the hills in search of food/water. Interestingly, they aren't native to this area, but moved in after European settlers drove out other large predators.
posted by pinochiette at 8:41 AM on October 10, 2021

Anecdotally, I began seeing coyotes in the center of San Francisco, Buena Vista Park specifically, in the past 5-6 years. Before that the only SF coyotes I saw were in the Presidio - perhaps 10-15 years ago they established a presence there. Years ago I remember seeing them on Point Reyes and thinking it was a big deal - unlike lately, as it has become a regular thing to see them on the hill near Haight Street as I go to my car in the morning.
posted by niicholas at 8:42 AM on October 10, 2021

Newspapers keep doing scare stories on this but - in SoCal at least - they never really back it up with numbers that suggest an actual increase in quantity. I think largely it's an increase in activity and visibility: reported sightings of coyotes have increased thanks to things like NextDoor (aka CoyoteDoor), Ring and other home security cameras with night vision, plus drought and loss of habitat through fires and development driving them more frequently and visibly into populated areas. Coyotes don't really have any predators in southern California unless they run into a rare mountain lion or bear; I think cars and poison are the primary threat and that's been true for 50+ years.

My (suburban LA) neighborhood does get the occasional coyote jumping a fence into a backyard and going after dogs, but I suspect our relative lack of neighborhood cats falls more on raccoons and rodenticide than coyotes.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:50 AM on October 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

The thing about coyotes is that you know when you hear them and you know when you see one. They are not easily confused with other animals. The thing about social media based around local communities is that you can tell other people you've seen or heard one.

It's a range expansion that's comparable to that of black bears but across a broader geographical area. (It's not dissimilar from urban foxes or wild boar in Europe.) Suburban and exurban building in particular provides greater opportunities for encounters with humans and more reason for coyotes to venture into those spaces.

So yeah, I've seen and heard them in the mountains of North Carolina.
posted by holgate at 8:50 AM on October 10, 2021

Definitely increased sightings in our Edmonton neighborhood in the last couple of years - we are about 1km from the river valley which is their main habitat here (I think). Like some North American cities we have an urban coyote research project, here run by the university of Alberta.
posted by piyushnz at 8:58 AM on October 10, 2021

Anecdotally, there seem to be more of them in suburban New England (MA and VT are the states I've noticed this on). We've always had them around me in Vermont but they seem to be a bit more prevalent.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

In Central FL (and in FL in general), coyotes are increasingly seen. In our neighborhood, though, the apex predator for cats, squirrels, and ducks are foxes. They have decimated the Muscovy ducks in the local ponds.
posted by sudogeek at 9:03 AM on October 10, 2021

Anecdotally, my cousin's cat in a more urbanish part of Berkeley, CA was killed by one recently. My cousin says this is definitely a new thing for his neighborhood.

In my fairly urban/suburban neighborhood in Arlington, VA, I saw one at dusk for the first time about a year or so ago. We have had an increasing number of foxes, but this was definitely a coyote, not a fox or stray dog. They also get captured by people's backyard cameras off and on at night here. We are not far from the Potomac River, which has fairly wooded areas around it, and serves as a wildlife corridor from remoter areas I think. There are a ton of rabbits and other tasty prey around, hence the increase in foxes already.
posted by gudrun at 9:13 AM on October 10, 2021

Anecdotally, maybe 5 years ago they started putting up ATTENTION: COYOTES signs in the larger parks here in Toronto, and I saw one on the street in my neighbourhood last winter.
posted by rodlymight at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, there have been a couple coyotes seen hanging around Santa Monica Airport. Which is interesting in that they would be smack dab in the middle of a suburban/urban area. I'd heard they were being tracked/possibly relocated by some university student project.

I've wondered if an increase in wildlife in L.A. has been a result of actually better behaved pet owners. Over the last few decades, outdoor cats and stray dogs have pretty much disappeared. When I was kid, the way you got a cat or dog was to feed one that showed up, and if it stayed, it was yours. That sort of thing doesn't happen so much anymore, especially with dogs. People regularly let their pets loose back then. Things like knocked over trash cans used to be common from loose dogs. Seems to be a much less common occurrence. If it's true that dogs and cats are more sheltered than they used to be, it would also seem to give more leeway to coyotes (and raccoons) to wander about freely in urban areas.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:25 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Google turns up a lot of resources on coyote population growth since the 1700s. I didn't see much about whether the population has exploded in the past 5-10 years, but I didn't look very hard.

I live in Tucson, in what I think is the most human-dense urban part of the city and we regularly see coyotes in our streets and parks all year round. Tucson has a lot of urban and suburban native wildlife (javalina, bobcats, mountain lions, road runners, gila monsters) and the coyotes are just part of the fun and hazard of living here. Coyotes are a huge risk to cats and small dogs, and I also know people who have lost pets to mountain lions and birds of prey. The city is criss-crossed by dry river beds (called washes) and the animals use these to travel through town.

However, Tucson is also a place that attracts many human transplants and NextDoor is a constant bicker between the people who just moved here freaking out that they saw a Coyote! What about the children! What can we Do! and the people who have been here longer and are all, Simmer down! No big deal! They were here first ya know!
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 9:27 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Coyotes seem to have disappeared from West Seattle, where I live, in recent years.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:01 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

There have been coyotes in Chicago for a long time. This article from the Tribune indicates that it is the increase of humans having time/cameras/etc that accounts for the increase in the experience of coyotes. This is different than an explosion of the urban coyote population.
If you live in a place or next to a place that was built in the last 5-10 years, you probably just moved into coyotes' neighborhood.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Data point, Montreal had a lot of coyote sightings in 2019, but it transpired that most, if not all of them were of a single animal. Ater s/he vanished, sightings went down to nil. Social media may have a multiplying effect on only a few animals, at least in some locations.
posted by zadcat at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Whether or not there are actually more coyotes, in Vancouver BC there’s definitely been a sharp increase in human-coyote interaction. There have been so many coyote attacks on humans over the last year in Vancouver’s Stanley Park that the government closed the park for two weeks in September and started culling the coyotes.

There have been 45 reported attacks to date since December 2020. (The conservation officers are sure there are more, but people often don’t want to report because they don’t want the animals destroyed.) Some injuries have been so severe the victims had to spend months recovering. This is completely abnormal coyote behaviour and it’s because ignorant people (not the same ones getting bitten, necessarily) have been feeding the coyotes and habituating them.

The Vancouver Parks Board is trying to prevent more culls by enforcing fines for feeding the coyotes. I hope it works, because as much as I don’t want people to be attacked by coyotes, it’s a direct consequence of human behaviour. Human actions have caused them to move to urban areas, and our subsequent behaviour is causing them to become unafraid of interacting with us, and they pass this fearlessness to their offspring, so we see them more. It’s leading to a very bad cycle of human-coyote interaction.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

You call that a coyote?
Those latte sipping Western Coyotes have nothing on the Eastern Coyote or Coywolf.

A wolf- coyote hybrid it's larger, smarter more social than it's western cousin.
They live in the streets of Toronto ,Chicago ,New York.
We got more than enough of them in Toronto.
One day they'll unite with the racoons.
posted by yyz at 1:25 PM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm in Milwaukee and I know there have been sightings in my old neighborhood (fairly close to downtown) within the past year or so. I'm not sure how that compares to previous years, and it could be a single animal with multiple reports. But it's definitely something I only started hearing of recently, and I've lived here ten years now.
posted by augustimagination at 2:43 PM on October 10, 2021

Local story: toddlers bit in the northeast.

I personally wonder if it has something to do with the extreme leash laws we have today, I remember dogs just being dogs around the neighborhood. Chatted with a guy that recalled that at 10am every saturday all the dogs in the neighborhood (Boston burb) were let out and ran up and back on an open green space. Mention mostly as it verified my memories.
posted by sammyo at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2021

In Austin as more wildish undeveloped areas get developed, the displaced wildlife including coyotes, deer, and foxes are seen in neighborhoods, especially near creeks.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Western Mass and the coyotes are definitely thriving here. We hardly see any rabbits as a result. I barely missed hitting a large coyote on the highway a few nights back. It’s a rare night we aren’t serenaded on all sides (we do live in a very rural farming area). Our cat never ever goes outside. She’d be gone in minutes. And it’s a reason I won’t bother fantasy farming chickens. Not worth it.

Apropos a story above, I also had a relative lose a cat to a coyote attack (multiple coyotes) in a relatively urban area of Berkeley CA last year. He tells me it’s happening constantly to his neighbors too.

And a final anecdote; I’ve been driving in, to, and from the greater Boston area since I learned to drive there 40 years ago. I do not at all remember, until about the last decade or so, the virtually ubiquitous coyote population you regularly encounter on the streets of Brookline and Newton and such these days. Big, bold animals that have little fear of humans or cars and seem awfully well adapted.
posted by spitbull at 3:47 AM on October 11, 2021

Indianapolis here. Yep, coyotes in urban areas are a thing.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:57 AM on October 11, 2021

I'm a night owl in SoCal (Glendale in the valley) pretty far from actual foothills down in urban sprawl. I've seen a dozen coyotes over the past year. Well at least two different ones since they both passed by within a few minutes, otherwise it might just be the same two seen a dozen of times (like I can tell coyotes apart at night from a bit of distance). It's pretty funny when I'm just standing there and they walk by and suddenly notice big-human and they pick up the pace and trot away. Watched one take a quick right turn and dart off to the post office and a few moments later dash back across the street with a giant rat (I hope) in its mouth. They're even sometimes out in the early dawn and will just give a wide berth to early morning walkers. So a good few more coyotes about now and fewer raccoons and cats. (sigh)
posted by zengargoyle at 4:08 AM on October 11, 2021

Coyotes were previously only found in Mexico and the US west of the Mississippi but have slowly expanded their range to now cover pretty much all of North America. Most of the Eastern US had been without predators in suburban areas for a long time (except for more exurban areas that have black bears and bobcats), so it's been a big news story to now have predators regularly interacting with people throughout the country.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:23 AM on October 11, 2021

I live in Somerville, MA, a Boston suburb that borders Arlington (mentioned above) and Cambridge. Coyotes are definitely a new thing here in the last couple of years, though Greater Boston has had them for quite a while. The fb group for my neighborhood has been afire with sightings this year and people are freaking out, especially over daylight sightings and gory remains. Most of the victims so far have been racoons.
posted by pangolin party at 7:05 AM on October 11, 2021

I see coyotes pretty regularly in my neighborhood and regularly in my relatives neighborhood in southern CA. In my relatives neighborhood, they turned an empty field in the middle of the neighborhood into a natural park and trail, basically creating perfect coyote habitat, so they hang out there often even during the day.

People say that they eat a lot of cats, but if I walk early in the morning, I see plenty of cats in both places. I see them eating birds more than cats.

I think people have stopped letting cats roam for tons of reasons, including that suburban animal control frowns on it, complaints (and poison) by neighbors, etc. My friends have some super friendly outdoor roaming cats, and they have been snagged by animal control several times and the fines are pretty high.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:29 AM on October 11, 2021

Anecdotally, there is an increase in mid-Michigan as well. We have lived in the same house for 15 years, our backyard opens up to a nature preserve. In the first 10 years of us living here, we saw a coyote once, at night. In the last 3-4 years, we have regularly seen them in daytime, traversing across our yard, along the border between our yard and the preserve. And again, only in the last 3-4 years, we have been regularly hearing lots of coyote yipping and howling at night, especially when a train passes by.
posted by tuxster at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2021

Coyotes seem to have disappeared from West Seattle, where I live, in recent years.
Update: After a long time without any reports, coyotes have been spotted just a few blocks from my house this week.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2021

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