I grew up in a small town in northwestern Colorado. It was in a rural area surrounded by sagebrush and dirt roads. As I grew up I heard coyotes often, but rarely did I see one. I knew what they looked like, but they had plenty of jackrabbits, bunnies (not the same thing,) and other small creatures as food outside of town. They didn’t need to come into town and it was a dangerous place to be with a gun rack in every truck. The idea of an urban coyote was contrary to common sense.
Urban Coyotes: A Different Animal
For the last 23 years, I have lived in Reno, Nevada. Our house is two blocks from the University of Nevada. It is about a mile from the nearest open field and the slopes of Peavine Mountain. We have coyotes on our street on a regular basis. We live with a new type of coyote that is urbanized and we are in its hunting ground.
Until recently I didn’t understand that Reno is surrounded by packs of coyotes living off a human community. I knew pets often disappeared, blamed on a mysterious coyote, (NOTE: The evidence contradicts this belief,) but I assumed it meant the pet had wandered too far out in an open field. My eyes were opened on the morning of 31 January 2018.
Early that morning I went out to see the total lunar eclipse. At 4:30 am I drove to one of the highest subdivisions in Reno, built on the slope of Peavine Mountain. As the eclipse ended and Earth’s shadow left the Moon, the area exploded with coyote calls in every direction.
The volume of calls and the fact that they came from multiple directions forced me into a new realization. These were not a few random coyotes that wandered too close to town. These we part of the ecosystem of Reno. These are urban coyotes.
Last week this was concept was brought home to me, literally, when we had three sightings of a coyote in five days on our street. It is likely that we live in a corridor between the open space and a park that is overrun with squirrels. These are stupid squirrels, so I can understand the interest of the coyotes. I accidentally killed one with my bike a few years ago when it ran under me as I was riding down the pathway.
Human Attacks by Coyotes
Coyotes tend to avoid humans at all costs; however, under certain circumstances, coyotes will attack a small child. There have only been two recorded deaths by a coyote(s,) but in the northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, there is an animal known as coywolf that some say is more aggressive and others say is timid like the coyote.
What I find interesting is that coyote and coywolf behavior seems to be evolving in a relatively short period. Most coyotes hunt at night and can easily be chased away, which has kept them as a low threat to humans; however, as they become more adapted to human environments they may begin to lose some of their shyness.
Urban Coyotes Do’s and Don’ts
- Be on the lookout for coyotes.
- Yell at them and spook them away.
- Keep a close eye on small children and pets, especially in unfenced areas.
- Report any aggressive act by a coyote to the local wildlife authority.
- Try to lure them to you.
- Feed them, nor leave food out, nor allow a food source to be available.
- Let dogs chase them. (coyotes have been known to lure dogs away.)
- Let cats out at night.