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Environment

Urban Coyotes learn to live with us

coyote1.jpg
TPWD
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Coyote (Canis latrans)

TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with an urban wildlife specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife about urban coyotes

Jerry Clayton: Whether you live in the city or in the country, it's not unusual to hear and even see coyotes. Human encounters with coyotes are fairly common. Although not a real danger to persons, these fascinating animals can be problematic when it comes to our pets. Here to talk about coyotes among us is Sam Kieschnick, an urban wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thanks for being here, Sam.

Sam Kieschnick: Totally my pleasure. Thanks so much, Jerry.

Clayton: It's not unusual these days to see coyotes in urban areas, neighborhoods, cities. Are there more coyotes out there or are we just seeing them more?

Kieschnick: Yeah. So I say this with a lot of bias, but I say coyotes are pretty cool to see in the urban area. They are adapted to our urban ecosystem. So coyotes are present. They live with us and among us. And I like to say, if you see one, it's OK, it's OK that you see a coyote where they're supposed to be in the urban areas.

Clayton: So we're not actually pushing the coyotes out. They're actually adapting to living with us. Is that correct?

Kieschnick: Absolutely. So there's two words that I like to put with coyotes, and they are opportunistic and they are resilient, so they are able to persist and survive among us. And they're also opportunist so they will utilize whatever resources are available.

Clayton: When you hear coyotes call, I often wonder what they're actually saying to each other. Do we know?

Kieschnick: Yeah. So I love the sound of hearing coyotes for just a moment. I close my eyes and it's the same kind of sound that the Native Americans and the early explorers were serenaded to sleep with. So it's a pretty cool thing that those remnants of the wild can still exist and even serenade us in the evenings. I don't know if there's really a whole vocabulary that they have like if it's detailed messages that they're giving to each other. But the name Coyote and the scientific name Canis latrans actually means singing dog. So they are doing a whole repertoire of of songs and yelps and yips, but they do amazing tricks with their vocalization. They're not very gregarious, so they don't hang out in these huge packs. It's usually family units of around five or fewer, but they have such a repertoire of of noises that they make that it sounds like it's a lot more. And again, I think that people are noticing them a little bit more, especially right now, because of the vegetation change, and they're probably out looking for food to fatten up over the potentially difficult winter time. So that might be another reason that you might be seeing them a little bit more

Clayton: If the coyotes are coming in close, threatening your livestock, your pets, what can you do?

Kieschnick: Yes, so hazing is a technique that works when I say hazing. What I mean is waving your hands, clapping your hands, stomping your feet, making these loud noises. That is an effective way to keep coyotes fearful of humans. So coyotes were never apex predators. They weren't at the top of the food chain. They grew up with bears and with mountain lions and with wolves. So when we haze, it reinforces their placement in the food chain, their placement in the food web of staying in the margins and being skittish around other organisms like us.

Clayton: And how do we protect our small, vulnerable pets?

Kieschnick: Yeah, we like to emphasize responsible pet ownership. So if you have a small dog or a cat outside, if you're able to please bring it inside if you can't keep your eyes on it. So we like to say responsible pet ownership is the best way to keep both your pet safe and the coyotes healthy, too.

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