On the loose: Urban coyotes thrive in North American cities

difficult to catch. They quickly learn how to avoid traps. But Gehrt and his colleagues distributed their traps widely throughout the greater Chicago area and successfully caught several animals. They put radio-tagged collars on the captured coyotes and then let them go.

The original estimates of the greater Chicago coyote population were woefully low. The researchers had expected to find a few small coyote packs here and there throughout the city, with total population numbers in the range of several dozen. But the animals were everywhere.

"We couldn't find an area in Chicago where there weren't coyotes," Gehrt said. "They've learned to exploit all parts of their landscape."

Since the beginning of the study, the researchers have caught and tagged more than 200 coyotes. They estimate that there may be somewhere between several hundred and a couple thousand coyotes living in Chicago .

Some of the animals live in city parks, while others live among apartment and commercial buildings and in industrial parks.

The funding agency, Cook County Animal Control and Conservation Medicine Coalition, renews the study every year because the researchers keep finding results that surprise them. This spring, Gehrt will publish the first round of papers from the last six years' worth of research.

The major findings include:

  • Coyotes help control Canada geese populations. It appears that coyotes are helping to curb the booming Canada goose population in urban areas by eating the eggs from the birds' nests.
  • Researchers found that, in Chicago , the annual population growth of Canada geese was reduced to an average of 1 to 2 percent per year, down from the 10 to 20 percent growth rates of a few years ago. Also, while coyotes can clean out several goose nests in one night, they don't actually eat all of the eggs. Rather, they usually carry the eggs away from the nest and bury them, saving the eggs until late

Contact: Stan Gehrt
Ohio State University

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