Saturday, August 1, 2015

Urban Coyote

Now that's not some re-imagined movie starring John Travolta. But it is in fact, “a thing”. I have been looking at some articles on animals (and other things) for a project I've been fiddling with on the natural history of the area. And one of the things I've been reading that has been of special interest is that of coyotes in an urban environment.

Now according to the research Tehachapi isn't really an urban area. Not enough population or population density. But we are a place with a great deal of animal human interaction. We probably all know someone that has had a bear or mountain lion encounter. But they are typically only on the edges of town.

Coyotes on the other hand are adapting to areas much more urban than we are. There is a web site that shows information about the coyotes that are in Chicago ( and the research I've been reading has been about urban and suburban Tuscon. And coyotes are adapting well. Often virtually invisibly.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. They might be very important for the development of a good biodiverse urban ecology. Often when we start thinking about which species are important for a good ecology, we think about the things at the bottom of the food chain (though “food web” is probably a more accurate description). And those are plants and insects. But research has show that it is often the case that for encouraging diversity the most important species can be a predator. These are sometimes referred to as “keystone” species.

For example, and some might find this unpleasant, but cats, both feral and domestic, are a strong force against many small prey species, birds, rodents, etc. And unchecked they could eliminate some species that we like having around. Songbirds for example. But with the coyotes exerting a force on the cats, more of the other species will do OK.

So it is probably a good thing that we learn to live with the coyotes in our midst. But we've got to do this responsibly. Coyotes attacking humans is rare. Though as reported from research in Tuscon, they will sometimes follow a person and make that person uncomfortable.

But we can also make the coyotes uncomfortable. By harassing them when we see them in our neighborhoods, we can make them want to avoid us when they see us. Though this could end up making them accept harassment and lead them to not feat us enough. But we could probably relocate the ones that adapt to harassment.

 So the coyotes could develop into ghosts. Things we never see. But they might help us make our environment someplace we might actually want to live. You know, there might be a movie in this after all. I wonder if John Travolta might be interested?

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