By now, our Limited Edition BoneBox subscribers will have received the first skull of the series, the Canis latrans, or the coyote. We hope you are as thrilled to add the coyote skull to your collection as we were to send them to you!
Coyotes are a fascinating, evasive, often misunderstood member of the Canidae family, having much in common with dogs, wolves, and jackals. Coyotes prefer open land to forests, and as such are sometimes referred to as “prairie wolves.” With the ever-growing population of coyotes and over 19 species currently residing in North America, more and more urban coyote populations have been documented in the last fifteen years in U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco. Coyote packs have begun moving south from Mexico to South America, and have even been spotted as far south as Panama. As the number of coyotes in major metropolitan cities increase, we should be conscious of how to best coexist with our coyote neighbors in an urban setting.
The coyote’s opportunistic diet is one of the major reasons why coyotes have adapted so well to urban environments. They’ll eat almost anything they can find, including carrion and human garbage, although these things make up very little of their overall diet. Active mostly at night, coyotes need at least one square mile of territory to hunt in, and tend to choose natural areas within cities in which to live, like parks and golf courses. In these more natural environments, coyotes will almost always feed on small rodents and insects. Within cities, small pets have occasionally gone missing in known coyote territories, one of the more unfortunate reasons coyotes have earned a bad reputation.
Contrary to popular belief, coyotes are not constantly looking for ways to harm or kill our pets. They are simply wild animals that will occasionally spot an “easy” meal and go for it, not understanding the difference between a ground squirrel and say, your beloved Chihuahua. One of the responsibilities we have as humans coexisting with coyotes is to protect our pets by always keeping dogs leashed when they are outdoors, and supervising them at all times of the day. It is not uncommon to spot a coyote in broad daylight, because as we’ve established, the coyote is an opportunist and will hunt any time of day that it deems convenient. It’s also incredibly important to never leave food outdoors. This includes scattered birdseed, accessible garbage cans, and even used BBQ grills. A person should never approach a coyote, as they view this as an extreme threat, and should never feed them. Coyotes are naturally quite afraid of humans, but they can quickly become aggressive and even demanding toward people once they have been fed.
Society’s lack of knowledge and an incorrect perception of the coyote is unfortunately what creates and spreads fear about these animals where it is not necessary. Coyotes have a number of positive attributes that far outweigh the negatives. For instance, did you know that coyotes are monogamous, choosing one mate for life? Or that they are constantly communicating with each other, being among the most vocal mammals in North America? It is even purported that coyotes have local “accents” and can recognize each other’s voices by using a series of yips, barks, howls, and yelps. This has earned the coyote another nickname, the “song dog.”
Thanks to activists like Janet Kessler in San Francisco, we are learning more and more about coyote behavior in urban environments. Ms. Kessler, who is known in San Francisco as “The Coyote Whisperer” or “The Coyote Lady”, has spent the last thirteen years observing and documenting the urban population of coyotes in the Bay area. Through this daily documentation of coyotes and their behavior, she has provided the world with valuable information, dispelling much of the negative perception surrounding these animals. We definitely recommend checking out Janet’s blog located at coyoteyipps.com to read more about her research. You’ll also want to visit the website she co-founded, coyotecoexistence.com, in which you will find an insightful educational video created by Ms. Kessler titled: “Coyotes as Neighbors.”Knowledge is power, and we should all utilize that power to learn how to better coexist peacefully with nature.