How Well Can Wild Animals Adapt to Living in Cities?

Life in the big city has been good for coyotes. Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist at Ohio State University who has tracked urban coyotes in Chicago since 2000, says that coyotes have colonized nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States and Canada, and they are thriving there. For example, the average size of a city litter is nine pups -- much larger than in rural areas due to the more abundant urban food sources. Coyotes seem to feel right at home in the city, and their behavior reflects this familiarity with urban life. In fact, Gehrt says, he has video evidence that urban coyotes have learned to look both ways for cars before crossing busy streets such as Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

Livin' large in the big city:

  • Gehrt’s team has tagged more than 850 coyotes and put radio collars on about 400. The researchers, who estimate that there are as many as 2,000 coyotes living in the greater Chicago area, have been able to document the animals’ reproductive rate and collect blood and hair samples for genetics studies.
  • GPS technology and micro cameras have enabled the researchers to track how coyotes have carved out territories in Chicago. They estimate that about 50 percent of the typical urban coyote diet comes from sources left behind by humans.
  • The average life span of a rural coyote is just 2.5 years. City-dwelling coyotes can live for 12 or 13 years, and their pups are about four times more likely to make it to adulthood.
More Info: Ohio State University

Discussion Comments


The novelist T.C. Boyle respects the coyotes even as they prey on our pets left outside at night. His novel "The Tortilla Curtain" mentions them around Los Angeles neighborhoods.

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