Scientists used to think that coyotes avoided human populations, but they now know that they are common in suburbia and even in cities as big as Manhattan, where a coyote was recently found to be living in Central Park. Also common are their elusive relatives, the coydogs, which are an incredibly intelligent mixed breed created by coyotes mating with stray dogs.
Biologist Stanley Gehrt has made a six year study of coyotes living in Chicago and has found that urban coyotes live longer than coyotes in the country, perhaps because farmers don't shoot them for eating their chickens and sheep. Gehrt has found that urban coyote populations are much larger than expected and that they are more active at nighttime than coyotes living in rural areas. They are probably responsible for many missing pet cats.
Gehrt has concentrated on the coyotes living in Chicago, where he found a pack of them on the Ohio State campus. He says, "Nine million people live in the greater Chicago area. We didn't think very many coyotes could thrive in such a highly urbanized area, [but] we couldn't find an area in Chicago where there weren't coyotes."
The problem with studying coyotes is that the animals are incredibly difficult to catch. They're smart and quickly learn how to avoid traps. But Gehrt and his colleagues distributed their traps widely throughout the greater Chicago area and successfully caught over 200 of them. They put radio-tagged collars on the captured coyotes and then let them go. They estimate that there may be between several hundred and a couple thousand coyotes living in Chicago alone.
It's a strange world: there are coyotes in Chicago and angels in Kinkos?but only if you know where to look for them. On unknowncountry.com, you'll discover how to find all this and more, but if you want us to continue to be here for you in 2006, we need your help: subscribe today.
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