Coyote Behavior: Coyotes in Neighborhoods

Dear Ms Kessler,

I love your website...and have enjoyed your writings on coyotes. I 
was wondering if you would be able to share some information. Most 
of the people-dog incidents seem to be related to meeting a coyote 
in a park area.

Personally, I am happy we have coyotes back in our parks, they are a 
special part of the wild bay area eco-system.

However, we have recently begun having incidents of coyotes moving their 
way through residential areas at night. Also, the established "family" 
of coyotes in the Fremont Older open space area (Cupertino, CA) have 
all but disappeared.

The "prey" at risk in our area in Sunnyvale, are cats. And, yes, I think 
cats should spend the night inside, but I guess it's not quite that easy 
for somepeople. Plus, there are "visiting cats" that kindly people try 
to take care of. Anyway, there have been a couple of incidents with the 
remains of cats being found.

In your research on urban wildlife have you encountered a website 
that might help me understand this migration? I am not saying these 
are the animals from Fremont Older...but it is odd that they seem to 
have disappeared.

The actual sightings of a pair of coyotes have taking place between
11p.m. and 1 a.m.  Perfect time for coyotes to be out doing there thing.
It could be we have just one pair of coyotes that are trying to set up
a territory(?)

However, there have been other sightings over in San Jose (Quito Road  
area) of multiple coyote individuals.

I would like to understand this phenomenon better...can you direct me?

Marcia Bacher
Hi Marcia —
Thank you for writing!!  I’m so glad you like the website! I don’t know your specific situation, but I can address generalities about various issues you raise. I’ve been mapping some coyote trekking behavior, so I’m quite interested in this topic.
Traveling through residential neighborhoods is a normal component of coyote behavior — their “territories” can be quite large. I don’t think you can keep them out of neighborhoods — it is their instinctual nature to trek substantial distances and check things out — they are constantly defining and marking their territories. Coyotes do move/migrate, but I don’t think they would leave Fremont Older unless they were forced out by a more dominant coyote group — in other words, there would still be coyotes there. They might also leave a territory if a larger predator moved into the area, such as a mountain lion. I’m wondering if human harassment, in the form of severe hazing, might also cause them to actually move away vs. having the intended effect of keeping them away from certain areas, influencing the times they are out or making them fearful of humans? — just a thought! Individual coyotes, when they first disperse, seem to have no territories, or they have very fluid territories, and they may wander more into newer areas.  
Coyotes have taken cats, but it is inaccurate to assume that every cat that goes missing is caused by a coyote. Cats were disappearing long before coyotes appeared. It is known that older cats frequently “leave” their homes when they sense their time is up — nature is humane in its own way in taking care of these animals. Raccoons also eat cats, and both coyotes and raccoons will eat cats that have been hit by cars — carrion — which they did not kill.  This being said, small pets do need to be protected.
To dissuade coyotes from doing more than just passing through, it is important not to have any accessible food available. Pet food should never be left out, and garbage should be well secured. All pets, particularly small ones, need to be supervised or kept indoors. Coyotes don’t see these as your pets, but rather as moving prey, like any other gopher, skunk or raccoon. Very high fences work — here is one of the best websites I’ve seen with practical solutions for coexistence:
Why are we even seeing coyotes in parks and neighborhoods? Might they be learning that they are safer in these areas? Please remember that coyotes are shot from helicopters en-masse in “wilder” areas, or they are pursued by hunters. This murdering activity is, for the most part, not allowed in our suburban and urban areas. Coyotes which have discovered this new niche are benefiting from it.
I do know some academics who have studied, or are studying territoriality and migration. Professor Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University is doing amazing studies on coyote territoriality and social structure in the Chicago area where they have 2000 coyotes. Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis has studied coyote DNA to determine where coyotes emanated from and what kind of habitat they eventually choose. If you would like me to search further, or contact these academics — I would be very happy to do so, since this topic is something I’m working on. I don’t know of any particular websites that go into this.
Sincerely, Janet
Dear Janet-

Thank you again for all your suggestions.
I read the State of Washington’s suggestions…very good.
Went to the Ohio State article about Professor Gehrt’s research in Chicago…
(That was really an eye-opener…WOW!)
I also looked up Professor Sacks published papers on coyotes.
And, after all that, I can only think we (in the South Bay) are at the edge
of “a change” in what we think constitutes our environment.
I have high hopes that it’s something people can adjust their think too,
without over reacting.
Thank you again.
Marcia Bacher

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