When you think of a coyote, what do you think of?
Coyote from the Bugs Bunny show?
This majestic animal out in the wilds?
A hurdle to dodge while you’re out on the road?
A menace to your safety within your city?
The thing is, coyotes are all of these things. At least, they’re perceived to be all of these things. Frankly, coyotes suffer from a pretty bad public relations campaign. Coyotes are dogs, but why do so many people hate them while loving their own pets?
But they’re pretty interesting canids. You would think they are mesocarnivores (that means mid-sized carnivores), but they’re actually omnivores, eating small mammals, insects, and fruit. Of those, the majority of their meat-based diet is made up of rodents, so they play a very important ecological role, especially within cities where rodents are considered pests.
Have you heard that coyotes kill pets? Analysis of their scat (aren’t you happy your job isn’t looking at coyote poop under a microscope?) proves that this is really just an urban legend. In fact, pet remains typically make up less than 1% of their diet. They have been found to opportunistically feed on feral or wandering cats—meaning, they’re not looking for a cat to eat, but if a cat gets too close… well, food is food. But feral cats have had a huge impact on songbird populations, so coyotes can help to protect songbirds. Though at less than 1% of their diet, perhaps the impact isn’t all that high. 🤔
All in all, they’re pretty fascinating animals that play a very important ecological role both within cities and out in the wild. “Carnivore cleansing”—where an unwanted predator is removed from the landscape—doesn’t really work, and in fact can damage ecosystems. There are lots of great resources on how to coexist with wildlife, both within urban centers and within natural spaces. So perhaps we can stop spreading those urban legends, let coyotes be coyotes, and grab a slice of pizza.