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By Mark Fisher

Urban coyote

Lost in the Stars


Now, “urban coyote” is not some re-imagined movie starring John Travolta. Urban coyotes are in fact “a thing”. I have been looking at some articles on animals (and other things) for a project I’ve been fiddling with on the natural history of the area. One of the topics I’ve been reading that has been of special interest to me is that of coyotes in an urban environment.

Now according to the research, Tehachapi isn’t really an urban area – not enough population or population density. We are a place with a great deal of animal/human interaction. We probably all know someone that has had a bear or mountain lion encounter, but they are typically only on the edges of town.

Coyotes on the other hand are adapting to areas much more urban than we are. There is a website that shows information about the coyotes that are in Chicago, Illinois ( and the research I’ve been reading has been about urban and suburban Tucson, Arizona. The coyotes are adapting well, and are often virtually invisible.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. They might be very important for the development of good biodiverse urban ecology. Often, when we start thinking about which species are important for a good ecology, we think about the things at the bottom of the food chain; the plants and insects. (“Food web” is probably a more accurate description.) Research has shown that it is often the case that for encouraging diversity the most important species is the predator. These are sometimes referred to as “keystone” species.

For example, (and some might find this unpleasant), cats, both feral and domestic, are a strong force against many small prey species, such as birds, rodents, etc. Unchecked they could eliminate some species that we like having around, songbirds for example. However, with the coyotes exerting a force on the cats, more of the other species will do better.

It is probably a good thing that we learn to live with the coyotes in our midst, but we’ve got to do this responsibly. Coyotes attacking humans is rare, though, as reported from research in Tucson, they will sometimes follow a person and make that person uncomfortable.

However, we can also make the coyotes uncomfortable. By harassing them when we see them in our neighborhoods we can make them want to avoid us when they see us, although this could end up making them accept harassment and lead them to not fear us enough. Of course, we could probably relocate the ones that adapt to humans.

The coyotes could develop into “ghosts”. Rarely seen helpers making our environment a place where we actually want to live.

You know, there might be a movie in this after all. I wonder if John Travolta might be interested?

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