Darryl Fears, writing for the Washington Post today, highlights a new study that explains why coyotes have adapted so well to human environments:
As mountain lions and wolf packs disappeared from the landscape, coyotes took advantage, starting a wide expansion eastward at the turn of the last century into deforested land that continues today.
For reasons biologists do not quite understand, coyotes prefer open land over forest. It could be that bigger predators that kill them over territory and competition for food could better sneak up on them in forests, [Roland Kays, a research associate professor at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences] theorized. But now, cameras have caught coyotes in forests where the apex predators have largely been removed, opening the prospect that coyotes could continue to move into territories where they have never been, such as into South America.
Unlike mountain lions, wolves and bears that were hunted to near-extinction in state-sponsored predator-control programs, coyotes do not give in easily, Kays said. “Coyotes are the ultimate American survivor. They have endured persecution all over the place. They are sneaky enough. They eat whatever they can find — insects, smaller mammals, garbage,” he said.
I've reported on coyotes before, in part because I'm happy they've found a home in Chicago. I've even seen them on my street, no more than 50 meters away from me.
The Cook County Forest Preserve District has some FAQs on coyotes, including what to do if one takes an interest in you.