Coyotes are moving into big cities in search of new homes

At least seven different coyotes have paid New York City a visit this year.

While none of these coyotes seem to have settled down in the area, it’s not uncommon that they would. Wildlife biologist Chris Nagy, from the Gotham Coyote Project, estimates that up to 20 coyotes live in the Bronx, while another has taken up residence in Queens.

Urban coyotes aren’t just a NYC phenomenon — coyotes live in urban areas from Phoenix and Los Angeles to Chicago.

“Cities are proving more rich and more suitable to wildlife than we thought,” Nagy told Tech Insider. This is especially true for birds and insects, but large predators like coyotes also travel through cities and sometimes set up homes there.

Coyotes are territorial and solitary predators — when a young coyote grows up it leaves its mother’s territory, looking to stake out a new territory of its own.

“If you’re a young coyote and it’s time for you to find your own territory, you’re going to go wandering,” Nagy said. Typically coyotes will first wander into suburbs and quieter areas around cities, but as those territories fill up they move deeper into urban areas. “If they’re able to survive and reproduce there, they do so. And so far they have been able to do that almost everywhere.”

In NYC the main territories include Pelham Bay Park and Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. Nagy tracks the urban coyotes using camera traps and says they like to den in areas where they can avoid humans. Here are two examples of coyotes caught on camera in the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park:

As territory is claimed in the Bronx, coyotes searching for a place to put down roots wander into upper Manhattan or Queens. While they don’t mind cities, these highly populated areas may be too busy for the coyotes to thrive — for example, Central Park seems to have too much human activity for a coyote to settle down in permanently, Nagy says.

And while they might not want to live in the middle of Manhattan, coyotes are actually a lot more adaptable than other animals. Many other large animals wouldn’t be able to survive in these urban areas at all and aren’t likely to be moving into our cities anywhere other than the zoos. “It’s not like we’re going to have bobcats in Times Square,” said Nagy.

While coyotes are predators, they aren’t an extremely dangerous animal. Having wildlife, even predators, in cities is “something that’s definitely manageable and livable,” Nagy says.

There are only two recorded instances of someone getting killed by a coyote, while domestic dog attacks have already killed five people in 2015. Most of the non-lethal altercations between humans and coyotes are a result of people feeding coyotes or cornering the animals.

Actually, Nagy says, we should embrace the coyotes — they play a positive role in urban ecosystems, eating vermin such as mice, rats, and raccoons and scavenging roadkill.

So while human-coyote encounters will probably go up, these aren’t risky as long as people don’t approach or feed them everyone should be able to get along just fine.

“I wouldn’t even call it a risk,” Nagy said. “We cross the street every day and that’s far more dangerous than a coyote.”

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