Deep in the hustle and bustle of the second most populated city in the US, a small group of coyotes are thriving. Somehow, these wild and adaptable creatures have managed to eke out a living in Los Angeles. They even managed to evade capture, at least until recently. The National Park Service (NPS) announced last month that two infamous coyotes—a female with five pups and a male—have been captured near the city’s downtown. Instead of releasing the animals back into the wild however, NPS biologists decided that there was no better chance to see just how well coyotes would fare in an urban area.
“No one knew if the coyotes in these extremely urban areas were establishing their home ranges exclusively within the developed area or whether they were simply passing through on their way to natural habitat patches like Griffith Park or Elysian Park,” said Justin Brown, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “From just a few months of data, we now know that coyotes are persisting within home ranges that have high human densities and little natural habitat, which is quite remarkable.”
The coyotes in Los Angeles are suspected to have one of the most urban home ranges of any coyote ever studied. Tracking the animals and analyzing their behaviors could show scientists how coyotes make use of the land and adapt to the human presence. Generally, wild coyotes shy away from areas with lots of people, but these coyotes were different.
“If you were a coyote living in the middle of one of the most urbanized cities in America, where would you spend your time? Where would you go to catch your prey, care for your young, and avoid conflicts with humans?” asked the NPS in its Santa Monica Mountains blog.
NPS agents captured both animals in May and fitted them with GPS collars. The female, C-144, is especially bold and lives just minutes away from downtown with her pups. She has consistently surprised the biologists tracking her by fearlessly crossing the 101 Freeway several times. Experts once described the freeway as “a near-impenetrable barrier” that closed off bobcats, mountain lions, and even other coyotes from entering the city. Instead, C-144 does not appear to give it much thought.
Nearby, an older male designated C-145 is living in a quieter Los Angeles neighborhood.
“Despite the extremely urban setting, C-144 and C-145 are persisting and behaving naturally, hunting prey, caring for their young and, at this point at least, avoiding conflicts with humans,” the NPS wrote.
Coyotes encroaching on human settlements are a problem in California and elsewhere across the US. Although the predators are not usually considered a danger to people, they have been known to eat pets, livestock, and even present a threat to young children. In many areas, coyotes are seen as a nuisance animal and are often culled to keep the population in check. NPS officials warn residents against feeding coyotes and to be cautious with small pets.
Image courtesy National Park Service