The coyote (Canis latrans) is a widely distributed dog-like carnivore that can be found in virtually all of North and Central America.
Originally a prairie animal, their range has spread eastward in the last half-century resulting in the larger eastern coyote subspecies.
Although coyotes have been in Ohio for more than 60 years, their numbers have grown as they easily have adapted to urban environments. The first confirmed coyote specimen in Ohio was taken from Preble County in 1947.
Dr. Stan Gehrt, Ohio State University, has been studying coyotes in urban and suburban environments surrounding Chicago. The Cook County Coyote Project website is filled with information on urban coyote ecology.
Coyote nuisance complaints have started with a recent report from residents near Washington Reservation. Most complaints stem from individuals walking dogs on parklands and encountering individual or pairs of coyotes that follow or posture in a stance of what is described by visitors as "aggression".
How do I Know If I See A Coyote?
Coyotes are easily confused with medium-sized, long-haired domestic or feral dogs. They most closely resemble a small German shepherd. They stand about 2 feet tall and weigh between 20 and 50 pounds.
Coyotes run with their tail held down rather than parallel with the ground or high over the back as dogs usually do. Field markings include a long, pointed snout, ears erect and pointed and tail round and fluffy. Most will show a thin, but obvious dark line running down the front leg to the foot.
The long hairs on the back are tipped with black and create a dark band across the back that extends to the tail, the tip of which is black. Color variations range from tan to reddish to dark brown/black.
Where do Coyotes Live?
The coyote can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, brush and forests. Adult coyotes normally excavate one or more dens in the soil, sometimes by expanding the burrows of other animals. They usually choose sites where human activity is minimal.
However, their presence in urban and suburban environments is increasing, and substantial populations even exist in the Greater Cleveland suburbs.
They are considered to be one of the most adaptable carnivores, tolerating human presence. In urban environments, their dens can be storm drains, culverts, under storage sheds, in holes dug in vacant lots and parks, or just about any dark, dry place.
Are There Many Coyotes? When Do They Hunt? How Long Do They Live?
Coyotes are most active in evening and at night, but can be seen at all hours. They are often observed alone but may hunt in pairs or small family groups throughout the year.
Each pair or family group may range over several square miles. Family groups are established many local neighborhoods and in all counties of Ohio. They are not pack animals, but do function in family groups comprised of the two breeding adults, juveniles and newborn pups.
They may live as long as 10 years in the wild, though probably 5 to 6 years is more common. More than 50% of all coyotes in urban areas will die as road kill.
Role of the Coyote in Cleveland Metroparks
Cleveland Metroparks promotes conservation of healthy wildlife populations throughout the Park District.
Coyotes have become a normal part of the wildlife populations of the Park District, as well as suburbs throughout Lake County over the past two decades.
Coyotes are a natural control that keeps small mammal populations in check.They also help control growing populations of feral cats, feral dogs and Canada geese that cause damage to the natural resources.
Today, the coyote is the largest mammal to function as a predator in this region.
Coyotes are also considered to be one of the most adaptable carnivores to tolerating human presence.
Coyote diets are made up of mammals, mostly small mice and other rodents, rabbits, raccoons, ground nesting waterfowl/songbirds and their eggs, carrion, reptiles and amphibians, and berries and fruits.
What do I do If I see a coyote?
Generally, coyotes will avoid people and will quickly move away. If a coyote does approach you directly, appears to be intentionally entering your line of travel or begins to follow you, DO NOT turn and run/walk away with your back to the animal.
This may trigger a predatory/aggressive response. Try to frighten it away by shouting in a deep voice, waving your arms, throwing objects at the animal, and looking it directly in the eyes. Stand up if you are seated.
If you are wearing a coat or vest, spread it open like a cape so that you appear larger. Carrying a whistle with you can aid in frightening a coyote and summoning others to assist you. Walk slowly backward so that you do not turn your back on the coyote. Back-tracking on route you took, will often lead you out of a den area or away from protected pups.
If you have a pet on a leash, get it under control, if you need to, and have it sit next to you. Do not release it or command it to attack the coyote(s). If you are on horseback, slowly leave the area by retracing your route. Report any incidents of aggressive coyotes to local authorities including your local animal control agency. Please fill out the Eastern Coyote Report Form after calling authorities.
If you are bitten or scratched by a coyote, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and then seek immediate medical attention.
Although most nuisance coyotes are healthy, they can carry rabies. Because rabies infections in humans are nearly always fatal, medical authorities recommend post-exposure immunization whenever a person comes into direct contact with a wild coyote during a conflict.
Rabies may be transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected coyote or from your pet after it has been attacked. If a dog is bitten, a rabies booster should be administered immediately.
Coyotes in final stages of shedding rabies virus can and will act aggressively towards humans perceived as threats. If someone is bitten or scratched by a coyote, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and then seek immediate medical attention. Dispatching of coyotes by Rangers is allowed when an identified aggressive coyote becomes a recurrent problem to park patrons within Cleveland Metroparks. Should a coyote be dispatched, contact Erik Shaffer (216-780-9609) or Terry Robison (216-780-1551) of the Natural Resources Division so we can collect the carcass for rabies testing.