Battelle Darby Creek Naturalist
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first coyote sighting in Ohio. Over the last century, coyotes have spread throughout the state and are now abundant in every county. They colonized the eastern United States through a complicated interaction of ecology, human expansion and their own adaptability. How did they manage it, and what does it mean for us?
Until 1878, wolves lived in Ohio’s wilderness. They preferred to live in the forest and preyed upon large mammals like white-tailed deer. As European settlers destroyed the ancient forests and hunted the wildlife, wolves found fewer places to live and fewer deer to eat. Along with other large predators like puma and black bear, all of the wolves were driven away or killed. About 40 years later, the coyote, a species native to western North America, made its way to Ohio, finding that the former forest had been converted to vast areas of open farmland. There were no predators left and plenty of small animals for the coyotes to eat. It was a perfect environment for them to settle down in and thrive.
Coyotes weigh around 35 pounds but look much larger because of their dense winter coats. Photo/Tim Daniel
Coyotes are able to adapt to many different environments and can now be found throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are often sighted in Alaska and can be found as far south as Panama. They are also learning to survive close to people; there are approximately 2000 coyotes living in downtown Chicago. Coyotes are opportunistic, which means they will eat anything they can catch. This includes their typical prey of small mammals, but they will also eat fruit, seeds, eggs and garbage. They will also eat cats and small dogs, so please keep your pets indoors or on a leash.
Coyotes are not usually not dangerous to people. They mostly hunt on their own and do not see humans as a food source. However, coyotes that have been fed by people can become aggressive. If you are ever approached by a coyote, make lots of noise and throw things at it.
Graph: Ohio Department of Natural Resources