It turns out those scruffy urban coyotes are not alone. From red foxes in London to mountain lions in Los Angeles to bears at Lake Tahoe, more wild carnivores are joining humans in the city. And biologist Stan Gehrt, who studies Chicago’s coyotes, thinks we’re only going to see more of them.
It’s reasonable to assume that these animals are moving to the city because they’re being displaced by climate change and habitat destruction, but that’s only part of the explanation. One of the biggest factors is that there are more large carnivores than there used to be — primarily, Gehrt says, because of successful conservation efforts. As we make our cities greener, they become more attractive to humans and animals alike. Finally, the relationship between humans and large predators is changing. “We’re now seeing generations of certain carnivores that have had fairly light amounts of persecution by people,” Gehrt says. “They may view cities quite a bit differently than their ancestors did 50 years ago. Then, if they saw a human, there was a good chance they were going to get shot.”
First takeaway: Our cities are awesomely attractive, not to mention morally superior in that city officials are no longer killing wild animals on sight. Second takeaway: You should learn how to fight off coyotes with your bare hands, because that’s a thing now.
When a large predator loses its instinctive fear of humans … that animal becomes more likely to attack. Gehrt says that culling truly fearless animals is necessary for maintaining a harmonious urban life with coyotes — a life that he sees as inevitable. “The question becomes, to what degree are we going to tolerate the risk, and what kind of adjustments to our lives are we willing to make?” Gehrt says. “Because we can’t get rid of them.”
Third takeaway: Look up your local rules on carrying bear spray.