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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2009

Talk topic: Coyotes in urban areas

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Marc Thompson, the Ottawa Hills village administrator, hasn't forgotten the day about two years ago when he went to the home of a village resident who had reported a coyote making regular visits to her yard.

"Darned if it didn't walk out from the underbrush while we were standing there talking about it," Mr. Thompson recalled.

It's been a while since the last coyote report in Ottawa Hills, but the village administrator said he has registered nonetheless for a lecture tomorrow night at Wildwood Preserve Metropark by an Ohio State University assistant professor whose studies of urban coyotes includes research involving 175 animals in the Chicago area that were captured and fitted with radio collars early this decade so scientists could track their movement.

Prof. Stan Gehrt, a wildlife extension specialist at OSU, is scheduled to begin his presentation at 7 p.m. in the Ward Pavilion at Wildwood. His lecture will cover urban coyotes' ecology, conflicts between coyotes and humans, management options, and the Cook County (Chicago) Coyote Project.

In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Gehrt said that while no similar coyote studies have been done in Ohio, there is ample anecdotal evidence that Ohio's metropolitan areas have coyote populations similar to what was observed in Chicago.

Chicago, he said, "has a growing population" of coyotes that is exploring ways to co-exist with humans while avoiding direct contact as much as possible. The Chicago study revealed that coyotes are very active in urban areas even though most human residents are unaware of their presence.

While most people associate coyotes with the open ranges of the Great Plains or, thanks to Road Runner cartoons, the southwestern deserts, Mr. Gehrt said they have doubled their North American habitat in recent times largely because of two forces: the eradication of wolves, a coyote predator, and the clearing of what was once forested land for agriculture.

Attempts to reduce coyote populations through hunting and even poison bait have failed, he added, because the coyotes have adapted by increasing their reproductive behavior.

Coyotes are not significant carriers of disease, the professor said, but are vulnerable to raccoon rabies, which is a developing problem in the Cleveland area.

The main consequence for people, Mr. Gehrt said, is that coyotes are attracted to pet food that people may leave out on their property, and sometimes prey on the pets themselves.

"There's not that much of a threat of attack on people," he said. "It does happen, but it's fairly rare. But coyotes kill cats everywhere - that's just part of their natural behavior."

Mr. Thompson said there was one reported case of a small dog being taken by a coyote in Ottawa Hills two years ago.

"It was fairly traumatic for the family" to which the dog belonged, he said.

Mr. Thompson said he's not sure if a change in coyote behavior is responsible for the recent dearth of coyote reports in Ottawa Hills, or just that people aren't reporting when they see or hear coyotes any more.

Admission to Mr. Gehrt's lecture is $10, and advance registration is required.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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