In my recent Wallingford Wildlife Report, I led off by musing about how some of the wildlife we see here in Wallingford are likely descended from a long, centuries-plus old line of Wallingford-area beasties. So I was surprised to read otherwise when in this recent article from the UW News, When coyote parents get used to humans, their offspring become bolder, too.
It turns out the rather than being a “reintroduction”, coyotes in the area are a modern, 21st century phenomenon:
Until the 20th century … coyotes lived mostly in the Great Plains. But when wolves were hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s, coyotes lost their major predator, and their range began to expand. With continuing landscape changes, coyotes are now increasingly making their way into suburban and urban environments — including New York City, Los Angeles and cities in the Pacific Northwest — where they live, mainly off rodents and small mammals, without fear of hunters.
The article goes on to describe how coyote pups quickly learn to lose their skittishness around humans from their parents.
But during the experiment researchers occasionally placed all the food near the entrance of the enclosure and had a human researcher sit just outside, watching any approaching coyotes, from five weeks to 15 weeks after the birth of the litter. Then they documented how soon the coyotes would venture toward the food.
“For the first season, there were certain individuals that were bolder than others, but on the whole they were pretty wary, and their puppies followed,” Schell said. “But when we came back and did the same experiment with the second litter, the adults would immediately eat the food — they wouldn’t even wait for us to leave the pen in some instances.
“Parents became way more fearless, and in the second litter, so, too, were the puppies.”
Our Wally Coyote certainly seems to have taken this lesson, judging from the frequency of sightings around western Wallingford.
On a grimmer note, just after I posted that article, Natasha posted a photo to Facebook of Wally trotting past 42nd and Palatine with what looks to be a black cat in its mouth. Sad reminder to folks who live in that area that there is a real danger to small pets who are allowed to wander outside.