City Slinkers

Why are coyotes, those cunning denizens of the plains and rural west, moving into urban centers like Chicago and Washington DC?

Coyotes in densely populated areas (a Los Angeles suburb) can be alarming. But wildlife experts say they fill a niche in the urban ecology. (Troy Boswell / Los Angeles Animal Services)
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Should the urban coyote be viewed with trepidation? "Some people have fears that kids are going to be the next ones to be eaten," says Way. "I tell them coyotes have been at the edges of their neighborhoods for years." Way emphasizes coyotes can be an asset to urban ecosystems, keeping a check on deer, rodents, Canada geese and other animals that thrive on the suburbs' all-you-can-eat buffet.

At his office in Rock Creek Park, just out of range of the park's eerie coyote choruses, Ken Ferebee flips through photographs of the capital's coyotes, taken by a motion-sensitive camera installed in the park. He pauses at one arresting shot: two burly coyotes stare into the camera, heads tilted, yellow eyes glinting. Their expression and confident stance defy the stereotype of a cowardly varmint always running the other direction. These coyotes look curious, fearless and eager to explore the big city.

Christine Dell'Amore is a health reporter for United Press International.

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