Watch Out Urbanites, Here Come the Carnivores
Raccoons, skunks, possums and certain other animals have long been city dwellers, but now larger wild carnivores are moving into urban areas, according to a symposium presented today at EcoSummit 2012, an international conference held in Columbus, Ohio.
Leading the way are coyotes, which have established a territory just five miles from Chicago O'Hare International Airport. They appear to be paving the way for other large mammalian carnivores.
"Mountain lions are already living in the outskirts of Los Angeles, Denver, and other western cities," Stanley Gehrt, who led the research, told Discovery News. "Black bears are living in a variety of cities in the West and in the East. Wolves have yet to make a regular appearance, but they are getting closer. In Europe, there are urban brown bears that act much like raccoons over here."
Gehrt, an associate professor of environment and natural resources at Ohio State University, is studying the phenomenon, with a focus on coyotes. Since 2000, he and his team have captured and placed radio collars on about 680 coyotes, with 50 or 60 being tracked at any one time.
Gehrt estimates that about 2000 coyotes live in the Chicago metro area. They are sharing the territory with 9 million people in some 250 separate municipalities.
As for why coyotes and other predators are moving nearer to us, there are a few different reasons. One, he said, is that "as cities continue to expand and development consumes land, we are moving into their territories."
Like humans, the large animals are also attracted to the relative ease of city living. Gehrt explained that "they don't have to go far to find food and water. They're finding everything they need right there, in the suburbs of Chicago."
Article continues at Discovery News
Coyote image via Shutterstock