The coyote is a fascinating creature.  Not native to Ohio, coyotes originally called the open deserts and prairies of the West home.  However, being intelligent, adaptable animals, coyotes can make a home anywhere there is food, water, and shelter.  They began moving eastward as settlers cleared the forest for fields and pastures.  At the same time the gray wolf, the coyote’s main predator, and other large carnivores were hunted and pushed out of the area.  In 1919 the first coyote was spotted in Ohio and since then they have spread throughout the state inhabiting rural and urban areas.  To many native American tribes, the coyote is a good omen and a helpful spirit animal revered by for its intelligence, cleverness, cunning, and adaptability.  To some of today’s urban dwellers and livestock farmers they are a nuisance.

Coyotes are elusive, nocturnal animals.  They can be most active at dusk and dawn and are occasionally seen during the day.  The fur color of the coyote tends to vary by region.  In Ohio they are typically gray with a blackish or grizzled tint, however, reddish, black, and blond- or cream-colored coyotes have also been seen.  Coyotes have been called “song dogs” for their many different vocalizations used to communicate with each other and to warn others away from their territory.  Coyotes are opportunistic eaters and will eat a wide variety of food.  They’ll eat rodents, squirrels, rabbits, insects, lizards, vegetables, and fruits. They’ll also prey on deer, however in Ohio they rarely do because there are easier sources of food.  In urban areas they’ll take advantage of pet food left outdoors, garbage cans, gardens, fruit trees and bird feeders.  They will also feast on roadkill.  Coyotes have few natural predators and none of them live in Ohio.

Love them or hate them, coyotes have their role to play in our ecosystem.  Studies show coyotes help to control animals such as racoons, skunks, foxes, and feral cats. This in turn affects ground nesting birds and songbirds increasing bird diversity and abundance.  They help keep rodent and rabbit populations under control.  As scavengers they help to keep the environment clean.  And they assist in spreading plant seeds.  Coyotes need the night, reducing or eliminating light pollution is something we can all do to help them. 

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