Urban Coyotes prowl Tucson neighborhoods

coyote-in-driveway1-398x550KGUN9 news (Jan. 30, 2012) reports “Pet-owners are on alert after a pack of coyotes hit one urban neighborhood over the weekend.  Some residents are even calling on wildlife officials to take action against the dangerous wild dogs.”

According the Arizona Game & Fish Department, the population density of coyotes in the urban area is twice that in the wild.  Coyotes favor residential areas, parks, and golf courses and use natural areas and washes for dispersal.  Coyotes can run at almost 40 mph and can jump a 6-foot wall.

 AZG&F says: “Coyotes are curious, clever, and adaptable. They quickly learn to take advantage of any newly discovered food source, and are often attracted to yards with abundant fruit and wildlife to eat. Coyotes will eat pet food and knock over unsecured garbage cans, or may walk along the tops of walls around homes in search of unattended dogs and cats to eat. Coyotes may consider large or loud dogs to be a threat to their territory and become aggressive toward those dogs. Coyotes have lured free-roaming dogs away from their owners to attack, and bold coyotes may attack small dogs on retractable leashes.”  Game & Fish has a short brochure about how to deal with urban coyotes here.

The coyote (Canis latrans) is a very adaptable omnivore that occurs in 49 of the 50 states. (Guess which state they don’t inhabit.)  A coyote resembles a medium-sized dog with a long, bushy black-tipped tail, big ears, and a pointy face. The fur color varies from grayish to light brown, with a buff or white underbelly. You’ll never see a fat coyote in the wild. Mark Twain wrote: “The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry.” Wiry and with long, slender legs and small feet, a desert coyote usually weighs only 15 to 25 pounds. The tracks are much smaller than those of a domestic dog of the same size.  Coyotes will eat anything from road-killed carrion to cactus fruit, mesquite beans, seeds, plants, and meat. They hunt small animals such as rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, insects — especially grasshoppers and crickets — and any injured animal they can subdue according to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum staff.

Coyotes generally hunt singly or in pairs around a core area that contains their den.  During the breeding season, coyotes will scent-mark their territory with urine and by scraping the ground to leave a visual mark.  They will defend their territory during breeding season, February to March, with pups born in April and May.

 Coyotes, which some call “sound dogs,” typically howl at dusk as they begin their hunt.  They also howl to communicate with neighbors and family members.  Within neighborhoods, coyotes howling usually sets off the neighborhood dogs.




  1. Very true: Our son recently saw 3 coyotes near Speedway/Campbell. And I almost ran into 2 on the street a few weeks ago in my car at night, and we live in mid-town.

  2. I saw a coyote trotting through the Home Depot parking lot off Broadway yesterday afternoon, heading for the Pantano wash.   I still like the scruffy critters and think we must co-exist with them, even though I think I lost a cat to one.   Don’t let your cats wander outdoors, and keep small dogs close to you when walking. 

  3. Jonathan,

    You ought to do a piece on bobcats. I’ve got a couple of ’em that lounge on my backporch and brouse in my garden.  Really bold critters. 

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