The common Western coyote is a tough, fast, smart adaptable little wolf. They are ubiquitous over most of North America now, not excluding our major cities. In Los Angeles, there’s a study ongoing to determine just what the the little urban wolves live on. It’s no surprise that the answer is “a little bit of everything.” Excerpt:
Shoes with rubber soles may seem unsavory, but preliminary results show that urban coyotes gulp them down, along with western cottontail rabbits, birds, avocados, oranges, peaches, candy wrappers, fast-food cartons and an occasional cat.
“Cats seem to make up only about 8% of a local urban coyote’s diet,” said Martinez, 27, a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton.
Another surprise: Remarkably few of the coyotes had eaten roof rats, a ubiquitous rodent that can weigh up to a pound. The researchers theorize that may be because roof rats are fast, superb climbers.
Determining whether a coyote had feasted on dogs — Chihuahuas, for example — is beyond the scope of the study, researchers said. That’s because it would be extremely difficult to differentiate the DNA of the predator from that of another member of the canid family.
The defining characteristic of the decomposed grayish-brown gunk in a coyote tummy, however, is its stench, which lab visitors have described as “shocking,” “disgusting” and “fetid.”
Quinn, who says her lab work keeps her “elbow deep in coyote carcasses,” put it this way: “It’s a sickly sweet smell — like the worst candy you ever had in your life. No joke. But Danielle is a trouper, and I’m used to it.”
Coyotes are successful precisely because of their adaptability, especially the ease with which they make a meal out of almost anything. Our own ancestors did much the same; the human digestive system is pretty much a biological garbage disposal, making us very adaptable omnivores. Way back in our history there were cousins to the human line, the paranthropines, who were obligate herbivores, specialized to live on rough vegetation.
In order to determine how well that worked out, take not of how many members of genus Paranthropus are around today.
I kind of like coyotes. I enjoy hearing them sing on mountain evenings, and I like seeing them skulking along at a respectful distance when I’m hunting – mountain coyotes have long since learned that human hunters often leave behind gut piles, which is like candy to prairie wolves. They can cause some problems with pet owners and so on (which can be forestalled by keeping your cat in the damn house) but all in all, I like having them around.