New Book from Top Coyote Researcher Reveals New Insights, Benefits


Comedian Rodney Dangerfield often said, "I don't get no respect." The same catchphrase also perfectly applies to one of our most persistent wildlife predators—the coyote. The nation’s foremost expert on coyotes and a professor at The Ohio State University, Stanley D. Gerht, offers a new perspective in his just-published book, “Coyotes Among Us.”

The book is based on more than 20 years of research by Gehrt, professor of wildlife ecology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Co-authored with former journalist, Kerry Luft, the book draws from decades of experience to dispel coyote myths, highlight the benefits of living with coyotes, and embrace the coyote as a brilliant survivor against all odds.

From its depictions as the “trickster” in ancient fables to its portrayal as a threat to humans and their pets in modern news sources, the scrawny animals are rarely shown in a favorable light. 

Postings on lifestyle and safety apps such as Nextdoor, Amazon Ring’s Neighbors, and Citizen frequently warn neighbors of coyote sightings, especially when they are seen or heard during mating season (January - March) and when the young pups are dispersing from family groups (October - January). 

Though harassed and hunted for generations, today the coyote persists and even thrives. With an innate ability to adjust to new climates and environments, it has developed an expansive range.

Once confined to the American West, coyotes now live in 49 states, across lower Canada, throughout Mexico, and all the way to Costa Rica. Only Hawaii has avoided their invasion.

The 144-page “Coyotes Among Us” includes stunning images of coyotes within their surprising habitats and is based on 22 years of research from the Urban Coyote Research Project, led by Gehrt in the Chicago metropolitan area. He is principal investigator of one of the largest studies of coyotes to date, capturing and tracking more than 1,450 coyotes.

In the project, a subset of coyotes is live-captured, collared, and released at their capture site. They are then monitored to understand how they live in urban areas and how they interact with other wildlife, domestic animals, and humans.

Coyote habitat ranges from rural prairie to urban overpasses; it is the largest animal to regularly live wild within city limits. The coyote continues to overcome the ceaseless intrusion of urban development to create a bright and flourishing future, providing its human neighbors a surprising number of benefits, Gehrt noted in the book.

“Since 2000, we’ve been studying coyotes and their incredible ability to adapt and thrive as the top predator in urban environments,” Gehrt said. “Coyotes are here to stay—and the first step in learning to coexist is for us to better understand them.”

As the human population increases, so does the population density. The denser the human population, the more plentiful the trash. Food is hard to find in the wild, but it's laying everywhere in a city, town, or neighborhood. Coyotes are simply going where the food is

Other interesting facts about the unique creatures:

  • Adult coyotes only weigh between 20 and 45 pounds.
  • Coyote pups are born between early April and late May.
  • Coyotes are active both day and night, but most sightings are close to sunrise and sunset.

"The book is informed by the country's longest-running research project on coyotes in urban settings, by the country's top coyote expert," Luft said. " 'Coyotes Among Us' " is an essential contribution to our scientific and situational understanding, but it’s also an ode to the coyote and its place in our imagination.” 

Coyote figures were common to Native American religions and in folklore. A popular Looney Tunes cartoon featured the iconic adversaries Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Although every single one of the coyote’s ideas failed — hilariously defeated by gravity, falling rocks, glue mishaps and, most commonly, the misuse of dynamite, the animal displayed admirable persistence and creativity, just as they do in the real world.

Gehrt also serves as chair of the Center for Wildlife Research at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, Illinois. His Ohio State research program focuses on various aspects of mammalian ecology, especially urban systems; dynamics of wildlife disease; and human-carnivore conflicts. 

Luft is executive vice president of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. He previously spent nearly three decades in journalism, mostly at the Chicago Tribune, where he specialized in national and foreign news. He has written or edited five other books.

Sherrie R. Whaley
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Molly Bean