August 17 – Wily Coyote

Today’s factismal: Cartoons notwithstanding, coyotes don’t eat roadrunners.

Though some may find it shocking, the classic Warners Brothers cartoons starring Wile E. Coyote don’t actually match what coyotes do in the wild. They don’t punch in and out of time clocks, they don’t order from Acme, and, believe it or not, they don’t eat roadrunners. That last is pretty surprising considering what a coyote will eat. As opportunistic carnivores, they will gleefully chow down on mice, prairie dogs, gophers (Mac and Tosh had better watch out!), snakes, lizards, rabbits (poor Bugs!), and birds – but not roadrunners (which are simply too fast to catch and too small to bother with). They’ll eat carrion or fruits and vegetables but prefer fresh meat.

A coyote in its natural habitat - suburbia! (Image courtesy Wild Suburbia)

A coyote in its natural habitat – suburbia!
(Image courtesy Wild Suburbia)

That lack of pickiness in their diet has made the coyote one of the most successful predators in North America. And their cleverness (even their name means “trickster”) only makes them more successful. When being hunted by a wolf, a coyote will run downhill; once the wolf has started running after it, the coyote doubles back and heads uphill. Because the wolf is much larger, it cannot turn around as quickly and the coyote can create a large enough lead to get away. They are also able to figure out many traps and have been known to open gates in order to get out livestock and to upset trashcans to get at the goodies inside.

And while many may think that coyotes only live in the desert or in the deep forest, they are increasingly at home in suburbs and even cities! Coyotes have been spotted in Seattle, Dallas, and even inside New York City. (No word on if they went to see Phantom.) Unfortunately, researchers aren’t sure just how many coyotes have made the move into the city, nor where they live. Fortunately, you can help. If you spot a coyote in your city, contact the local animal control agency. And if you live in the area around New York City, report your sighting to the folks at Wild Suburbia:
http://www.wildsuburbiaproject.com/

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