Coyotes are El Paso’s most common apex predator

The coyote is the largest and most common apex predator in El Paso. Well known across North America from Canada to Central America, if you haven’t seen one yet don’t be surprised when you do. Their numbers in our city appear to be increasing as they move into neighborhoods looking for what we all want every day to survive – food.

Coyotes are very intelligent members of the Canid (dog) family and well known for their adaptability. They have adapted to human civilization and over most of their range have outlasted their larger cousin, the wolf. Compared to a wolf their survival strategy is pretty easy to understand as they are for the most part unpredictable in their movements. Wolves are more of creatures of habit using pathways that eventually become established animal trails. During the last century when wolves were systematically killed by the thousands to protect the livestock industry it was pretty easy for trappers to eliminate them by placing traps along wolf pathways. Coyotes on the other hand prefer to mix up their travel routes making them harder to predict. As a result the coyote has survived where the wolf has not.

Today coyotes provide a number of benefits to our community by helping to regulate populations of animals like rodents and rabbits including smaller predators like skunks, raccoons, and foxes, which benefits biodiversity.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife coyotes in urban areas sometimes prey on pets (primarily) and other animals like ducks and chickens. Direct control of problem coyotes is often hampered by city/state regulations and/or concern from local officials about negative publicity. If you are concerned about coyotes in your neighborhood contact Animal Control at 311 or Texas Parks and Wildlife at 915-834-7050. If you report your concerns about coyotes they will almost always be left alone unless the coyote attacks or threatens a human. Unfortunately nothing can be done if a coyote kills a cat or a dog. For the most part coyotes are nocturnal. If you are concerned about your pets you should avoid leaving them outside at night especially when you know coyotes are in your neighborhood.

We should be reminded that coyotes have been living in our area long before El Paso became a city and that we have actually invaded their territory. Going back tens of thousands of years coyotes lived alongside Pleistocene (ice age) megafauna like Columbian mammoths, giant sloths, woolly rhinos, lions and short-faced bears. If you see one look at the coyote as not only an important part of the ecosystem, but also a connection to the lost world of the Pleistocene.

Photos courtesy Ad Konings
Cover by Renee Grayson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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