Portlanders have reported almost 2,000 coyote sightings this year. That’s according to data from the Portland Urban Coyote Project at Portland State University.
Zuriel Rasmussen, the researcher and project coordinator, grew up in Eastern Oregon, where coyote sightings are more common. She was amazed when she saw her first one here in Portland.
“I really wanted to understand not only how are coyotes living in cities without us really seeing them, but also, how are people feeling about that?” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen set up a hotline as part of her project, so that people could call in their urban coyote sightings. She said most people are either excited to see the canines or worried about them eating their pets. While urban coyotes do eat small cats and dogs, it’s not actually a big part of their diet.
“Mostly coyotes are eating what they tend to eat in rural areas," Rasmussen said. "So that’s mostly rodents, rabbits. They eat fruit, they eat nuts. They’re extremely opportunistic, so they will feed on garbage.”
Coyotes are so adaptive, in fact, that they’ll even change their behavior patterns to live more successfully around humans.
“In the city they’re often out more at night," Rasmussen said. "They’ll change their hunting patterns. They’ll go to areas where people aren’t."
That may explain why coyotes have actually doubled their range in the U.S., compared to wolves.
Rasmussen said even though people might be excited to see coyotes in urban areas, it’s important to learn how to interact with them.
“The conflicts that occur with coyotes are almost 100 percent of the time with a habituated coyote — a coyote that’s gotten used to being around people," she said. "And often that habituation can happen from people either feeding the coyote on purpose, or not on purpose.”
So if you come across a coyote in Portland, feel free to revel in the feeling of a little bit of wildness in the city … and then make a loud noise.