November 10, 2004
Coyotes in River Oaks

Coyotes in River Oaks. What's next?

Fears are running high that coyotes living in Memorial Park's isolated areas are wandering farther afield, bringing them into contact with joggers and residents of the city's toniest neighborhood, River Oaks.

And here I thought the River Oaks rent-a-cop corps kept out all the undesirables. Silly me.

There have been periodic coyote sightings in Memorial Park for many years, parks department officials said.


"We have them all over Harris County. ... We've kind of embarked upon their habitat," Capt. Albert Lynch of the Texas Parks and Wildlife said. "Development has pushed them into a smaller area."

Well, yes, but we're not talking about some frontier housing development in the far reaches of Montgomery County here. Memorial Park is inside the Loop, and River Oaks is between it and downtown. If the coyotes are there they've either migrated in or we've been coexisting with them for decades. Maybe they've expanded their range for whatever reason, but it's not because recent development has encroached on their habitat.

Apparently, Austin is having similar problems.

Unusually brazen coyotes have been spotted in streets, yards and playgrounds and even on porches in neighborhoods throughout Travis County, and a program approved Tuesday aims to instill a bit of fear back into the packs.

Travis County and the City of Austin will finance a $40,000 contract with the Texas Wildlife Services Program to cull the coyotes. The problem has been most pronounced in the Northwest Hills area.

The culling, to be handled by a wildlife biologist, will be focused on the most aggressive animals that have lost their innate fear of humans, said Jeff Ripley of Texas Cooperative Extension. In turn, the remaining coyotes should relearn to avoid humans. The animals will be humanely trapped, then euthanized. The traps will be set on public lands with limited access for people.

Texas regulations do not permit the relocation of coyotes.

Residents bear some responsibility for quelling the problems, Ripley said, and an education program will go hand in hand with the culling.

"This is not something that Wildlife Services can do on their own," Ripley said.

In particular, residents should refrain from feeding the coyotes or leaving pet food outside where the coyotes can get it. They should also seal their garbage cans. Pets should remain inside or on a leash.

Humans encroaching on wildlife habitat and the bad things that can result are indeed serious issues across the country. I'd like to see some proof that coyotes are infesting River Oaks, though. I'm not just being snarky here, either - the Heights isn't that far away from Memorial Park, so if the coyotes really are ranging outwards from there, it may be just a matter of time before they're in my back yard, too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 10, 2004 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Heck, coyotes are showing up in Washington D.C.; I say send 'em back to River Oaks where they belong.

Posted by: Thomas Nephew on November 10, 2004 9:42 AM

Clearly Ellins's Living with Coyotes is going to be timely....

Posted by: Castiron on November 10, 2004 9:54 AM

There have also been sightings along the jogging trail around Brookhaven Junior College in Dallas.

Posted by: bill on November 10, 2004 12:19 PM

I see them all the time while driving my kids to school in suburban Waco. I also see them on occasion around my subdivision which is on the south shore of the Brazos about 5 miles northwest of Waco in a fairly rural and wooded area. The lots here are fairly large (.5 to 3 acres) and there are lots of wooded empty lots so there is lots of coyote and deer habitat.

I don't know what the big deal is frankly. There were coyotes around where I grew up in Oregon too. Loose dogs are a MUCH bigger problem than coyotes in most rural areas. But urban people just aren't rational when it comes to wildlife.

If you sat down and prepared a ranked list of animal pests in terms of economic damage, threats to human health, and threats to the environment, coyotes wouldn't even make the top 50. The top 10 animal pests in terms of both economic damage and threats to human health would most certainly all be insects not mammals.

Posted by: Kent on November 10, 2004 1:18 PM