If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that coyotes have made a comeback. Once thought to be just in the West, a population hunted down with full support of the government, coyotes have rebounded. They can now be found all over the United States, in areas once not part of their territory (like much of the East.) And most importantly, coyotes have found the city.
Coyotes in Portland are nothing new, there have been reports of them around the area for decades. The most infamous story involved a coyote who boarded an empty MAX light rail train at the airport in 2002. This incident was immortalized in the Sleater-Kinney song “Light Rail Coyote”.
But this was at the airport, a place at the edge of urbanity, surrounded by fields. It’s easy to see why this would be the range of this canid. In the intervening twenty years, the coyote has slowly increased its range and found its way into the heart of the city.
I’ve had scattered coyote sightings over the last decade. I recall one morning (probably early 2014), while riding in the foggy dark to work, encountering a coyote in the middle of the street. At first I thought it was a loose dog, but it started to run away. I followed it for a few blocks, as it was on my route. The coyote would occasionally turn to look at me as it ran. Then it scampered into someone’s yard.
That was the Woodlawn neighborhood. I’d assume that I’d see something in my current neighborhood at some point. We’re close to Mount Tabor, the east side’s highest point and a big greenspace. Seems to me like prime coyote habitat. And I have spotted a coyote at dusk near there last fall. But it wasn’t until this May that I had my first in-neighborhood sighting. Walking home, I spotted a low dog-like animal cross the street in front of me. At first I thought it could be a fox, but shortly afterward I heard unmistakable coyote calls. We’ve got our neighborhood coyote at last!
Or make that three neighborhood coyotes.
This small pack has been observed in our neighborhood since then. They’ve been loitering around a grassy hillside a block from the house. This hillside is between the street below and the back of the Fred Meyer above. There have been a couple reports of dogs harassed by the coyotes as people have walked them below the hillside. (Left out of the report is whether the dogs have been leashed, but I doubt that you’d get an honest answer.) Because of this, one of our neighbors has put a box of shaking noisemakers on a telephone post. These shakers are supposed to scare the coyotes away. And there was a sign on the base of the hill informing people about the coyotes.
I’ve seen the coyotes once since then. Coming home from a bike ride at night, I spotted at least two coyotes standing in the middle of the road. As I was moving fast (going downhill), I needn’t stop, as my speed scared the coyotes away. That’s a good thing, as you don’t want them to get too habituated to humans.
Where are they living? I’m guessing they could be denning near the hillside. There’s a unimproved stub of NE 66th Avenue that abuts the hillside. While this is technically a public right-of-way, the neighbors surrounding it* had (illegally) fenced off this street, probably to prevent people from camping. Now this area is overgrown, so it’s a perfect hiding place for a wild animal. The coyotes could also be living on Rosemont Bluff, a couple blocks away. That would be ideal habitat.
In any case, I don’t mind the coyotes in the neighborhood. Their presence is inevitable. The best we can do is practice care and make sure they don’t become too comfortable with humans. And I enjoy hearing their calls at night. Now I’ve named the unnamed slope behind Freddie’s Coyote Ridge. Because why not? 🙂
And I like the reintroduction of wild animals to the city. I’ve seen several bald eagles since living here, a few in the neighborhood. To someone younger than me, that might not be as big of a deal, but I’m old enough to remember when bald eagles at all, anywhere in the United States was a big deal. To see them not only return from the brink of extinction but to be found in urban areas is nothing short of amazing to me.
I’m surprised we haven’t really seen many bears around Portland. But cougars are on their way…
*Most of the surrounding property is owned by one person.