On Thursday, officials cornered and captured a wild coyote in South Philadelphia. The occurrence might seem odd on its own, but it was Philly’s second coyote spotting in one week. Another capture happened on Monday in Mayfair.
What’s bringing out these crafty canines? In part, something the city has in unfortunate abundance: trash.
Like in other urban areas, the coyote population here has been thriving for decades, experts say, happily feeding on junk scattered on our sidewalks and in our vacant lots.
“They figure, well, there’s no need to waste energy on hunting those three mice over there when I can rip this guy’s bags open and have a whole trash buffet,” said Philadelphia Conservation Officer Jerrold Czech Jr., who acts as game warden for the city.
Czech personally escorted Thursday’s critter out of town after police helped corral it behind a dumpster at 16th and Montrose.
The coyote may or may not have been the same one spotted earlier in the week, he said.
“The odds are high that this coyote was either the same one from the other day, and it found its way back from Pennypack Park to Southwest Center City,” Czech said, “but it’s just as reasonable to believe that the coyote had been living in this part of town for a while, walking around at night unnoticed.”
The animal captured in a snare trap on Thursday has been euthanized “to protect public safety,” said Dustin Stoner, information education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Southeast Region. So it definitely won’t make another appearance.
Its compatriots, however, will surely be around again soon. All the construction sites and abandoned buildings around Philly are a powerful draw.
“Buildings that are abandoned can be used to create nests and dens,” explained Stoner, adding wryly, “Philadelphia has a problem with that.”
Another thing that brings coyotes to the city is food left out for stray cats — which end up becoming food themselves.
To Tony Croasdale, environmental education planner at Philadelphia Parks and Rec and cohost of the Urban Wildlife Podcast, that’s a bonus. “They’re actually a benefit,” because they eat the feral cats, he said, which spread disease and have few checks on overpopulation. “People should be excited that this beautiful animal has adapted to living in the city,” he insisted, “and be excited when you see one.”
Stoner is less “excited” about the prospect of coming face to face with a coyote on the streets.
“While coyotes aren’t prone to attacking humans deliberately,” he said, “that doesn’t mean that they can’t find their way into a schoolyard or a parking lot, where people could be making the animal feel threatened. And who knows, the coyote could be rabid, it could be injured. Even if it’s acting like any normal dog, you can’t forget that it’s a wild animal. They don’t belong here.”
Stoner’s advice? He strongly discourages using receptacles without lids. “Secure trash from wildlife,” he said. “Minimize the appeal of our urban areas.”
Welcome, coyotes, to our trashy city. Prepare to feast like kings.