Why are coyote populations expanding? Partly, a lack of wolves

Experts say coyotes also thrive in our modern world
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 2:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Many people might be surprised to learn that, a couple of centuries ago, timber wolves roamed Louisiana.

Coyotes lived, primarily, in the western United States.

“As wolves and cougars disappeared, that opened up lanes for coyotes,” said Joe Forys, Curator of Large Mammals at the Audubon Zoo.

In more modern times, Forys sees many other reasons for a dramatic expansion in the coyotes’ range, including their adaptability.

“They can live in wetlands, they can live in deserts, they can live in mountains, they can live in valleys,” he says.

While large predators, such as grizzly bears and wolves, typically steer clear of man, coyotes thrive in the shadows of our modern world.

“We provide garbage. We provide shelter. We feed feral cats. We feed birds,” Forys said.

This summer, local officials have heard frequent complaints from residents about coyotes plaguing parks or even neighborhoods on both sides of the Mississippi River.


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A Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website notes other factors have played a role in helping the coyote increase its range, including “expansion of human development and fragmentation of the once vast woodland areas of the eastern and southeastern United States.”

Like many other experts, Forys believes indiscriminately hunting coyotes would backfire.

“If you take alpha pairs out and you leave a void, others will fill that void and they will fill that void with more animals than were there before,” he explains.

Forys advises people to avoid littering or feeding animals outside in places that are accessible to coyotes.

Eventually, he said, the coyote population will top out at some maximum numbers, or “carrying capacity.”

The problem is no one knows what that number might be.

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