Once foreign to the area, this wildly resourceful animal can now be found across the peninsula

CaneHeadCloseGreat - Jon Way

Photography by Dr. Jonathan Way

Amy Blake moved to Cape Cod from a small town in Ohio in the summer of 2005, renting a cottage beside scenic marshlands in West Barnstable. One evening she heard an unfamiliar sound coming from the yard: wild animals were howling in the darkness. “I was petrified,” Blake recalls. “I didn’t know what to do so I called my neighbor and pleaded for her to come over.”

Kathy Blackwell, and her friend Tim came quickly to Blake’s rescue. The longtime Cape residents brought wooden spoons, pots and pans; they yelled, and banged on the pots and pans until the animals ran off. Throughout, Blake remained frozen by the door. Her rescuers, after successfully scaring off the unwelcome guests, had a good-natured laugh at her expense. Prior to that night, Blake had never seen—or heard—a coyote.

“I was standing pretty close to the door, and they just thought it was so funny,” Blake says, “and here I am having this traumatic experience.” Moments later, the trio noticed that Blackwell’s cat, Cubby, was perched on the roof of Blake’s cottage—likely the reason for the coyotes’ visit. For the remainder of her stay, Blake never saw the coyotes again, but she heard them frequently and stayed inside on those nights.

Blake’s story may sound familiar to Cape Cape residents and visitors alike. Eastern coyotes (Canis latrans) have been living on the Cape since at least 1985, but in recent years the animals seem to be flourishing and have been spotted all over the peninsula. In this article, local wildlife experts share some of their research on the Cape’s top predator, discuss personal experiences, and offer suggestions for residents—especially pet owners—on cohabitating with coyotes. The article also examines the coyote’s family structure and prey, and researchers speculate on how the coyote arrived here in the first place.

“Public perception is that [coyotes] are thriving,” says Diane Byers, Chatham’s animal control officer, “but you would be surprised at the actual number.” Coyotes have a distinct howl—a series of yips and barks—and one or two of the animals communicating is often mistaken for several. Byers says she fields a few calls per month from locals reporting a coyote passing through their neighborhood. “Just because animals are out during the daytime does not mean they are rabid,” she says. “They might be scavenging for food or getting food for their pups.”