Coyotes move into Colorado's Front Range

Residents and coyotes clash in the suburbs

  • Coyotes in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

    Colorado Division of Wildlife
  • Colorado Division of Wildlife
  • A mother and two young children (upper right in photo) pedal unknowingly toward a coyote on a bike path in Lafayette, on Colorado's Front Range. (The photographer called out a warning, once he got off this shot.)

  • 14-year-old Matt Scheper (left, with his mother, Debbie, in the background) fought off a coyote that attacked him last winter in Greenwood Village.

    Kevin Moloney
  • Ore, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that replaced Ellen Ruble's similar dog, which was killed by a coyote, growls at a bag of coyote lure scents belonging to trapper Jay Stewart.

    Kevin Moloney

On a summer's evening, Greenwood Village, Colo., glimmers with life. Redwing blackbirds clamor from cattails backed by resplendent cottonwoods and tasteful mansions. Ducklings clamber over rocks and plop into ponds, following their parents. The still-snowy Rocky Mountains gleam vividly to the West, as if there weren't 200,000 human beings between us and them.

Despite its location off Interstate 25 just south of Denver, this place is an oasis. Electrical lines are buried, the 14,000 human residents enjoy a median family income of $145,802, and a former Villager named Marjorie Perry donated a swath of land for a nature preserve so verdant it conjures up a symphony as you walk through it. Deer have been sighted in the neighborhood, and hawks. And coyotes. A whole lot of coyotes.

And that's where the needle slides off the record.

Controversy flared in this idyllic community in January 2009, after a coyote reportedly jumped on, but didn't bite, a 14-year-old boy in one of Greenwood Village's parks. The Village's government responded by sanctioning the killing of coyotes it deemed dangerous -- first by a contractor and now by the police. This pitted neighbor against neighbor, generated death threats to the contractor, and became, in the words of one lifelong resident, "the most contentious issue I have seen in Greenwood Village."

And while the Village garnered the most headlines, other communities along Colorado's urban Front Range have also seen more coyotes in recent years. Although nobody knows exactly how many there are, "their presence is much higher than what we've seen in the past," says Colorado Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill. "Coyotes in the eastern plains will be a mile away before you get out of your truck. They're used to being shot at out there. Here, they'll just check you out to see what you're doing."

Coyotes are notoriously resilient. One study shows that pups born in populations that are hunted or trapped are more likely to survive into adulthood than those born to undisturbed populations. Coyotes have been known to dig up traps intended to catch them and urinate and defecate on the offending contraptions. They have both admirers and detractors, but everyone agrees on one thing: These intelligent, yellow-eyed canids are virtually indestructible -- something long recognized in Native American tales of the trickster Coyote, who dies and then returns to life.

"If we poured concrete over the entire state of Colorado, maybe we'd get rid of coyotes," says Churchill. "But maybe not even then."

Coyotes used to bite an average of one person per year along the Front Range, Churchill says, but since 2008, 10 people have been bitten by coyotes.

Five attacks were reported between December 2008 and March 2009. Three weeks before the Greenwood Village incident, a coyote trotted out of the cattails onto a golf course in Erie and bit a 9-year-old boy, who defended himself with a snowboard: "I whacked him," he told a local TV station. The next month, a Broomfield woman was playing Frisbee with her dog when a coyote appeared; she called it to her, extended her hand, and got nipped twice. The following month, also in Broomfield, an off-leash dog began chasing one coyote while another bit the dog-owner's arm. Also that month, two coyotes attacked a woman's off-leash Labrador just after she left her house in southeast Denver. When the woman tried to intervene, she was scratched and bitten.

learn to love them
Dec 23, 2010 09:33 AM
Might as well get used to the coyotes, they will be around longer than humans will. I understand the need to kill a coyote which is attacking people or dogs, but trying to 'control' their numbers is a complete waste of time. The best we can hope for is to be very sparing in those we kill, and 'select' for coyotes that leave humans and dogs alone, and stick to eating rodents. They learn fast - and coyotes that eat rodents are a good thing for humans, not a bad thing.
Jan 13, 2011 04:32 PM
the coyotes are killing my dogs what can i do
protect your dogs
marty weiss
marty weiss
Jan 14, 2011 03:38 AM
This is a tough world. You have to protect your animals more than they will ever protect you. Our domesticated dogs are like babies mentally. They have not been raised to be shrewd and if they were assertive enough to be competitive with wild animals, they would be a liability around other dogs. So you end up being responsible, either way. I walk my dogs where coyotes prey, but I am with them and I pick up a stick or carry something to defend my pack and myself. Of course it depends on where you live,what you can carry. If your dogs are trained to stay at your side when you fire a firearm, simply discharging into the ground will fend off most predators, but if your dogs aren't trained, they might just run into the jaws of attackers. I'm always impressed with the short spears Africans carry in lion country. Imagine threatening a full-grown lion with a short spear. But it must work enough to be relied upon. Just remember you are the top predator and the smartest critter around. Be prepared for anything. The responsibility I shoulder reaches beyond feeding and inoculating to keeping them safe from other animals, traffic, tumbleweeds, ticks and every threat in our environment, and it's for life. I have a half-wolf who can be dominant around other dogs, so I can't allow her to harm any. I found her on the roadside as a puppy, covered with ticks. I didn't know if she would run or what, but I just didn't want to see another dead dog at the side of the road. She has become a very good friend and we have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles together. But I still have to protect her from reality. It's nice to be needed.
Coyotes, lions, tigers and bears, oh my
Deb Dedon
Deb Dedon
Jan 11, 2011 03:09 PM
We don't have a coyote problem, we have a people problem. We leave food out for them, so why complain when they take advantage of us? Coyotes and javelina travel the washes crossing Tucson, surfacing to forage at every opportunity. Pets, gardens, they're not picky. Sharp-shinned hawks and kestrels have also moved to town, but I wish they'd take out the pigeons and leave the doves and songbirds. *sigh* I suppose even raptors must have standards.
Kevin Masden
Kevin Masden
Feb 24, 2011 11:17 AM
Its funny when Urban Sprawl of humans into once habited lands by wildlife means the wildlife must be controlled. How about controlling the idiots who think they belong there instead of the wildlife. Get a clue people. The Indians of this nation lived in harmony with the earth and wildlife and never sought to control it. Using it to fulfill a peaceful lifestyle until the hostile, controlling whiteman came and destroyed all that was good.
Jeff Lakey
Jeff Lakey Subscriber
Feb 26, 2011 08:31 AM
I can see how Europeans were thinking the same way when they arrived, and Indians were like animals to them.
Dave Kangas
Dave Kangas Subscriber
Feb 28, 2011 07:01 AM
Like it or not, if you don't reduce the coyote populations, it means less wildlife overall, afterall they have to eat something. Additionally, their appearance around humans means they are already short of food in their more natural and wild habitat. If they are allowed to stay in populated areas, the more comfortable to humans they become and the more dangerous they become. This is what happens when mother nature is just left alone. Man has irrevocably changed the dynamics with their presence and growth. I will bet the populations of rabbits, game birds and fawns in the area are suffering as a result.
Kerry OBrien
Kerry OBrien Subscriber
Jun 03, 2015 02:43 PM
Before leaving, I lived in Los Angeles for 40 years and was very involved with the coyote issues in Hollywood, including, like many folks, the loss of my Jack Russell to coyotes because a neighbor kept feeding them. I agree the problem animals need to be "taken out" discretely. However what often is true for species such as coyotes, wild horses, wolves, etc. is that when you hunt or drastically reduce a population, the remaining animals actually INCREASE production and you end up with and increase in population. So finding balance is the issue and with all animals that is done by controlling resources: restricting water, picking up deadfall, etc. Pretend you live in bear country.