Coyotes are known to prey on free-roaming cats, whether ferals, strays or pets, while free-roaming cats, on the whole, have been shown to kill great numbers of birds, small rodents and reptiles.
Both cats and coyotes can annoy city dwellers by howling at night, digging through trash and threatening pets. And both can pose a public health risk: Cats can spread a disease called toxoplasmosis; on rare occasions, coyotes have bitten humans.
The findings paint both animals in a more positive light, Gehrt said.
"Free-roaming cats aren't as diseased and short-lived as we often hear, and they're not as harmful to wildlife as some other studies have suggested, at least not in urban natural areas," he said.
For their part, coyotes provide a beneficial ecological service in urban natural areas by limiting the impact of cats, he said.
While urban coyotes often go into the developed parts of the city, such as streets and people's yards, those places aren't part of the coyotes' core activity area, the study found.
"The way coyotes use developed areas is completely different from how cats use them," he said. "They're moving through those neighborhoods or commercial areas very quickly, using every bit of cover they can find, to get from one hunting area to another, whereas the cats are sticking as close to the buildings as they can."
In other words, the cats are trying to stay close to people; the coyotes are trying to duck them.
"What the coyotes are doing is totally amazing," Gehrt said. "They have to live in the urban matrix while avoiding people, which is pretty darn hard to do."
The new information paints a clearer picture of both animals' behavior in urban areas and may refine how park and wildlife officials manage them, he said.
But there's a caveat: The study didn't monitor the impact of cats on wildlife in the developed parts of the city.
|Contact: Stan Gehrt|
Ohio State University