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Coyotes, bears, and lions: the new urban pioneers?

New research suggests mountain lions and bears may be following the urban pioneering of raccoons, foxes and, most notably, coyotes as they slowly encroach on major US metro areas.

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An Eastern Coyote, feeds on mice at a freshly mown hayfield in Dalton, Mass. Coyotes are replacing the timber wolf's ecological niche. They migrated from the western US and are larger than their western counterparts due to Canadian wolf genetic influence.

Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle/AP

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Americans have been moving from the country to the city for decades, so maybe it’s not surprising that researchers are finding a similar pattern among other North American apex predators. 

New research suggests mountain lions and bears may be following the urban pioneering of raccoons, foxes and, most notably, coyotes as they slowly encroach on major US metro areas from New Jersey to California. In the case of coyotes, they don’t even mind the density, with some coyote packs now confining themselves to territories of a third of a square mile.

“The coyote is the test case for other animals,” Ohio State University biologist Stan Gehrt told EcoSummit 2012 conference on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. “We’re finding that these animals are much more flexible than we gave them credit for and they’re adjusting to our cities. That’s going to put the burden back on us: Are we going to be able to adjust to them living with us or are we not going to be able to coexist?”

The news comes as a growing number of young, non-truck-driving Americans have turned to hunting and fishing to augment their diet. Among them: Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, who spent an entire year hunting and catching his own meat as part of a broader effort by a new breed of hunters to “pay the full karmic price,” as one hipster-turned-hunter put it in a recent book.

“They no longer wish to have an anonymous hit man between themselves and supper,” opines the New York TimesDwight Garner in a recent story. “They want to thoughtfully stare their protein in the face.”

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