Remember all those junior high school lectures about the dangers of “gateway drugs?” Well, according to one researcher, urban coyotes are gateway predators that, once established, will inexorably bring “Wild America” to all of us living in “Mild America.”

From this story in the Montreal Gazette_:_
First it was foxes, skunks and raccoons. Now coyotes are setting up shop in increasing numbers within urban settings in North America. Are larger carnivores next? A professor of wildlife ecology at Ohio State University says urban coyotes, the largest of the mid-size carnivores, may be setting the stage for their larger brethren to start migrating to cities.

“They’re the ones that are kind of pushing the envelope right now,” Stan Gehrt said, suggesting animals like bears, wolves and mountain lions may be next. “It used to be rural areas where we would have this challenge of co-existence versus conflict with carnivores,” said Gehrt, who gave a talk on the topic Friday at a conference in Columbus, Ohio. “In the future, and I would say currently, it’s cities where we’re going to have this intersection between people and carnivores.”

According to the story, the reasons for this predicted influx of predators: their populations are on the rise, their traditional habitat continues to disappear, so they have nowhere else to go. And surprisingly, many urban and suburban environments meet their needs. Racoons, skunks, housepets and other small, tasty mammals draw coyotes. Deer, which thrive in suburban environments, draw mountain lions, while bears relish garbage (and if there’s one thing we’re good at producing, it’s garbage).

Is this an overreaction, or do you think you’ll eventually have to start packing a pistol when you take out the garbage? Or maybe you already do.