for National Geographic News
On a September night in 2004 Ken Ferebee trudged through Rock Creek Park, a nearly 2,000-acre (810-hectare) expanse of meadows and woodlands in the heart of Washington, D.C.
Armed with a spotlight, the National Park Service biologist and his colleagues had set out to count deer. Instead they stumbled across an animal never before seen in the city.
"That's when we saw the first coyote," he recalled.
The nation's capital joins a growing list of citiesincluding Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; and New York, NewYorkthat these highly adaptable canine predators now call home.
The urbanization of coyotes in the East and Midwest is a phenomenon that started in the 1990s, says Stan Gehrt. The wildlife biologist studies coyotes in the Chicago, Illinois, area, where some 2,000 of the animals are thought to live.
"The amount of coexistence between coyotes and people is much, much, much greater than we ever thought," he said. "People are literally walking by coyotes every day, and they don't know it."
Historically found in the Great Plains of North America, coyotes started to expand their range eastward about 70 years ago when wolves, their main competitors, were eradicated in the eastern United States.
Deforestation along the East Coast also opened up large tracts of land filled with small prey, making the area even more inviting.
Today the slender doglike creatures with pointy ears and bushy tails can be found in every state except Hawaii (kids feature: coyote facts, video, more).
One of the keys to the coyote's long-term success is its ability to eat just about anything.
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