Urban coyotes may be many things, — fuzzy, wily, sinewy, menacing, disdainful of golden retrievers, purloiners of newborn infant sons — but you might not have known that they're also living, loping, and prowling Valentines. That's because urban coyotes are, without exception, entirely, 100 percent, meatball-nosing, spaghetti-slurp-kissing monogamous.
According to an extensive study of urban coyotes in the greater metropolitan area of Chicago by Cecilia Hennessy, Stan Gehrt, and Jean Dubach, coyotes living in urban areas do not stray from their mates. Like, ever. Scientists from Ohio State University did not find any genetic evidence at all of polygamy among the 236 Chicago-area coyotes they studied over a six-year period, which was surprising, said study co-author Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist with Ohio State's School of Environment and Natural Resources, because urban plentitude usually obviates the benefits of monogamy and causes other dog species like foxes to become polygamous. Gehrt explained that, though he'd expected to catch some coyotes cheating on their partners in highway motels, his enduring cynicism in matters of the heart finally failed him:
Even with all the opportunities for the coyotes to philander, they really don't. In contrast to studies of other presumably monogamous species that were later found to be cheating, such as arctic foxes and mountain bluebirds, we found incredible loyalty to partners in the study population.
Adorable? If you like the idea of wild coyotes sifting through your garbage and giving your overly-trusting Goldendoodle cigarettes, then, sure, it's adorable. Gerht explained that such faithful monogamy has allowed coyotes to thrive in urban areas, since the concerted effort of a pup-rearing pair of coyote parents will help ensure that more members of litter make it to adulthood. During times of abundance, — which is all the time if you're an opportunistic animal living near a huge American city — female coyotes can produce large litters. Raising all those pups alone would be almost impossible for a single coyote, but, with the help of a monogamous partner, most of those pups have a much better chance at maturing. Hence, coyotes are all over the place.
The research was conducted in Cook, Kane, DuPage and McHenry counties in northeast Illinois, which, according to Gehrt, is home to between 1,000 and 2,000 coyotes. Since the animals are so numerous and tend to make long journeys beyond their normal stomping grounds, researchers were surprised that they didn't find even a trace of non-monogamous behavior. Coyotes stay monogamous through long-term, Lady and the Tramp pair bonding that, by definition lasts more than a single breeding cycle. Some coyote pairs can stay together for years, separating only after one of the individuals dies. Then the other one walks all the way to the North Pole, gets on a separating ice floe, and drifts out to sea to howl at the moon, remonstrating the heavens for taking away the love of its life.