Coyote spotted walking the streets of River Oaks

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This morning, Justin Cornett did a double-take on his way to work.

"I saw what I thought was a big dog or a wolf, and as I got closer I saw that it was a big coyote," he said. After nearly hitting it, as the coyote crossed the street, Cornett whipped out his cellphone and shot 14 seconds of video, showing the coyote loping along River Oaks Boulevard, headed toward Buffalo Bayou.

It is not unheard of, anywhere in Houston and Harris County that is near a bayou.

"The bayous are the freeways for coyotes," said Sharon Schmalz, with the Wildlife Center of Texas. "We take in more than 300 species of wildlife each year, and some of them include coyotes and bobcats."

Like other wildlife, they're treated, if injured, and returned to the wild, if able to fend for themselves. If not, they can become education animals.

Coyotes have been in and around River Oaks, Houston's storied home of mansions and millionaires, for years, and that's only recent memory. Situated near Buffalo Bayou, they're prevalent enough that the River Oaks Property Owners website has a special section for coyotes. It recommends bringing small pets in at night so they won't be prey, and not leaving pet food bowls outside.

"There's more to consider," said Schmalz. "Coyotes are omnivores, which means they eat what's available," she said. "They eat fruit that falls on the ground from trees, so pick it up so they won't be drawn to your property. Also, they're attracted to smells, like that from BBQ grills. Wash the grill to remove the BBQ residue," she advised.

The area's changing landscape, in which habitat is clear cut for housing, has brought coyotes into the open in some areas. Schmalz says they don't want anything to do with people, because humans are their predator.

"At the same time, we don't want to get rid of them because they perform a big role in the ecosystem, like keeping rodent populations down, as well as snakes," said Schmalz.

The most unusual thing about the River Oaks coyote, is that Justin Cornett "caught it" on cellphone video. It was the first time he had seen a coyote live, and in action in an urban setting, and he appreciated it.

"But," he added, "my cat was outside last night. After this, he's staying indoors."
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