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Coyote at the Kitchen Door

Coyote at the Kitchen Door

Living with Wildlife in Suburbia

Stephen DeStefano

ISBN 9780674060180

Publication date: 05/15/2011

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A moose frustrates commuters by wandering onto the highway; a cougar stalks his prey through suburban backyards; an alligator suns himself in a strip mall parking lot. Such stories, which regularly make headline news, highlight the blurred divide that now exists between civilization and wilderness.

In Coyote at the Kitchen Door, Stephen DeStefano draws on decades of experience as a biologist and conservationist to examine the interplay between urban sprawl and wayward wildlife. As he explores what our insatiable appetite for real estate means for the health and well-being of animals and ourselves, he highlights growing concerns, such as the loss of darkness at night because of light pollution. DeStefano writes movingly about the contrasts between constructed and natural environments and about the sometimes cherished, sometimes feared place that nature holds in our modern lives, as we cluster into cities yet show an increasing interest in the natural world.

Woven throughout the book is the story of one of the most successful species in North America: the coyote. Once restricted to the prairies of the West, this adaptable animal now inhabits most of North America—urban and wild alike. DeStefano traces a female coyote’s movements along a winding path between landscapes in which her species learned to survive and flourish. Coyote at the Kitchen Door asks us to rethink the meaning of progress and create a new suburban wildlife ethic.


  • DeStefano, a wildlife biologist, examines the expanding field of ‘urban ecology’ in this pithy volume. Urban ecologists study changes in human—animal interactions caused by factors like sprawl, traffic, and noise pollution, in an attempt to understand why some species (the mountain lion, say) are badly disrupted by human developments, while others, such as the coyote, appear to be thriving—turning up in more and more Eastern back yards. DeStefano cites some alarming facts: in the past half-century, the average size of the American home has grown from nine hundred and eighty-three square feet to twenty-three hundred and fifty; the mere presence of a paved road alters the ecosystem for three hundred feet on either side of it. But, having experienced the benefits of a suburban childhood, he refuses to reduce his thinking to a view in which wilderness preservation is the only solution.

    —New Yorker


  • Stephen DeStefano is Research Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Unit Leader of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Book Details

  • 224 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press