Stephen DeStefano


On his book Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia

Cover Interview of February 04, 2010

In a nutshell

Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia is about what the relatively recent phenomenon of wide-scale urban and suburban development means to the landscape, to wildlife, to people, and to our planet in general.  Based on my personal and professional experiences, the book is simultaneously a memoir, a textbook, and a personal philosophy.

As a professional wildlife biologist, I have worked on a variety of wild animals in natural settings throughout North America and in a few other places around the world. It is only recently that I have developed a focus on those animals that live among us in our towns and neighborhoods.  Society’s response to these animal neighbors has been as varied as the range of human emotions: admiration, fear, love, hate.

Perhaps no other species triggers a wider array of emotions and behaviors from people than the North American coyote.  Before European settlement, the coyote was restricted to the central prairies and plains of western North America.  But as the continent was settled and changes, such as the extirpation of wolves, took place, the way was opened for coyotes to disperse.  Coyotes now occupy every state in the U. S., except Hawaii, and they are one of the most successful species in North America.

Each of the book’s 12 chapters is divided into three separate but interrelated parts.  I chose to include a variety of approaches in the discussion of the topic of urbanization—or sprawl, as it has been called.  The chapter opens with a narrative that describes experiences I have had with wildlife away from suburbia.  These introductory passages serve a few purposes: to provide a contrast between wild and built environments, to explore the similarities that may exist between the two, and to simply take the reader away from urban/suburban settings for a while to experience nature in the wild.

The main portion of each chapter then explores and describes issues related to urban/suburban living: cities and towns as ecosystems, the growth of human population and resource use, the impacts to and responses of wildlife, and human-wildlife relationships, as well as traffic, noise, and artificial lights.  Each chapter ends with the life and times of a female coyote as she navigates both wild and human environments.

In each section I strive to explain the interrelatedness of wildlife, humans, and the environment, and what that might mean to our collective futures.