Living With Coyotes

Coyotes are one of the most versatile carnivores on the planet. They have an ability to thrive in almost any environment and have extended their range across every ecosystem in North America. Yet, there remained one last place for these intrepid carnivores to infiltrate: cities.

If you live in an urban area in Alberta you have almost certainly noticed an increase in coyote sightings. Coyotes living in cities present many benefits, and also a few challenges. Coyotes are great for ecosystem health. They keep mice, rabbits, and squirrel populations in check, and a coyote sighting can be exciting for people who crave more interaction with nature. However, coyotes are a carnivore and negative human-coyote interactions can happen, particularly with our beloved pets.

For the last five years, the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project has been seeking to better understand urban coyotes. The Project believes we can find ways to co-exist with them in our cities. They do this by combining research, good stewardship practices, and outreach activities with citizens. Over time, the Project has been able shift understanding and perceptions of coyotes in Edmonton.

This year, with support from Alberta Ecotrust, the Urban Coyote Project identified a major source of conflict between people and coyotes. Using isotope analysis and GPS tracking, they discovered that sick coyotes were more likely to use residential areas. Specifically, they found that sick coyotes were four times more likely to visit compost piles than natural areas within the city. They also had four times the range of healthy coyotes.

These compost piles visited by coyotes also contain toxins which make them ill. Combined, these results show a continuous cycle in which sick coyotes may become reliant on food waste, which may in turn make them sicker and more dependent on human resources. The entire cycle increases the chance of human interactions and conflict with coyotes.

The Urban Coyote Project was able to come to these results through a unique combination of chemical analysis, behavioural observations, GPS tracking, and citizen science. For several years the Project has asked citizens to report coyote sightings through an online tool. Since 2010, citizens have reported almost 2,000 different coyote sightings via the website tracker. The website has also allowed them to gather information about the attitudes people hold towards coyotes.

The survey results show that Edmontonians are divided on how to manage coyotes. Some people really want them around, others want them gone. Wanting to meet the needs of all residents, the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project continues to look for non-lethal management of coyotes. Removing or securing compost piles, and managing sick coyotes through non-lethal means, represent a significant opportunity to reduce conflict. They are hopeful that this research, along with neighbourhood stewardship programs, can create a situation where people can experience and appreciate coyotes in positive ways.

 

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Did You Know?

Coyotes living in Edmonton appear to be adjusting their day and night time behaviour to human activities. They have shifted from using natural cues, like dawn and dusk, to human cues related to our behaviour. Simply put, they are becoming nocturnal. Another example of their remarkable adaptability, being more active at night dramatically increases their survival rate as they are less likely to be killed by vehicles.

This story is the second in our 12 Grants of Christmas series. In the days leading up to Christmas we will be featuring some of the best projects and stories from our grantees in the last year. Please return to our blog in the coming days and weeks to learn more about the incredible environmental work being done across Alberta. Other stories:

1. Making a Statement in Fort Chip

2. Living With Coyotes

3. Calgary Can: Recognizing People for their Environmental & Economic Contributions

4. Answering Hard Questions in Our Grasslands

 

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