Coyote Research

Research on coyotes in an urban landscape

National Park Service biologists have spent several years studying the behavior and ecology of coyotes living in fragmented habitats adjacent to urban development in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills of southern California, west of the city of Los Angeles. Here are some interesting results from the study:

  1. Coyotes were not adverse to visiting urban areas but seem to prefer natural habitats. Although coyotes did visit urban areas, most of their time was spent in the natural habitat and the urban landscape made up only a small percentage of the animal’s home range while adjacent natural habitat consisted of 75% of the coyotes home range. Suggesting that the coyotes prefer the natural landscape.
  2. Coyote visits to urban areas mostly occurred at night. Coyotes can benefit by shifting to nocturnal behavior in urban areas, since there is usually less human activity at night making it easier for these naturally skittish animals to avoid humans. Traffic volumes are also lower at night allowing coyotes to cross roads more easily reducing their risk of collisions with vehicles, a major cause of mortality for urban coyotes.
  3. Natural prey items occurred most often in coyote’s diet. Most of the coyote’s diet in the urban area consisted of natural prey items such as; rabbits, rats, gophers and squirrels. However, human related foods were found in 30% of the scats analyzed for diet. Fruits from neighborhood trees (peach, plum, fig, apple and pyracantha berries) were responsible for most of the human related food items. Even though coyotes are known to take some pets, this study detected only 1% pet occurrence in their diet.
It is not uncommon for residents who see coyotes to have a negative attitude toward these animals for fear that they may attack pets and even people. Coyote attacks on humans are rare and although coyotes can kill your cat or dog you can reduce the risk to your pet by bring them in at night (when coyotes are most common in urban areas) and use fencing that will help secure your yard. Coyotes are well adapted to urban living and it looks like they are here to stay. Making an effort to minimize conflicts with coyotes, by not feeding them and maintaining coyotes’ fear of humans can be important in reducing coyote conflicts.

Last updated: July 7, 2015

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