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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.