The Suburban Coyote Syndrome, From Anecdote To Evidence: Understanding Ecology And Human Safety To Improve Coexistence
Understanding the behavioral ecology of carnivores and their interactions with humans is necessary to inform modern wildlife management programs that seek to maintain ecological integrity while managing human-carnivore interactions. Coyotes (Canis latrans) are one of the most successful carnivores in North America, and have recently extended their range into urbanized landscapes. However, coyotes inhabiting urbanized landscapes generate concern and require management to contend with conflicts. I investigated incident reports to understand the types of human-coyote interactions reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC; 2005-2009), and a coyote study website reporting system (CWR) for Westchester County, New York (2006-2008). In Westchester County, I live-captured and radio-tracked coyotes (n = 30) to study their spatial ecology, and identify opportunities to field-test aversive conditioning methods to curtail conflict behaviors of emboldened individuals. Additionally, I conducted a diet study of 493 scats to identify if coyotes used anthropogenic foods that could lead to conflicts. Of incidents (n = 447) reported to NYSDEC, 4.3% involved aggressive coyote interactions with people, and 33.8% involved a coyote threatening, attacking or killing a pet. Most reports were sightings of coyotes. Incident reports filed with NYSDEC and CWR occurred in different frequencies ([chi]32 = 28.721, P [LESS-THAN OR EQUAL TO] 0.001), as more sightings were reported to CWR. I found a positive association between incident reporting and human population size. Coyotes (n = 22) used 95% fixed-kernel homeranges (n = 34) during 3 years that averaged 5.67 ± 3.25 (SD) km2, ranging 1.25- 13.94 km2. Compositional habitat analyses revealed coyotes were selective when locating home ranges within Westchester County, and when moving within home ranges (Wilk's lambda < 0.3035, P < 0.002). Coyotes consumed primarily natural foods, and few scats contained non-nutritive anthropogenic items (5.9-16.7%). I found no evidence for targeted management intervention in Westchester County, as most coyotes appeared to avoid human interactions, and primarily used natural areas and food items. Future research should examine strategies to align stakeholder concern of perceived risks with objective risks from coyotes, and the role of coyotes to moderate ecological processes in urban landscapes.
Canis latrans; coyote; behavior; diet; ecology; habituation; management; New York; resource selection
Curtis, Paul D
Cooch, Evan G.; Richmond, Milo Eugene; Decker, Daniel Joseph
Ph. D., Natural Resources
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis