Urban coyote management requires community-based collaborative approaches

A picture of a coyote pup
A coyote (Canis latrans) pup wanders through the edge of an urban forest.
Photo by Carol Hamilton / Getty Images

By Dr. Valli Fraser-Celin

Weaver, Melinda J.; Monterastelli, Anna; Strauss, Eric G.; and Romolini, Michele (2023) "A Collaborative Social-Ecological Research Approach to Inform & Address Urban Coyote Management Challenges," Cities and the Environment (CATE): Vol. 16: Iss. 1, Article 9.
DOI: 10.15365/cate.2023.160109
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cate/vol16/iss1/9

With increased urbanization comes more urban wildlife; coyotes (Canis latrans), in particular, are well-adapted to urban areas and can be found in most major cities across North America. Despite coyotes generally keeping to themselves, rare instances of human-coyote conflict have positioned coyotes as a nuisance or sometimes even dangerous to humans and their pets. 

Lethal removal is often the ‘go-to’ solution in urban coyote management practices, yet this management practice ignores the ecological role coyotes play by consuming rodents and maintaining reptile and bird populations by predating on the mesopredators that eat them.

Because of the complexities involved in human-coyote conflict, the authors of this research paper state that a successful coyote management plan requires an “integrated, transdisciplinary approach” (p.1).

Picture of a coyote family
A family of coyotes (Canis latrans) plays in a meadow.
Photo by Frank Fichtmüller / Getty Images

What does an integrated, transdisciplinary approach look like?

This type of approach to coyote management in urban areas needs to consider both the ways coyotes move through cities and how they use human resources, as well as bringing together different stakeholders; for example, residents in affected communities and city officials to develop what the authors call “social-ecological approach to urban coyote management” (p,1).

This approach included collecting data on both coyotes and residents in two cities in the greater Los Angeles area with increasing human-coyote interactions: the City of Long Beach and the City of Culver City. The authors gathered data on coyotes through camera traps, radio collars, and scat analysis to understand how coyotes move through the cities and what their diet consists of at different times of year. At the same time, they surveyed residents about their attitudes and behaviour toward and knowledge of coyotes from which they developed educational materials for both youth and the general public on coyote ecology and behaviour according to the seasons, as well as coexistence strategies.

Coyote movement, diet, and residents’ understanding of coyotes

After analyzing between 250,000 and 2 Million photos (over 3 years) from the camera traps, results revealed that coyotes are more active in urban areas at night, overlapping with their two main prey sources: opossums and cats. Another natural prey source, rabbits, were found to be in decline due to drought conditions; a lack of natural prey can push coyotes further into human-dominated spaces in search of food. Additionally, cats were not found to avoid coyote-dominated landscapes; these factors may account for an increase in cats being found in coyote diets and inform predictions of when coyotes may hunt cats. 

Finally, the authors found that two-thirds of respondents in Culver City and nearly 50% of Long beach residents understood coyote behaviour, and over 50% of respondents in each city said they knew where coyotes live in the city. This was surprising given that past research has shown that most people don’t have a good understanding of urban coyotes. The authors speculate that respondents may be basing their level of knowledge on (mis)information gathered through social media and word-of-mouth.

A coyote
A coyote (Canis latrans) looks out over a meadow.
Photo by Daniel Jara / Getty Images

What’s next for coyotes?

This research demonstrates the complexities and the multiple stakeholders involved in urban coyote management. A social-ecological approach highlights the integrated approach needed to develop robust management plans grounded in the context of the local community. Finally, this type of approach can be applied and tailored to various contexts and regions where urban coyotes are found.

About Dr. Valli Fraser-Celin
Dr. Valli Fraser-Celin holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Guelph where she studied human-African wild dog conflict and conservation in Botswana, Africa. Valli has always been interested in the human dimensions of wildlife, in particular, humans’ relationships with large carnivores, she collaborated with the Fur-Bearers on a research project exploring Canadians’ perceptions of and knowledge about wolves. Valli is also passionate about dogs, and advocates for dog welfare through her Instagram @thelivesofwilddogs. In her spare time, she runs a pet pantry at her local community centre for pet guardians experiencing pet food insecurity.

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