Urban Coyote Poop

Increasing conflicts with coyotes (Canis latrans) in urban areas have biologists turning to scat, or poop, for answers as to what is attracting them to these areas. With this information, conflicts can be prevented, if the identified attractants are removed, or secured. In southern California, National Park Service biologist, Justin Brown, regularly deals with complaints about coyotes coming into cities and getting too close to L.A. residents. Similarly, there have recently been increasing conflicts with coyotes in urban areas of Nevada.

Coyotes are generalists that adapt readily to the changing environment, as humans expand into their habitat, and will take advantage of available food resources on the landscape. To find out what attracts coyotes to urban environments, Brown utilizes the help of volunteers to help him gather coyote poop throughout southern California (from urban, suburban, and wild areas), and analyze the contents. This is one aspect of the ongoing L.A. Urban Coyote Project, which began in 2015. In addition, they analyze coyote whiskers for absorbed nutrients, to determine how much human food is consumed by them. The ultimate goal of the project is to define how coyotes have adapted so easily to urban environments, how many live in the city, and how their diet varies based on the level of urbanization.

So far this research has found that human garbage made up 80 percent of urban coyotes’ diets! The majority of their diet consisted of fruit from exotic plants in people’s yards, human and pet food. To use this knowledge to reduce future conflicts, Brown hopes to educate local residents how to reduce the availability of these resources around their homes. This research shows that we can coexist with our wild neighbors, if we remove or secure food resources such as garbage, fruit falling out of trees, pets, and pet food!

Jessica Whalen

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