CURes Blog

Long Beach Coyotes Update

As we wrap up another semester here at Loyola Marymount University, CURes is launching the second year of the City of Long Beach Coyote Study and Management Program. After a successful first year of data collection, CURes’ staff and student research team is compiling and analyzing the initial results and developing new strategies to gain a greater understanding of the relationships between coyotes, domestic animals, humans, and other wildlife in the urban setting. The team is partnering with Long Beach City officials, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations in a full community effort to spread more awareness and education about the successful coexistence with the ever-present canid population. CURes hopes that this comprehensive, collaborative research approach will set a precedent for more urban wildlife studies in Los Angeles and in other around the world.

When the city of Long Beach commissioned CURes to conduct the three year study in 2016, the biggest questions were: where are coyotes in Long Beach? what are they eating? and are they interacting with domestic pets? To answer these questions the CURes research team designed a methodology that focused primarily on three forms of data collection: photo-video data, scat solids analysis, and scat DNA analysis. Each method provides insight into the different aspects of coyote behavior, which will allow the team to compare and contextualize data from multiple perspectives.  However, to gain a more comprehensive picture, the team is expanding its methodology in year two.

Dr. Peter Auger (CURes Senior Scientist) deploying game cameras at a new survey site.

In April 2016, game cameras were deployed in the study site, equipped with motion sensors to capture photo-video data of coyotes, domestic pets, and prey animals moving through the area. As of November 2017, 148,000 photos and videos had been recorded, 3,224 of which were of coyotes. Preliminary analysis of these photos suggest that coyotes are most active in the night and early morning, when humans are least active, which aligns with findings from previous coyote research. CURes plans to deploy cameras in potential denning sites over the next year to gain insight into the breeding and dispersal patterns of coyotes. The first step in achieving this is placing additional game cameras in the study site; the team hopes to have up to 25 running by summer. Additionally, CURes is collaborating with the Cat Cove, an organization devoted to feeding and spraying/neutering feral cats in Long Beach. The team will deploy game cameras at feeding stations to observe whether coyotes interact with the feral cat population. Prior research has shown that coyotes and cats do not interact frequently, and that cats are a very low percentage of the coyote diet.

Dr. Demian Willette instructing CURes’ research students on the PCR process.

To complement the photo-video data, the research team collected scat samples from the initial pilot study site for over a year, which were brought back to the CURes lab and analyzed using solids and DNA analysis. Solids analysis involves washing the sample, then dissecting it for any identifiable solid materials, such as skulls, bones, and seeds. The CURes team compiled a kit of seeds and small animal bones by dissecting owl pellets found on the LMU Campus. This kit allows them to cross reference material in the coyote scat with a verified database of the birds, rodents, and plants that live locally. The DNA analysis team, led by Dr. Demian Willette (LMU Biology), developed a set of primers to use in a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, allowing them to determine the presence of a specific species in the scat. Therefore, if an animal’s bones are not visible in the scat, the DNA will still be identified. This two-fold approach allows the team to cross reference results and form a better understanding of coyote diets.

In addition to these methodologies, CURes is implementing several new research components within the coyote study this year. One exciting new project is the trapping and radio-collaring of coyotes, which is scheduled to begin later this summer. The team will also conduct social surveys to determine community perceptions of coyotes. These results will be useful in the development and implementation of school curriculum; CURes works with public schools across the Los Angeles area to provide environmental education to young students. Over the next two years of the coyote study in Long Beach, the team hopes to expand its research and collaborate with researchers and members of the community.

 

Written by Liam Chamberlin (CURes Media Intern)