City of Long Beach Coyote Study

On Thursday, October 12, CURes Executive Director Dr. Eric Strauss, along with Long Beach Director of Animal Services, Ted Stevens and California Fish and Game Senior Officer Kent Smirl, presented at a community meeting of over 130 residents and concerned citizens in the City of Long Beach to discuss the ongoing CURes coyote assessment project. The project emerged due to citizen concerns over the presumed interactions between the local coyote population and domesticated animals, as well as a desire to better understand urban wildlife. Additionally, the City of Long Beach wants to create a management strategy plan for coyotes that balances wildlife protection with public safety through residential education and the enforcement of laws and regulations regarding feeding wildlife in urban settings.

Coyotes tend to congregate near human food sources, leading to an increased presence in the green patches of urbanized areas. In Southern California, a past study found that 25% of scat samples contained human food. However, coyote attacks on humans or pets are rare. Coyotes can actually be a benefit to urban spaces by controlling pest species and are beginning to replace wolves as the native predator for deer.

In May, 2017, CURes staff and student researchers placed 14 game cameras in Long Beach to capture images of the coyotes. Of these, three cameras continue to run. Over the four months of data collection, the cameras took 33,102 pictures and 29.8 hours of video footage, which LMU students tagged to identify interesting findings. From the total pictures taken, 2,573 contain coyotes. Only 8 of the images contain cats. It is believed that there is a local coyote family group containing a male, a female, and three offspring, which will continue to be studied to understand the dispersion of young males and family structure.

Example of game camera setup used in study (video camera and motion activated camera).

Images of coyotes taken using motion sensor game cameras.

Based upon the time stamps from the captured images, one can initially conclude that the coyotes are primarily active nocturnally. This is supported by past studies conducted in Cape Cod, MA. It also appears that the coyotes are most likely eating food that is readily available, such as rodents, carrion, and fruit, not domestic animals.

Therefore, suggested management practices for humans to coexist with the coyotes emerge. “No feeding ordinances” are highly recommended so that the coyotes are not drawn into the urban areas by human feeding of domesticated animals. Unsecured garbage and other attractants such as outside pet feeding bowls should be removed, as well. The public should be educated and encouraged to help monitor the coyote population and evaluate their movements using tracking technology. Given that this is a three-year research project, recommendations for public policies will continue to develop. The reality is, and this is based on many studies of other communities dealing with coyote challenges, removal or killing of coyotes actually increases the number of coyotes in an area, since other territorial coyotes will move in to claim the unguarded territory.

In the future, CURes plans to analyze coyote scat to determine the exact food sources for the population. Images and video will continue to be collected and tagged. Finally, radio telemetry technology will hopefully be used to track the movement of the coyotes. This can be compared to previously collected domestic cat movement data to determine if the two populations are overlapping. Other studies, such as a long-term investigation in Chicago by Dr. Stan Gehrt and his team have demonstrated that in neighborhoods with coyotes, feral cat populations are generally lower, mostly through a decrease in cat reproduction.

CURes would like to thank the undergraduate students who performed the data analysis for this project: Armaan Zare, Alex Isaev, Matthew Allegretti, Stephen Gloudeman, Hayley Hart, and Nicole Infantino. More information on CURes’ coyote research can be found here.