Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Eric M. Gese

Abstract

Increasing global urbanization has altered landscapes for many wildlife species, including carnivores. Some carnivore species have been able to adapt to and even thrive in urban environments, including coyotes (Canis latrans). As coyotes continue to settle in more urban areas, human-coyote conflicts, such as attacks on humans or pets, are also increasing. Understanding the various factors affecting space use of urban coyotes may assist wildlife officials in reducing such conflicts. We conducted three studies of urban coyotes at varying spatial scales. First, using a captive population of coyotes at a fine spatial scale, we tested whether coyotes preferred urban, natural, or a mixture of habitat structures and whether sex, behavioral profile, biological season, or food manipulation affected coyote patch choice. When investigating novel environments, coyotes, especially females and bold animals, preferred a mixture of urban and natural structures rather than uniform structure. Food had no effect on patch choice, and coyotes appeared to be primarily motivated by the structure of the habitat rather than by the amount of food within each habitat. Second, we examined home-range size, habitat use, and resource selection of 22 coyotes at a local, population scale in the Denver metropolitan area. Mean (± SD) home-range size of resident coyotes (11.6 ± 11.0 km2) was smaller than ranges of transient coyotes (200.7 ± 232.4 km2). Home-range size did not vary by season or sex, but resident coyotes during the day had smaller home ranges than during the night. Coyotes had high percentages of developed lands (44.5 ± 18.9%) within their home ranges, but the percentage of coyote locations in natural lands (48.9 ± 22.4%) was higher than in developed lands (20.6 ± 11.7%). Coyotes selected for natural lands over developed lands, and they increased activity at night. Finally, we surveyed 105 urban areas in the United States, focusing on the occurrence of coyotes and conflicts on a national scale. Larger urban areas were more likely to contain both coyotes and conflicts, and were also more likely to have greater numbers of conflicts. Urban areas in the western regions with larger amounts of high-intensity development and less forested and agricultural areas were more likely to have conflicts. Most urban areas considered the management of conflicts to be of low priority. We conclude from these three studies that coyotes residing in urban areas prefer to spend their time in natural lands where human activity is minimized, especially forested and riparian areas that provide cover for coyotes and their native prey. Habitat management practices, such as sustainable urban planning and landscape design incorporating wildlife habitat requirements, may be an important tool in reducing human-coyote conflicts in highly urbanized environments.

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