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Individual variation in the ecology of urban coyotes and implications for human-coyote conflict Open Access


Other title
Wildlife Ecology
Human-Wildlife Conflict
Urban Wildlife
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Murray, Maureen H
Supervisor and department
St. Clair, Colleen Cassady (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Festa-Bianchet, Marco (Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke)
Nielsen, Scott (Renewable Resources)
Shostak, Al (Biological Sciences)
Boutin, Stan (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
As urbanization expands, many species are excluded from urban areas but others persist and even thrive. When these species overlap with humans in time, space, or resources, conflicts can arise such as vehicle collisions, loss of domestic animals, the spread of zoonotics, and concern for human safety. One species that thrives in urban areas and readily makes use of anthropogenic resources is the coyote (Canis latrans), an opportunistic carnivore that has attracted increasing interest by inhabiting many major cities. While coyotes typically avoid humans even in cities, they often consume anthropogenic food and exhibit a large degree of individual variation in their home ranges and use of residential areas. A better understanding of how and why coyotes vary in their overlap with people could help identify and mitigate precursors to human-coyote conflict and promote coexistence between humans and urban-adapted carnivores. I examined whether the consumption of anthropogenic food increases diet diversity and likelihood of encounters with people for coyotes by comparing the diets of urban and rural coyotes that were or were not reported as nuisance animals by the public. I then tested whether subadult, male, or diseased coyotes were more likely to use developed areas, be more active during the day, and consume anthropogenic food by capturing and fitting 19 coyotes with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars with 3-hour fix rates. I also measured selection for residential areas within the home range and for anthropogenic resources at sites used for feeding and resting. I examined the potential for food waste in compost piles to promote disease spread in coyotes by monitoring compost piles with remote cameras and compared contact rates between coyotes and the prevalence of ectoparasites to reference sites in natural areas. Lastly, I tested whether seasonal differences in activity patterns and road crossings were associated with vehicle collisions by comparing the movements of coyotes that were or were not killed in vehicle collisions and reports of coyotes killed on roads. Urban coyotes consumed more anthropogenic food and had more diverse diets than rural coyotes. Urban coyotes reported as nuisance animals assimilated less protein and were more likely to have sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabiei). Among GPS-collared coyotes, those with mange used more developed areas, were more active during the day, and consumed more anthropogenic food. These coyotes were also more likely to select backyards with accessible garbage and compost piles and bed under houses. Compost piles were visited more frequently and especially by visibly diseased coyotes than urban natural areas. Most compost piles contained at least one species of fungal toxin capable of compromising consumer health. Coyotes killed in vehicle collisions crossed roads most often at dusk, which overlapped with evening rush hour in winter, whereas surviving coyotes crossed roads mainly around midnight regardless of season. My results suggest that diseased coyotes are more likely to overlap with people in space, time, and resources and piles of food waste may increase disease transmission. Also, avoidance of traffic in time may help reduce risk of vehicle collisions for coyotes. Management practices that prevent disease prevalence and transmission and promote nocturnal behaviour in urban carnivores may be more successful in preventing encounters between people and coyotes and ultimately foster greater coexistence of humans and urban carnivores.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Murray, M., Cembrowski, A., Latham, A. D. M., Lukasik, V. M., Pruss, S., & St Clair, C. C. (2015). Greater consumption of protein‐poor anthropogenic food by urban relative to rural coyotes increases diet breadth and potential for human–wildlife conflict. Ecography (in press)Murray, M., Edwards, M. A., Abercrombie, B., & Clair, C. C. S. (2015). Poor health is associated with use of anthropogenic resources in an urban carnivore. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 282(1806), 20150009.

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