Urban Coyote Ecology – an Emerging Field

By Paula Fitzsimmons

Wild animal species once largely restricted to rural areas have become regular urban denizens. In my own mid-sized city, it’s no longer uncommon to see foxes, coyotes, and turkeys roaming freely in residential areas. Several months ago we even spotted what appeared to be a bobcat on the arm of a busy highway. These kinds of sightings were rare as recently as a decade ago.

Why coyotes love city life

Habitat loss is one of the biggest contributors to wildlife displacement – as humans continue developing on wild lands, ecosystems become fragmented. Those species unable to adapt to their new environments dwindle in numbers – others learn to survive, and even thrive. Green cities in particular are attractive to wildlife. Per an article in National Geographic, initiatives such as installing native landscaping and green roofs have made urban areas more livable for animals.

Coyotes have especially adapted quite well to city life.

We animal lovers may be thrilled with our new canid neighbors, welcoming them with open arms . . .but not everyone shares our enthusiasm. Headlines portraying coyotes as dirty, dangerous pests are more common, and do little to diminish the public’s fears. As a result, communities seek ways to rid themselves of coyotes, often by unpleasant means.

Other species may get a pass, but the public remains divided on their feelings about coyotes.


We really can live harmoniously with coyotes . . .

but education is key. Check out UW-Madison Urban Canid Project’s tips for coexisting with canids. It includes a video called “How to Haze a Coyote,” one of the techniques used to humanely co-exist with them.  


Who’s stepping up to protect coyotes?

Animal advocacy groups are fortunately taking steps to protect coyotes and promote humane alternatives to mutually benefit humans (and their companion animals) and coyotes. For instance, Project Coyote, a coalition of scientists, educators, citizen leaders, and ranchers, work to shepherd laws and policies aimed at protecting our wild, four-legged friends.

The UW-Madison Urban Canid Project, live-traps, collars, and releases coyotes and foxes to learn more about their ecology and movements. The hope is that by helping wildlife managers and citizens become more informed, conflicts can be reduced . . . and ultimately, wild dog lives can be spared.


Several national animal welfare organizations are also stepping up for coyotes. Through their Coexisting with Wildlife program, Born Free USA has helped develop a non-lethal predator and livestock protection in Marin County, California. And HSUS offers a coyote hazing training workshop for communities experiencing conflicts.


Organizations advocating for urban wildlife . . .

Project Coyote: Affiliated with Earth Island Institute, this organization relies on science, education, and advocacy to effect meaningful change for urban coyotes. Programs include Ranching with Wildlife, creating Coyote Friendly Communities, and Reforming Predator Management.

UW-Madison Urban Canid Project: With the goal of reducing coyote-human conflicts, members of this project live-trap, collar, and release foxes and coyotes, then use the data to better understand the animals. This is a university, science-based project that relies heavily on citizen involvement.

• Cook County Urban Coyote Research Project: Similar in scope to UW’s program, The Cook County project studies coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area, with the overall goal of improving human-coyote relations.

• The Natural History of the Urban Coyote: A project that combines science with photojournalism. Their gallery of photos offers a candid and intimate look into urban coyote life.

Urban Wildlife Institute: Focuses on the relationship between urban sprawl and the natural ecosystem. They rely on a number of disciplines – including population biology, epidemiology, and veterinary medicine – to develop standards for a conflict-management model.

The Urban Wildlife Working Group: An arm of The Wildlife Society focused on critical issues pertaining to urban wildlife.


Where to look for jobs

Coyote ecology is a relatively new and emerging field, so it’s unclear whether it will translate into an abundance of jobs in the future. But here are some current options for those interested in a career advocating for urban coyotes and other wildlife . . .

Animal nonprofits. You don’t necessarily need a science degree to advocate for coyotes – for instance, some of the job titles at Project Coyote include social media coordinator, operations & communications manager, and legislative & policy associate. The group recently posted a position for a development coordinator.

Limiting yourself to coyote-specific organizations likely won’t yield a ton of job prospects, so look at positions offered by national animal welfare organizations. For instance, the HSUS has programs and campaigns dedicated to wildlife protection issues, with position titles like Urban Wildlife Protection Manager and Wildlife Protection Coordinator. Other national organizations advocating for wildlife include Born Free USA, Wildlife Conservation Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wildlife Conservation Network, to name a few.

Colleges & universities. These are typically academic-based positions, often limited in number and dependent on government funding. The UW-Madison Urban Canid Project, for example,  is led by an associate professor with assistance from a graduate student.

Schools can be a good place to look for jobs. Check their wildlife ecology, zoology and other natural science departments for job notices placed by outside organizations.


Wildlife rehabilitation centers. As coyote populations increase, more will undoubtedly become injured and sick, and require care. Examples of jobs at wildlife centers may include vet techs, rehab specialists, education assistants, volunteer coordinators, and executive directors.

City government. You’d be hard-pressed to find a coyote-specific job in your local government, but you can still make significant contributions to urban wildlife by working in another capacity, such a park ranger or program manager.  Your local park district, forest preserve, conservancy, or arboretum are good places to search for wildlife-type jobs.


As wild lands disappear and cities become more eco-friendly, sightings of coyotes and other wildlife will increase, as will conflicts. It’s up to us to advocate for these vulnerable creatures and to create environments that are beneficial to both human and coyote. Coyote ecology is a relatively new and emerging field, but career opportunities do exist for those passionate about urban wildlife.


Coyote image credits – top image 34731516 & second image 36881011: from Clipart.com.

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