past year the
Narragansett Bay Coyote Study targeted
coyote resource use in an effort to
develop management and coexistence
strategies for this newly-established
native top predator.
During the past year we documented
the home range and movements of coyotes
from 10 packs with defended territories
and revealed the additional presence of
nomads (individual dispersers and
offspring from the packs) inhabiting
undefended regions between the
Results from the first year were beyond
Our data strongly point to reasons
so bold or unafraid of people
to be getting more numerous.
First, we found that coyotes in our
study area were thriving, both in good
condition and well fed.
Abundant food resources are known
to cause coyote populations to grow.
Indeed we seem to have more than
Ten years ago most people had never
seen a coyote on
– now they are everywhere on both
types of food resources they were using
gave us a real surprise, however.
Our data showed coyotes eat vast
amounts of unnatural food resources in our
Coyotes are taking advantage of
food provided indirectly or directly by
Early this year we realized the
information we were collecting could be
key to the management of coyotes here in
The short version is simple:
If we want to manage coyotes
we need to stop feeding coyotes.
The full story.
at The Conservation Agency started the
Narragansett Bay Coyote Study because we
realized that the coyote population was
becoming an issue here, just as the
expanding deer population had.
Coyotes were increasingly in the
news and people’s pets were
We saw a need for
regionally-relevant scientific data that
could be used for coexistence and
management strategies as coyotes became
Over a two-year period we developed
a completely unique study methodology
involving HABIT Research GPS collars that
record hourly positions of collared
coyotes 24 hours a day.
While much more expensive than
conventional radio tracking we felt it
would pay off.
After a year of preparation, we
kicked off the NBCS in June 2005 by
setting out to collar 10 coyotes from 10
We met our goal this June and are
HABIT collars were a great investment.
When we transferred the coyote GPS
locations to ArcGIS software,
we quickly saw patterns in behavior.
We saw that that coyotes normally
slept from dawn to dusk in brushy or
forested lands and came out into the
open to forage during the night – what
we now call “coyote business hours.”
As we mapped
the coyotes’ hourly locations during “business
hours” we saw that certain spots on the
island got repeated nightly coyote visits.
Mapped in 3D these areas looked
like mountains (see picture
more the coyotes used them, the higher the
mountain peaks .
We began to visit these areas
long a pattern began to develop; we
realized we had stumbled on the answers we
It was all about food.
are some of the abundant resources we
found coyotes taking advantage of:
killed deer left unburied.
From scats and remains on coyote
trails we know coyotes are getting
significant fall and winter sustenance
over 1000 deer are reported killed on
roads each year.
Some are buried; many are taken to
dumps, dump sites, or just pushed off the
Our data revealed that coyotes find
the carcasses and feast on everything but
the larger bones.
The significance of this is clear
if you do the math.
For example, if each year only half
of all road kills get buried, and we
estimate that the average unburied deer
contains 150 lbs of coyote-edible
material, then 75,000 pounds of food will
be available for coyotes state-wide each
And this is just deer.
It does not include road-killed
raccoons, skunks, opossums, woodchuck,
rabbits and other food sources.
shot but not recovered by hunters.
deer hunters diligently attempt to bring
in every deer they hit.
Some deer, however, get sub-lethal
wounds and escape to the brambles
unrecovered despite the best human
data indicate that these deer are usually
tracked down, killed, and eaten by
in the 2005-6 season hunters estimate they
lost 15-20 deer on
Estimating again at 150 lbs of
edible food per deer that’s 2,250 to
3,000 pounds of food available to coyotes
last winter on Jamestown
This is a broad category that
contains the following:
compost or refuse piles
pet feeding on porches or outdoors
feral cat feeding using feeding
stations in the woods
feeding other wildlife with food
that coyotes eat
The most significant refuse pile we
found contained three dead cows and
several stillborn calves.
This provides essentially unlimited
food for coyotes in that area and was used
by at least 7 of them we know of.
It is also noteworthy that this
pack had basically unlimited food
resources and were in peak condition
during the breeding season (winter).
Feral cat feeding which occurs in a
score of places on
probably provides more consistently
The coyotes regularly visit these
They eat the cat food left there or
the cats. Similarly, backyard pet feeding,
or wildlife feeding, trains coyotes to
visit houses and frequent neighborhoods.
All of these resources delivered by
people train coyotes (just like dogs) to
associate people with food. It
explains why coyotes are becoming bolder
and even venture out into neighborhoods
during the day.
We were very surprised to find out this
Invariably people feeding coyotes
have good intentions and do not realize it
is a really bad idea.
For example, one person
was feeding coyotes dog food in a neighborhood woodlot with the hope of
distracting the resident coyotes from pursuing
the neighbors cats which were being left outdoors at
"Seabees" at dawn
resting at the Navy Base.
This litter of pups spent about
2 weeks at this location
alternately sleeping and playing
while their parents hunted
adjacent areas. Photo Numi Mitchell.
Unfortunately it had the opposite effect –
the dog food caused coyotes to be attracted to the
neighborhood and the woodlot became a favorite hangout
(day and night) greatly increasing the risk to the
neighborhood cats. Other
people we have spoken with feed coyotes because
they enjoy watching them.
This too causes coyotes to make regular visits to
the feeders’ yard.
They may take neighborhood pets en route or
appear frighteningly bold to neighbors unaware that the
coyotes are being, basically, trained to expect food in
of it this way - if there are four coyote packs on
Jamestown and six packs on Aquidneck island it only
takes 10 people feeding (one in each coyote pack
territory) to tame and train all the coyotes in Newport
County to expect food near humans.
Remember – more food means more coyotes.
Our discovery that humans are extensively
subsidizing coyotes is intriguing because it ties the
management of coyotes to the management of people.
One can see that the abundance and availability
of the primary coyote food resources we identified are
within our control.
Just as coyotes respond to abundant food by
breeding, they respond to a decrease in resources by
having fewer pups. Unlike
deer which, unless culled by predators, breed
indiscriminately until they exhaust resources and
starve, coyotes control their own numbers.
This means that if we decrease food resource
availability here in
coyote numbers should drop to sustainable levels.
effective deployment of resource limiting strategies we
will be able to decrease human subsidies to coyotes,
which will, in turn, lower coyote numbers. The obvious
and important implication of this situation is that,
along with some required regulatory changes, widespread
public education is absolutely key to coyote management
in Rhode Island.
Islanders are in the unique position of being able to
control coyotes through public education and policy
the average community resident it boils down to a simple
feed the coyotes. For
policymakers it means programmatic, regulatory, and
The Narragansett Bay Coyote Study will continue
working this year to move management initiatives along
increasing the sample size, rigor, and credibility of
our database through continued research, 2) developing
partnerships to jointly run community and school
education/outreach programs, 3) regular updating of our
website keeping it the “go to” place for regional
coyote information, 4) working with DEM to develop and
implement regulatory management initiatives.
location points in Newport
plotted in 3D creating a
landscape of coyote
habitat use. The
more coyotes visit an area
the higher the mountain
Beneath the isolated peak
at top-center center is a
neighborhood in which
suspected from our data -
then confirmed - that
people were feeding