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Coyotes diet points to ways to keep the animals from neighborhoods – Woodland Daily Democrat

Posted: March 19, 2020 at 7:44 pm

Coyotes have been leaving behind a clue to keeping the hungry omnivores out of neighborhoods and away from your pets.

Thing is, that clue is hidden in their poop.

Researchers have held what they call scat parties for the last two years. After collecting coyote turds into brown paper lunch sacks along some 50 routes in Los Angeles County, the scientists have gathered to see exactly what they have.

But first, they bake the poop to kill all parasites. Then, the stuff goes into a laboratory version of a washer and a dryer. Finally, researchers sit down and carefully pick apart what remains to analyze the content. In all, 3,100 samples were examined.

The producers of the poop fall into two categories: suburban coyotes and city coyotes. And the difference in their output is dramatic.

For starters, domestic cat remains were found in 20% of urban coyote scat, but just 4% of the scat produced by their suburban counterparts, who were mostly from the Thousand Oaks area and had broader access to wild habitat.

Overall, as much as 75% of urban coyote poo came from the human landscape: In addition to cats they eat garbage and fruit from ornamental trees particularly ficus berries, but also grapes, palm tree fruit and loquat, according to the study by the National Park Service and Cal State Northridge.

For the suburban coyotes, 30% to 43% of their stool contained food from those same human-related sources.

Whether its cats, fruits or garbage, the food resources that we have left out for them is why coyotes hang around, said the National Park Services Justin Brown, lead researcher for the two-year study.

We do have some control over coyotes being here, and its all tied to us, Brown added. If we dont provide the food sources in our neighborhoods, they would not be living in them.

Beside cats, fruit and garbage, the coyotes are also attracted to pet food which is sometimes intentionally left out for the wild canines by people concerned by their hunger. Brown dismissed that do-gooder concern.

He said a smaller available food supply would reduce the birth and survival rates for coyote pups, and would encourage the animals to forage in more natural habitats.

Coyotes are very mobile, he said. They would not sit there and starve. They would move on.

The dietary study is part of broader research into Los Angeles-area coyotes begun in 2015, which has included tracking the animals with radio collars. The research is intended to help residents and policy makers develop more successful strategies to reducing conflict between the animals and humans.

Among the findings: While urban coyotes will relocate if necessary to find food, they generally stick to a home range of 1 1/4 to 2 1/4 square miles, Brown said.

It looks like the home ranges are a bit smaller in the urban areas than out in the wild, he said.

Beside analyzing coyote poo for the dietary study, the scientists also looked at coyote whiskers, taking them from captured animals and road kill before performing a stable isotope analysis. Scat samples dont give a full picture of an animals diet because it doesnt include what has been retained by the body after defecation. Because so much people food in the United States contains corn and corn syrup products, it was fairly clear how much human food was in the coyote diet.

What we were surprised about is how much of their diet came from a corn-based food chain, said Cal State Northridge graduate student Rachel Larson, who performed the whisker analysis. The stable isotopes indicate that up to 38% of their diet could come from human leftovers.

Thats for urban coyotes. The primary food for suburban coyotes is rabbits 48% of the diet with squirrels and rats also core parts of the menu, according to Brown. In wet, winter months, suburban coyotes diet is the most natural. During that time, fruit from ornamental trees was found in 17% suburban coyote scat.

When it gets dry and warm, fruit from ornamental trees becomes more prevalent in their habitat and was found in about 30% of suburban coyotes about the same as urban coyotes throughout the year. Additionally, about 18% of feces from both city and country coyotes contained insects, with beetles and potato bugs the most common.

Both urban and suburban coyotes are likely to stick around, even if people clean up their ficus berries, lock down their garbage, and keep their cats and small dogs indoors.

Its just that theyll be more likely to stay out of sight and off neighborhood streets, Brown said.

We have coyotes living in urban areas that we dont get any complaints about, he added.

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Coyotes diet points to ways to keep the animals from neighborhoods - Woodland Daily Democrat

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