atlanta coyote project

Scientific Research and Public Education

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What is the Atlanta Coyote Project?

The Atlanta Coyote Project consists of scientists devoted to learning more about coyotes and their role in urban ecosystems.

Whether you are captivated, concerned, or just plain curious when it comes to coyotes, we strive to be a relevant and credible source of information and to provide strategies for avoiding human-coyote conflict.

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Urban Coyotes

"The Atlanta Coyote Project has field cameras through the metro Atlanta area. The images they caught indicate coyotes living in drainage pipes, under sheds, and in dens near neighborhoods. We follow the story of one very special coyote that traveled miles."

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EcoSense for Living

"The Atlanta Coyote Project separates fact from fiction and reveals some surprising new information they've learned with hidden coyote cameras."

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there coyotes in Georgia?

Yes, coyotes are common throughout Georgia, in both rural and urban settings. The presence of red wolves in the southeast is historically what kept out coyotes.  Once we humans wiped out red wolves, it created a void that the coyote easily filled on its own.  This has happened gradually over the past 50+ years.  Organisms that have the capacity to expand their range across this planet will do so when given the opportunity.  We did!  Also, fossil evidence from the late Pleistocene (~12,000 years ago) has yielded coyote remains from as far east as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Are the animals we are seeing “coywolves” (i.e., hybrids between a wolf and a coyote)?

These animals are coyotes.  Red wolves have been absent from the southeast for nearly 100 years, and their loss (extirpation) is what allowed the coyote to move in.  In other words, there are no wolves in our area for coyotes to mate with to produce hybrids.

How big are the coyotes in our area? They look huge.

The majority of coyotes in our area weigh less than 35 lbs and an individual weighing over 45 lbs would be highly unlikely.  Coyotes change the thickness of their coat throughout the seasons by shedding fur just like a dog.  A thick winter coat often gives the appearance of a much larger animal.  Coyotes are not wolves – they are a separate, smaller species of canid.

Do coyotes live and hunt in packs?

Some do and some don’t.  Coyotes are social animals that strive to live in family groups.  A male and female can potentially mate for life and produce a litter of offspring each spring.  Most of those offspring will then leave the family group near the end of their first year of life, but some might stick around for a little longer and help raise future siblings.  Coyotes who have left (or been forced out of) the family group wander on their own as transients in search of their own territory and mate. Hunting for prey, which usually consists of small mammals like squirrels, rats, and mice, is mostly done alone.

I heard them howling and it sounded like there were many individuals.

Coyotes bark, howl, and yip to stay in touch with family members and to announce the boundaries of their territory to rival groups.  They have an uncanny ability to modulate the frequency and pitch of their vocalizations, which often makes the group sound larger in size than it actually is.  However, if a family group is still intact, then you might be hearing them all “singing” together.

I saw a coyote out during the day. Doesn’t that mean it’s rabid?

Coyotes are naturally diurnal animals, but they can easily adjust their daily activity patterns in order to minimize contact with humans.  They usually become crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) or nocturnal when living around people, but they can be active during the day if they don’t feel particularly threatened.  Rabies is actually quite rare in coyotes, and a sighting of a coyote during daylight hours is not an indication of rabies.

Since coyotes are in my area, doesn’t that mean they will eat all of the other animals, including cats and small dogs?

Coyotes are omnivores who eat a wide variety of foods.  In fact, much of their diet comes from plants (e.g., fruits).  Our studies are actually showing high levels of animal diversity in many areas with coyotes.  Cats and dogs are not natural prey items for coyotes, mainly because they have not historically been “on the menu,” so catching and killing these animals must become a learned behavior.  This can happen when pets are fed outside and allowed to roam freely.  There are obviously instances of coyotes killing cats and small dogs, but this is not the norm.  Please keep your pets safe by keeping them indoors.

Don’t coyotes present a danger to humans?

Coyotes are wild animals that should be treated with caution and respect, but attacks on humans are almost unheard of.  Your chances of being bitten by someone’s pet dog are many times greater than by a coyote.

There are coyotes in my area. Can’t they be relocated?

Unfortunately, it is unlawful to relocate a coyote.  Any coyote captured by a trapper must be euthanized.  The coyote’s social structure and territorial behavior help us to understand why relocation is not a good option.  How would you like to have an unannounced stranger dropped off at your house to live?

I hear coyotes behind my house. That must mean they have a den back there, right?

Not necessarily, but possibly.  Coyotes are extremely good at concealing their dens, and they will move them to another location if they feel threatened.  Trying to locate a den is usually unsuccessful.  And the den is only used for a few months in the spring while rearing pups.

What should I do if I encounter a coyote?

We have a list of recommended actions that you can follow should you encounter a coyote linked here.

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