Click on the links below to learn more about the work we’re doing.
A common misconception is that coyotes are ravenous predators who will eat and eliminate all other forms of wildlife, but this is simply not the case. On the contrary, predators can promote biodiversity by keeping other species in check.
Healthy ecosystems contain apex predators, which the coyote has now become in the southeastern US.
We documented 12 different mammals, 2 reptiles, and 22 birds using remote cameras within an active coyote territory in Atlanta, GA over a 2-year period.
Our 2019 study “Species Richness Within an Urban Coyote Territory in Atlanta, GA, USA” was published in the journal Urban Naturalist. You can also see video from the study below.
We are currently conducting a large-scale biodiversity survey across metro Atlanta using approximately 40 remote cameras. This project is part of the Urban Wildlife Information Network, which is based out of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and consists of biologist from across North America who are studying urban wildlife. UWIN partners are attempting to learn more about the biodiversity in their own cities while also making geographic comparisons with cities in other locations.
Why study urban wildlife, including coyotes? Wildlife can be surprisingly abundant and diverse even in the densest of cities, including Atlanta. In order to preserve biodiversity, maintain ecosystem function, reduce property damage, foster safe neighborhoods, and encourage positive associations with wildlife, the study of urban animal communities seeks to understand stressors on wildlife populations, species interactions, and sources of human-wildlife conflict.
Our sampling transect is 4km wide X 50km long and it extends from Grant Park to North Fulton County (see map of camera sites). We began collecting data in January 2019 and have analyzed tens of thousands of images so far. Stay tuned for updates as we learn more about the animals that call Atlanta home.
You can read and hear more about this project, while also seeing some wildlife photos we’ve obtained thus far, in a July 2019 interview that aired on WABE 90.1.Listen now
In 2014, our project published a paper on coyote melanism in the journal Southeastern Naturalist after encountering nearly a dozen of these animals over the past decade. The journal’s cover photo of a melanistic coyote was taken on the Berry College campus by Melanie Abney.read article
In late 2019, a melanistic coyote in metro Atlanta was exhibiting unusually bold behaviors that included non-aggressive encounters with humans, domestic dogs, and attempts to enter homes. After tracking this coyote (nicknamed Carmine) using publicly reported sightings, we captured and relocated him to the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn, GA, where he now resides. Despite much public debate about Carmine's ancestry (e.g., he is a dog, he is a dog-coyote hybrid, etc.). our genetic analysis confirmed that he is indeed a full coyote. He also carries a single copy of the dominant mutation responsible for melanistic coat color. You can read more about our scientific study of Carmine, which was published in the journal Diversity. Also watch the GPB TV documentary "Urban Coyotes," read the Atlanta Magazine article and visit him at YRWS to learn more about this fascinating animal.read article
We are continuing to track the occurrence and location of melanistic coyotes, so if you ever see one and have photographic evidence of it, please let us know. We are also collecting tissue samples from these animals whenever possible and can provide detailed instructions along with tissue collecting kits. If you ever have access to a melanistic coyote, even if it’s one that has been killed by a vehicle collision, we would also ask you to contact us.report a coyote sighting
We began to collect coyote observations from the public through our “Report A Coyote Sighting” page in late 2015 and in 2020 we published the results of this study in the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife (Using Community Science Data to Investigate Urban Coyotes in Atlanta, GA). The map of metro Atlanta here shows reported coyote observations and associated landscape features. This study in ongoing and we continue to receive more than 600 reports annually.read article
Publicly reported coyote observations are classified as either a sighting (an observation at a distance with no interaction) or an encounter (an interaction at close range) on our website. The data provided by “citizen scientists” has been extremely helpful to us, and the figure below summarizes the data from 2015-2018. (Note that the increasing number of reports through time does not necessarily reflect a growing coyote population, but rather an increased awareness of our website.) Of 1,672 reports received, the vast majority (88%) were benign sightings of coyotes. Human-coyote encounters were rare (196; 12% of observations), but 124 of those reports (63%) occurred when pets were nearby. Coyotes were less likely to be observed in areas of high human population density, farmland, and managed clearing, and more likely to be seen in riparian wetlands and areas of low-density development (e.g., parks, golf courses, large-lot homes). Coyote sightings are now relatively common in Atlanta and their presence is generally benign. However, negative coyote interactions do occur and pets should be kept under close supervision and coyote access to anthropogenic food resources prevented.
Coyotes and gray wolves have coexisted in western North America for a very long time, but gray wolves were driven to near extinction in the U.S. by the 1920s. For 70+ years, coyotes lived in the absence of wolves in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park until wolves were gradually reintroduced into the park by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the mid 1990s.
Along with our partners at the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center (YERC), we have been studying coyote feeding ecology over the past two decades to examine the potential effects of environmental change, including climate change, prey availability, and the reintroduction of wolves.
Western gray wolves are much larger than western coyotes and they will actively make life difficult for coyotes, at times even killing them. However, wolves prey upon large animals like elk and moose, and the partially eaten carcasses they leave behind can provide food opportunities for coyotes who are willing to risk their lives for an easy meal.
We have analyzed nearly 1,200 samples of coyote scat that were collected in Yellowstone between 1990 and 2006 as a way to gain insight into coyote diets over time. These results are being compared to corresponding climate data, annual large animal carcass counts, and yearly and seasonal changes in small mammals which coyotes eat.
Preliminary analysis shows that coyote diets did change after wolves were introduced. We are currently working on a manuscript that we hope to publish soon.
We are interested in learning more about coyote populations on Georgia and South Carolina’s barrier islands. Some of these islands are not connected to the mainland by a bridge or causeway, yet we know that coyotes have arrived by swimming. This creates some potentially interesting biological questions. For example, how much gene flow is occurring (i.e., coyotes moving on and off islands)? Are these isolated populations reproducing, and if so, how often? What are coyotes on these islands eating and are they depredating sea turtle nests? These are some of the projects that we are working on.