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The scientific staff at the LMU Center for Urban Resilience, along with affiliated scientists, collaborators and students conducted a three-year management study in order to assist the City of Culver City and its residents in managing the dynamic challenge of coexisting with resident and transient coyotes. Despite the considerable social and logistical upheaval caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, CURes staff and collaborators collected and analyzed data continuously through the various phases of the pandemic. The goals of the project were to: 1) Gather appropriate ecological, technical and human social data with regard to coyote ecology and human-wildlife conflict, 2) analyze these findings in comparison with other studies conducted across North America and 3) develop durable management interventions linked with formal and informal education to reduce the negative impacts of the expanding coyote population in Culver City and beyond.
The study employed various data collection methods including remote camera traps, radio-telemetric collars, dietary analysis, direct observation, molecular analytics, and a survey of residents. During the three-year study, we collected nearly 2 million photos, radiocollared two male coyotes, collected nearly 200 scat samples, surveyed 377 residents, and developed educational resources and a backyard study that can help residents determine the coyote risk in their backyard. Some key findings are as follows:
- While coyote densities did not change much during the three years, densities of their prey species, particularly rabbits, did. These declines could be attributed to decreased rainfall during the study, which has been linked to declining levels of rabbits in the Sonoran desert as well.
- Studies in other cities, such as Chicago and North Carolina, where cats make up a very small percentage of coyote diet, found that cats avoid areas where coyotes are common. Our study did not find this. Locations where cats were recorded and time of day when they were spotted overlapped significantly with coyote locations and time of day, increasing risk of predation on cats.
- There are seasonal patterns to when coyotes spend more time within the City rather than the oilfields. There also appears to be a seasonal pattern to when cat appears in coyote diet. Cat appears in greater quantities in summer and fall and is rare in the diet during the winter. Based on this, we recommend a social media schedule that could help inform residents when their cats are at greater risk. Educational outreach utilizing some of the findings of this study may help residents change behavior on how they manage their outdoor cats.
- DNA analysis from scat samples show that there are likely two packs of coyotes entering Culver City. The first is a pack that ranges from 6-8 near Marycrest Manor and the oilfields. The second does not appear to live within the Culver City limits but enters the City from Ballona Creek, where they appear to travel but not den.
- Dry scat analysis shows that the Marycrest Manor pack does not prefer cat as their top prey and typically has less than 5% cat in their diet. However, as rabbit density decreased, we saw a change in the coyote diet. In the first year of the study, more than 50% of coyote scat contained rabbit, and very few scat contained cats. However, in the second year, rabbit decreased dramatically from the diet, and cat increased to nearly 20% in October.
- The survey of residents showed 64% of respondents agreeing that they understand coyote behavior and activities, and 53% agreeing that they know where coyotes frequent. This perceived knowledge goes against previous research and our own experience, suggesting a need for further outreach and education. More than one-fourth of respondents indicated that they are unaware of the City’s coyote management efforts, thus we suggest that the City use a multi-faceted outreach approach.
The findings suggest that coyotes in Culver City are responding to a variety of ecological conditions, including drought, prey availability, adjacency to the Ballona Creek and other naturalized patches of habitat. The behavior of coyotes in Culver City is both similar to that of coyotes in other cities, but also expresses novel characteristics that are likely shared by coyotes exploiting the urbanized habitats of Southern California.
Predation on domestic cats was not evenly distributed spatially across Culver City, temporally across seasons or equally among coyote subpopulations foraging in Culver City habitats. These variations are likely the result of dynamic prey availability in Culver City and provide insight into future management solutions. Risk of predation of domestic cats by coyotes is impacted by these factors and also by human factors as revealed by our backyard safety surveys and social surveys: in particular, residents’ perceived knowledge of urban coyotes and domestic cats.
Core interventions implemented by Culver City officials and local resident stakeholders are informed by the following set of management suggestions:
Increasing specialized education for stakeholders with regard to reducing coyote risk.
Implementing a suite of interventions at the individual parcel level that can decrease the potential threat from coyotes.
Following a tiered response to coyote management with respect to documented incidences.
Introducing a palette of strategies that can be applied to residential pet owners as they try to find a balance between pet safety and outdoor activities.
Each of these interventions have detailed elements in the following report that allow for a tiered response to coyote conflicts with humans and their domestic pets. The success of these approaches is contingent upon the creation of effective feedback loops among the stakeholders so that gaps in the response do not occur and the management interventions are geared to the existing and future threats.
Loyola Marymount University Center for Urban Resilience
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Sciences
Weaver, Melinda; Romolini, Michele; and Strauss, Eric G., "City of Culver City Coyote Management Report" (2022). Center for Urban Resilience Reports. 12.