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UW Study: Coyote pups relying more on humans for food source

UW Study: Coyote pups relying more on humans for food source (KOMO file){p}{/p}
UW Study: Coyote pups relying more on humans for food source (KOMO file)

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A new study lead by a University of Washington Tacoma professor is helping us understanding coyote behavior and how it’s learned.

The study that was recently published in Ecology and Evolution suggests coyote pups become bolder when their parents get used to humans.

“When parents become habituated to people over time, their pups also become bolder, showing behaviors that they don’t see people as much of a threat as they would when they previously experienced people,” said Christopher Schell, Ph.D, an assistant professor at UW Tacoma and helped lead the study.

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife says coyotes are present in every community across the state. While our area is not seeing an increase in the animals, mating season is underway so we could see more of them in urban neighborhoods.

“They are here, they’ve always been here, they will always be here,” said Sgt. Kim Chandler who is with Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They’ve adapted, plain and simple, they’ve adapted.”

The coyotes that live in urban communities, according to Chandler, are looking to humans for their food source.

“These coyotes have learned that we are providing that food source and that also includes cats and little dogs — yes that is absolutely a food source,” said Chandler.

Food can be found in outdoor trash cans and pet food dishes that are left outside.

Chandler says he receives a lot of calls about coyotes in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, adding the railroad tracks provide an easy way for the animals to get in and out.

“It’s just a coyote super highway,” said Chandler.

The coyotes, he says, travel into neighborhoods from the tracks looking for food.

Dog owner Aaron Atwell sadly learned the hard way that coyotes’ stock and kill house pets for prey.

“She (the dog) went to the animal care emergency place, they said yes, this has all the looks and marks of a coyote attack," he said.

Last Monday, 6-year-old Poppy, a corgi/pit bull mix sustained such severe injuries in her Camano Island backyard she had to be put to sleep that night.

“I’m still in shock,” said Atwell.

He hopes others will consider what’s been taken from his family and keep all animal safe inside.

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“The best remedy there is take away the food source,” said Chandler.

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