UW study shows coyote pups learn to habituate to humans from their parents

If it seems like coyotes in Ballard are less and less fearful of humans, it’s probably because they’re learning to be bold from their parents.

A University of Washington Tacoma study, published in Ecology and Evolution, has found that habituated coyote parents are passing their fearlessness on to their offspring.

Author of the study and assistant professor Christopher Schell conducted his research as part of his doctoral work at the University of Chicago. For the study, he focused on eight coyote families at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Predator Research Facility in Millville, Utah, which was set up in the 70s to reduce coyote attacks on livestock.

Schnell told UW News that while it’s rare that coyotes threaten or attack people, when it does happen it ends up being blown out of proportion. “We want to understand the mechanisms that contribute to habituation and fearlessness, to prevent these situations from occurring.”

The study sought to explain how rural coyotes are learning to be fearless when living in urban environments. What Schnell found is that the habituated behavior is likely taught to offspring.

According to UW News, the research team placed food near the entrance to the coyote’s enclosure, and had a researcher sit just outside the entrance everyday for five weeks while pups were one- to three-months old to document how soon coyotes would venture toward the food.

Schnell said the first season of the study, there were a few bold individuals, but for the most part, the pups were more wary. However, the second season, things had changed: “But when we came back and did the same experiment with the second litter, the adults would immediately eat the food — they wouldn’t even wait for us to leave the pen in some instances,” Schnell told UW News.

“Parents became way more fearless, and in the second litter, so, too, were the puppies.”

King County wildlife biologist Chris Anderson told My Ballard it’s up to us to prevent habituation: “Exclude, exclude, exclude — even haze them. When you see them, encourage them to keep going. Throw something at them. If you have a noise-maker, use it. Studies show that that effort and education is the ultimate answer to manage them.”

To read about the UW study in full, visit UW News.

File photo by John Gilbert


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Uncle Buck
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Uncle Buck
VeganBiker
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VeganBiker

Who said “Coyotes are the problem in Ballard”?

Paintking
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Paintking

When one eats your dog or cat it is then a problem. And imagine this, kids actually learning something from their parents! Oh boy.

Cap Anson
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Cap Anson

There is one problem that is hundreds of times bigger than dogs or cats being eaten.

SurlyAF
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SurlyAF

Thank you all for pointing out the obvious. I guess the local media outlets shouldn’t report on any other other public safety concerns besides the opioid/homeless crisis?

Cap Anson
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Cap Anson

Not until that one is fixed

SurlyAF
Member
SurlyAF

That’s a far too narrow view of a world for me. But hey, if that really suits you then my suggestion would be to avoid news sites in general because they are going to discuss things you don’t want to hear or read about.

Cap Anson
Member
Cap Anson

What does one have to do with the other. Sure, let’s watch out for coyotes. But is that important than getting the trash-throwing drug addicts off 14th Avenue and every side street between Market St and 50th?

SurlyAF
Member
SurlyAF

“What does one have to do with the other.”

That’s my point Einstein, why bring up something that is irrelevant to this story?

ceeaware
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ceeaware

Urban coyotes are becoming increasingly aggressive and dangerous and the offspring learn from their dams. There are daily national news reports of dog and cat kills and humans being attacked. An elderly woman in NC was attacked and killed this month by a pack of coyotes. Coexistence does not work and these carnivores must be removed. The USDA will send in federal trappers to remove coyotes and keep them removed. We should not be prisoners on our own homes and spending thousands on fencing which does not work, meanwhile, the local wildlife and town officials sit on their hands doing nothing while out pets are killed. They MUST do their jobs and protect public safety!

VeganBiker
Member
VeganBiker

ceeaware – PLEASE post some links to coyotes attacking humans! And “daily national news reports of dog and cat kills”, where? Post that info so we can see that what you are saying is not “fake news” please.
And BTW a female coyote is called a bitch, the male is a dog.

terryj
Member
terryj

yo dip. the USDA regulates Kale, not coyotes. That would be DNR.
The ignorant should remain silent, not vote and don’t have children.
you dig it??

Freja
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Freja

Keep your pets in at night. It is your responsibility to keep your pets safe.

elenchos2
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elenchos2

You can’t protect them forever

Freja
Member
Freja

Maybe you can’t, but responsible pet owners can.

mutantbrain
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mutantbrain

I just saw this coyote in broad daylight.

mutantbrain
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mutantbrain

About 30 minutes ago I saw a coyote in my backyard! I was shocked! Have photos! I live in East Ballard/West Woodland I was shocked! I think someone needs to feed them so they don’t kill our neighborhood pets until we can relocate them somewhere appropriate. (I know we shouldn’t feed them-but if they are here, and hungry they will kill cats, and other neighborhood pets. If only they would stick to eating the phlethora of non-native rats. There has got to be another solution than just hazing and ignoring them to keep them from becoming fearless of humans. Of course not everyone will see the UW study or even care about it. I think we need to relocate these coyotes! Not ignore them or haze them. WTF? Seriously? It is up to all of these humans to know what to do to prevent habituation? Yeah, I am sure everyone is on the same page since everyone is paying attention to these studies. (sarcasm or snark) IMHO, it is our fault that coyotes are in urban neighborhoods in the first place. How are they supposed to know they belong in the wild if they were born in someones garage? We… Read more »