Coyotes are supposed to live in the wild because there, they have everything they need: food, house, etc. But, in recent years, scientists have noticed how coyotes have survived to live in cities. To better understand this, researchers, led by Rachel Larson, who at the time was a biology graduate student at California State University Northridge, decided to study urban coyotes.
|Credits: Smithsonian Mag|
The researchers studied coyotes using different methods. First, the team collected and dissected the feces of coyotes across Los Angeles, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks with the help of around 150 citizen scientists. They were looking for anything the coyotes may have been eating such as fur, feathers, bones, and seeds. Since their feces couldn't fully inform them of the coyotes' diet, the researchers decided to conduct stable isotope analyses of whiskers that had been collected either from roadkill or from coyotes captured by the National Park Service for other research projects.
The team wasn’t surprised to find out that 22% of urban coyote feces contained human trash like fast food wrappers because they “will eat practically anything that fits in their mouths,” as study co-author and CSUN biology professor Tim Karels said. However, the researchers were shocked to discover 38% of coyotes’ diet came from human leftovers. They were also found to be eating “ornamental fruits,” which were found in 26% of urban feces and 24% of suburban feces.
|Credits: Alta Online|
According to Smithsonian Mag, the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the researchers discovered that cats are coyotes’ favorite snack, with 20% of urban poop samples containing traces of felines. They also feast on “natural” food items such as rabbits, squirrels, gophers, and native fruits and seeds. “What this study shows us is that coyotes in Los Angeles’ urban areas are taking advantage of food sources that we don’t secure,” co-author Justin Brown, a National Parks Service ecologist, said.