Coyote tracker to gauge urban encounters

Researchers hope a new website will help them track coyote sightings in the city.
Researchers hope a new coyote-tracking website will help them identify causes for human-coyote interaction, such as garbage left out. ((Courtesy of Greg Carter))

Researchers hope a new website will help them track coyote sightings in the city.

Living with Coyotes, a collaboration between the University of Calgary and the Miistakis Institute for the Rockies, will use public input in Calgary to find out where coyotes are coming into contact with humans.

Shelley Alexander, a professor of geography at the University of Calgary and lead researcher on the project, said that while coyote attacks are rare in the city, the website's mapping tool will allow them to monitor coyote behaviour and flag risks to people or their pets.

"You could look at your neighbourhood and say how often do people see coyotes, how often are those encounters where an animal or a pet is chased, or attacked," said Alexander. "And also see the other areas in the city of Calgary where these things are going on."

The site uses Google maps and lets users pinpoint the location of a coyote and what kind of behaviour was observed. It also allows users to contribute information such as the presence of a den, scat, or tracks, and whether or not the observed coyote behaviour needed further investigation.

Coyotes can be seen in Calgary all year, but peak times like April or September-October — when the young coyotes are venturing out on their own for the first time — are when they're more likely to come into conflict with humans and their pets.

Alexander said she hopes the website will help identify areas where people are doing things that attract coyotes, such as leaving out garbage.

The site will also provide researchers with data that will show whether human-coyote encounters in the city are on the rise.

Living with Coyotes includes an educational component that lets readers learn about coyote behaviour.