Tool developed for tracking coyotes

A new interactive online mapping tool has been developed by researchers at the University of Calgary for citizens to help track coyotes within the city.

The program aims to address the public’s fear of coyotes by providing education and information on the animals. The tool allows Calgarians to register online and pin-point on Google maps where they saw a coyote. Users will answer several questions about what the coyotes were doing. Registration is necessary to verify information so if a major conflict is reported, the proper follow-up action can be taken by authorities.

After about a year working on the mapping tool and website, the project was put online Oct. 12. So far, 294 people registered and 199 sightings or interactions entered.

“We’ve had quite a good response, way bigger response than we thought we would,” said Miistakis Institute research associate Samantha Managh.

“It’s a need that we identified after a few years of research on coyotes in the city of Calgary,” said geography associate professor and lead researcher Shelley Alexander.

Alexander started researching coyote diets in 2005 and found the animals were eating a lot of garbage. Along with this research, Alexander analyzed reports of coyote incidences across Canada in print media over the past 10 years.

“We were able to come up with a number of perceptions of coyotes that needed to be addressed in terms of this idea that it’s extremely risky to be outside if there are coyotes present and how often they attack people or pets,” said Alexander. “There just wasn’t really information for people out there. The fear that people had was palpable in the documents.”

Coyotes are a somewhat regular sight for some Calgarians living on the fringes of the city or near large parks.

“I’ve seen coyotes by my house in the southwest,” said Donny Serink, a third-year English major. “I don’t fear them, but I worry for cats. I think coyotes are kind of mysterious.”

Alexander said allowing citizens to report sightings will decrease fear of the animals.

“If you allow citizens to be engaged in the process and give them the results back, that they become empowered and they become less reactive or they feel like they know how they can handle the situation,” said Alexander. “It doesn’t just become a data repository where they phone in and never see it again. What they get back is on their Google map — they can put a point in and over time, they can start to see the patterns.”

Alexander believes the majority of information about coyotes and other animals can be acquired through tracks, scat and observation without invasive studies.

“All of my work is non-invasive,” she said, “I’m not an advocate of radio-collaring. I’ve done that and I’ve seen what it does to the animals.”

There have not been any reported cases of coyotes with rabies in Alberta and only a few cases reported in eastern Canada. Pathogens from coyotes, like round worm, are a concern because they can be transmitted though feces to people.

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