Broomfield officials on Friday, in conjunction with the U. S. Department of Agriculture National Wildlife Research Center, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other stakeholders, announced the launch of the ambitious study. Utilizing federal, state and local resources, the project intends to track as many as 60 coyotes in Broomfield, Jefferson and Adams Counties via radio collars over the next two years. In the process, researchers will collect information on the animals' behavior, how they live in urban and suburban environments and how they respond to human efforts to scare them away from population centers.

"There is a real need to address (urban coyote populations) from a human health and safety standpoint," said Stewart Breck, the project's lead researcher. Breck, a wildlife researcher with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is an affiliate professor at Colorado State University. He studied coyotes in the wild in Montana and in captivity at the National Wildlife Research Center's predator research facility in Logan, Utah. Citing an alarming rise in negative encounters between the animals and people -- including three instances of coyotes biting small children in Broomfield last summer -- Breck said the study will focus on the creatures' behaviors toward and interactions with humans.

Since 2008, human-coyote conflicts in the Denver metro area have increased dramatically, with 16 bite incidents reported in the last four years, including last year's the rash of attacks locally. The figures are four times the annual average for Colorado before 2008, officials say.

"Our goal with this study is to determine if coyotes in the Denver metro area have become more bold and aggressive and secondly to try and figure out a way to reduce conflict through a community hazing program," Breck said.  An important aspect to the study will be the application of hazing techniques--or non-fatal methods people employ to scare away coyotes when they see them in order to instill a sense of fear of people--and how they affect the creatures. Using information and techniques complied by Mary Ann Bonnell form Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space, volunteer groups including Broomfield's newly-formed Coyote Crews will employ different hazing methods to coyotes they encounter, allowing researchers to test their effectiveness and impact.
"I think the most beneficial (part of the study) will be the very specific knowledge of coyote activity in ... Broomfield and applying that to the specific management plan for the city..." Broomfield Open Space and Trails Manager Kristan Pritz said. Pritz, who helped draft Broomfield's 2010 Coexistence with Wildlife Policy, said she expects about 10 coyotes to be tracked in Broomfield as part of the study, hopefully covering several key areas in the city.

Trapping and tagging of coyotes could begin this week Pritz said. She will be presenting periodic updates on the research to the Open Space and Trials Advisory Committee and the City Council throughout the project. The information will also be made available on the city's website.