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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, UCLA and Calif. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife researchers are all involved in a Southern California Urban Coyote Study to determine the "Songdog's dietary habits, overall health and to determine if Coyotes who dwell in urban regions differ in size and sociability from their cousins who occupy rural and wilder habitat........All of this data will be synthesized with the goal of determining on how Coyotes and humans can best coexist...............200 Coyotes that have perished from any number of causes are being autopsied for this research with the results thus far revealing that rodents of all kinds including Black Roof Rats that live on suburban houses, Norway Rats, Pocket Gophers, Raccoons, road killed domestic dogs as well as seeds and crickets are on SoCal Coyote menus(Interesting enough, no domestic cats have shown up in the autopsies) .............We also know that Coyotes are just like humans in their "generalist dining menu" preferences, with fruit, flowers, insects, goose eggs, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, rabbits, snakes, deer fawns and adult deer, porcupines, woodchucks, lizards, frogs and scavenged critters of all kinds being consumed depending on locale and availability..............Bottom line, Coyotes, like people, adapt their palate to what is available on any given day, in any given locale

How do coyotes thrive in Southern California? Scientists dissect 200-plus carcasses to find clues


A coyote trots across Yorba Regional Park in Anaheim Hills, with a a freshly killed animal in its mouth. “Knowing what coyotes eat is a huge help in their management,” Niamh Quinn, a coyote researcher said. “We can make a lot of management recommendations, we can make disease intervention decisions. All of this is really really important.” (FILE PHOTO BY, BRUCE CHAMBERS, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG)

The coyote known as CY120 thawed in a cooler, awaiting his rendezvous with eternity.
Death? No, CY120 already was long gone. But CY120’s carcass – specifically, the contents of his stomach – was about to become a data point in a growing body of knowledge, part a research project underway at several Southern California universities to learn more about the mysterious lives and sometimes sudden deaths of urban coyotes. What researchers learn from the dissections of some 200-plus coyotes could upend our understanding of the clever, adaptable predators and, perhaps, lead coyotes and humans and our pets to some form of peaceful coexistence.
Or, short of that, to stop killing and eating each other so often.

Los Angeles urban Coyote out for an evening stroll

Big data, coyote style

On a recent Friday, CY120’s stomach was one of three coyote carcasses sliced into, emptied and cataloged by Danielle Martinez, a graduate biology student at Cal State Fullerton. After using a scalpel to open the underbelly and slice into the stomach itself, Martinez, 26, of Glendora and not easily grossed out, picked visibly identifiable matter away from the remains of CY120’s last few meals. She noted some twigs and a broken leaf that remained intact, puzzled over small bone fragments and set aside chunks of flesh for later analysis.

Coyote pups at play

The process unleashed a pungent-yet-sweet odor, a mix of rotten fruit, compost and bleach. Once emptied, CY120’s stomach resembled a deflated balloon.
Stomachs are just a small part of the broader coyote project.
Coyote heads and brains are being studied at Cal State Long Beach. Coyote mange, when applicable, is being examined by researchers at the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife in Sacramento. Ticks, fleas and mites plucked from coyote hides are being studied by Orange County Vector Control; livers and other organ samples are going to UCLA, Texas and elsewhere for genetic analysis. Whiskers, fur, ears – all are being used to analyze coyote dietary habits and to create each coyote’s individual DNA profile.

Coyote with gopher snake kill

“I kind of jokingly say we’re kind of a coyote rendering plant,” said Niamh Quinn, a coyote researcher and the human-wildlife interactions adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension.
“Because we have the whole carcass, we can look at the relationship between diet, health, disease and the relationships among coyotes in different areas.
“You really get this big picture from a carcass that you don’t get from the scat,” she added.

A Coyote den dug into hillside

The coyotes come from throughout the state. CalTrans, animal control departments and private trappers regularly donate coyote carcasses to Quinn’s project which, in turn, distributes the bodies to the applicable scientists. Quinn stressed that no one is being paid to kill coyotes and that the animals are dying of natural causes or normal human-coyote interactions. It’s all being done in the name of human-coyote conflict avoidance, if not resolution.

It normally takes at least two Coyotes to take down an adult deer

“Obviously coyotes are here to stay in urban areas,” Quinn said. “But we want to know more about them to know how to interact with them.”

Heads in the freezer

Some researchers hope to learn about the specific diseases that coyotes carry and can spread to people and their pets. Others, like Martinez, want to sort out what plants and animals coyotes rely on so that people will plant less enticing fare.

Coyote with rat or vole kill

Ted Stankowich, a biology professor at Cal State Long Beach, has 100 coyote heads stuffed into a freezer at work. He’s an expert in mammals, and his freezer has other bodies and body parts, including a cheetah, giraffe legs and a kangaroo donated from the San Diego Zoo. The coyote heads, he hopes, will provide answers to questions he has about the differences between rural and urban coyotes. The brains could tell part of that story.

Coyote with Deer fawn

Is the musculature different in urban and rural coyotes? Do urban coyotes have weaker jaws because they’ve learned to survive off pet food? Are they more or less social than rural coyotes? How does diet shape and change the coyote body?

“The thing that allows a coyote to thrive in a rural area may be different than coyotes in an urban area,” Stankowich said.
“Anything we can extract from these animals we’re going to get it because it’s a great resource to have.”
Stankowich plans to start his dissections in the fall with one of his biology students. The practice of working with actual animal carcasses proves to be invaluable preparation for students planning to go on to study human or animal health.

“As an educational tool it’s fantastic,” he said. “For students interested in going on to veterinary or medical school, the practice of working on actual animal tissue, and familiarity with the muscles of the head, is great experience.”

Cat lovers?

Martinez is one such student. This summer, between her first and second years of grad school, she plans to dissect and sort more than 200 coyote stomachs. Her research specifically examines how often coyotes prey on domestic cats.
The process is part veterinary science, part detective work.
“I actually do have a lot of fun doing this,” she said, “once you get used to the smell.”
So far, some of what Martinez has found sounds like standard fare for toothy omnivores that live near population centers. Urban coyotes enjoy dining on many members of the rodent family, including black “roof rats” that live on suburban houses, Norway rats and pocket gophers. She’s also seen stomachs filled with seeds and, in one case, Jerusalem crickets.

Coyote chasing Raccoon

But she’s also been surprised. She’s seen bits of raccoon and Styrofoam. And, in one stomach, she found pieces of a fairly large dog paw – nails and all – along with black flies, indicating the large dog had been road kill. So far, however, she hasn’t identified any cats.
How CY120 came to Martinez’s life isn’t clear. He was found in Newport Beach last August, but how he died – from a car encounter or starvation or some other fate – wasn’t information made available to Martinez.
In addition to the leaf and twigs and bones, Martinez noted that CY120 had eaten cartilage. She passed the contents of CY120’s stomach eventually to another student for DNA analysis.

Coyote with Rabbit kill

Quinn, who quarterbacks the project from her Irvine office, believes the end result will help the animals and help people learn to live near them.
“Knowing what coyotes eat is a huge help in their management,” Quinn said. “We can make a lot of management recommendations, we can make disease intervention decisions. All of this is really really important.”

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