Unprecedented Study Discovers what Urban Coyotes Really Eat

Hiking boots, avocados, candy wrappers and fast-food containers. These aren’t a few of my favorite things, but they are some of the items found inside the stomachs of dead urban coyotes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In a study of unprecedented scale, a team of researchers at California State University, Fullerton are examining the stomach contents of 300 dead coyotes to get a better idea of what they eat and how they manage to survive in such a densely populated environment.

“They’re like Christmas packages,” one of the researchers, graduate student Danielle Martinez, told the Los Angeles Times. “You never know what you’re going to find inside.”

Unlike previous coyote diet studies that only studied scat, the actual stomach contents are providing a much more accurate view of what coyotes eat.

You may be worried that the researchers were out there killing coyotes, butno coyotes were intentionally killed for this study. Most of the specimens were roadkill, and others were coyotes that had been unintentionally killed after being trapped.

Trapping Coyotes in Southern California

Largely due to the ongoing drought, more and more coyotes have been wandering into urban and suburban areas of Southern California over the past couple of years. Residents seem to be divided into two groups: Those who want every coyote killed (likely because their pets were victims) and those, myself included, who accept this “new normal” and want to safely co-exist with these animals.

The City of Los Angeles has been taking humane measures to deal with the coyotes. Residents are aware that they should never feed a coyote, leave food or pets outdoors overnight, or leave trash cans unsecured. Hazing tactics like yelling usually work to scare them away.

But elsewhere in Los Angeles County, traps — which, as the Humane Society of the United States points out, are cruel and ineffective are being used.

In 2016, Torrance city officials approved setting these traps inside the Madrona Marsh Nature Preserve a sanctuary where wildlife should be allowed to thrive rather than be destroyed by humans. Even worse, the traps were set before the city warned residents about the presence of coyotes and the steps they could take to protect themselves and their pets.

What Do Urban Coyotes Really Eat?

Do coyotes really exist on a diet of cats and dogs? Not so, according to the study’s findings so far.

Since the study began over a year ago, the researchers, led by Dr. Niamh Quinn, the human-wildlife interactions advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension, have discovered that cats make up only about eight percent of a coyote’s diet.

As for dogs, the researchers told the L.A. Times that the percentage is difficult to determine because of the challenge of differentiating the DNA of the coyote from that of another member of the canid family.

On the other hand, coyotes do seem to deserve their reputation for helping to control the rodent population. Based on the study results, 40 percent of a coyote’s diet consists of native mammals including voles, gophers, house mice and woodrats, according to a Facebook post by the nonprofit Coyotes in Orange County.

“This much is clear: coyotes aren’t struggling in our urban environments,” Quinn told the L.A. Times. “They are almost everywhere, continually learning to adapt alongside us.”

As coyotes learn to adapt alongside us – and us alongside them – the results of the study are proving that they don’t live on a diet of pet cats and dogs, which will hopefully help change the minds of those who want them all killed.

Photo credit: skeeze

98 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thank you!

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

I agree with Sherri S comment - "These coyotes are "urban" because humans keep populating and taking up every bit of space on this earth!" >>> From 1930 the world population has risen from 2 to over 7.6 billion today. We are destroying the world`s natural habitats at an astounding rate, mostly for food production. Our roads, hospitals, schools, and houses are increasingly cramped. Resource usage per person increases every decade, while our total numbers continue to rush upwards. ALL energy efficiency gains go towards accommodating ever-increasing numbers of people. WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREADING THE WORD: NO MORE THAN 2 CHILDREN PER FAMILY. Please view - https://www.populationmatters.org/ >>> World Population Clock - http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

I agree with Sherri S comment - "These coyotes are "urban" because humans keep populating and taking up every bit of space on this earth!" >>> From 1930 the world population has risen from 2 to over 7.6 billion today. We are destroying the world`s natural habitats at an astounding rate, mostly for food production. Our roads, hospitals, schools, and houses are increasingly cramped. Resource usage per person increases every decade, while our total numbers continue to rush upwards. ALL energy efficiency gains go towards accommodating ever-increasing numbers of people.
WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREADING THE WORD: NO MORE THAN 2 CHILDREN PER FAMILY.
Please view - https://www.populationmatters.org/ >>>
World Population Clock - http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

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KimJ M
KimJ M6 months ago

tfs

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Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

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heather g
heather g7 months ago

I'm sure not all people in North America hate animals - but it certainly seems so.

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Michele B
Michele B7 months ago

interesting

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Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago

Thanks.

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