The Presence and Public Perception of Coyotes (Canis latrans) in Suburban and Rural Areas of Western Georgia
Type of DegreeThesis
Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
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Coyotes (Canis latrans) are animals that have adapted themselves to a variety of habitats throughout the country. Over the past fifty years, coyotes (Canis latrans) have expanded their range and established themselves as dominant carnivores throughout the southeastern U.S. in both rural/forested areas and urban/suburban areas. However, since coyotes are relatively new to the Southeast, little research has been conducted on them in habitats in this region. In addition to there being little research on the biology of the species there also has been no research done specifically on how the public in the southeastern states perceive coyotes in their community. If coyotes are becoming more prevalent in suburban areas, human/coyote conflicts may become an issue in the southeast. Understanding how the public feels about this species is important to developing management and education programs. I sent a mail survey out to residents of the western Georgia area about their wildlife recreation participation, interactions with wildlife, wildlife preferences and beliefs on management of wildlife in their community. I identified factors that may help predict management beliefs. I also identified sections of the public that should be targeted for education programs and certain areas that may need to be addressed in these programs. To investigate the site use and movement patterns of coyotes in western Georgia, I set up digital game cameras on various sites throughout three counties. I recorded and analyzed changes in occupancy at sites, detection, body condition and movement times of coyotes. My data revealed that coyotes appeared to discriminate little between suburban and rural habitats and during stressful seasons may do better in suburban habitats. Coyotes persisted at all sites during at least one season during the year and overall populations appeared to be healthy. Coyote occupancy in my sites was approximately 30%. This seems to be below the cultural carrying capacity in these counties because in many areas the public was unaware they had coyotes near their homes. I found that the respondents’ value of wildlife, and specifically coyotes, was the best predictor of preferences on management methods. Because coyotes were not a highly favored species in these communities, if management did need to occur, majority of respondents supported the use of lethal management methods done by agency personnel to remove animals. If lethal methods are to be used, education on which methods are effective would be needed before implementing.