A team of UW-Madison researchers tailing coyotes and foxes in the City of Madison has made a surprising discovery—the two rival canids have made amends.
Currently, researchers are trapping and collaring coyotes and foxes to find out what caused the unlikely truce. They are also studying the behavior of these animals, using the data to inform Madison residents of ways to safely handle canid encounters and successfully manage pests.
To catch a coyote or fox, the researchers lay out traps with roadkill deer as bait. The canid is then sedated and fitted with a radio-tracking collar. This process is repeated several times a year to replace deceased animals.
By tracking the movements of coyotes and foxes, researchers have gathered a wide range of data. One notable finding is that the coyote population appears to be more settled than the fox population. Moreover, the two species have not shown signs of aggression towards one another, despite living in close proximity.
The team believes that an abundance of food is the primary cause of this unlikely amicability.
"in the countryside, the larger animal would tend to kill the smaller one to reduce competition for food," said David Drake, director of the UW Urban Canid Project in an interview with The Wisconsin State Journal.
Food scarcity is not a problem for the animals in Madison. Residents' yards are full of birdfeeders and edible plants which attract squirrels, rabbits, and voles. With all of this easy prey, the candies don’t need to compete to eat. Many coyotes and foxes have moved to Madison for this reason.
Coyotes and foxes generally occupy different parts of Madison. Coyotes prefer parks and secluded areas. Foxes, on the other hand, will camp out in people's backyards.
According to Drake, "A lot of people will report they just have them basking in their yard in the summer in the sun, hanging out, so they don’t seem to mind hanging out with people,”.
An effective strategy to keep canids away is to secure trash containers, which will prevent the animals from being lured in by food. If one does encounter a coyote or fox, scaring the animal away is the best option. Making loud noise and spraying water will ensure that coyotes and foxes stay away.
Understanding pest management is another primary focus of this study. The researchers are examining the "predator Paradox," which looks at whether adding predators increases or decreases the prey population. The answer to this dilemma is crucial in deciding whether or not using predators to limit prey is could be an effective pest management strategy.
For more information or opportunities to contribute to this project, please visit http://uwurbancanidproject.weebly.com/, where community members can make donations and report sightings of coyotes and foxes.
Wisconsin State Journal