Kimberly Rivera, of Westchester County, New York, is examining the relationship between what people know and believe about coyotes and their first-hand experience with the animals. She will also factor in their personal environmental beliefs and demographics.
“Coyotes aren’t going anywhere, so the better we understand where we stand with them, the better we’ll be able to coexist with them,” said Rivera.
She is seeking at least 500 Rhode Islanders from throughout the state to take the survey before the end of November. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be found here.
According to Rivera, about half of all nuisance wildlife calls received by state wildlife officials are about coyotes, which may have more to do with people’s beliefs about coyotes than it does about the actual threat the animals pose.
Rivera plans to combine the results of her survey with data from a statewide camera trap study of
|Eastern coyote (Todd McLeish)|
coyotes to see if people’s opinions about coyotes are more or less positive in areas where the animals are most abundant.
“We’re going to take what we learn from these surveys and disseminate it to wildlife managers so they can incorporate the data into their management practices,” she said. “If there are areas with greater conflict or where people are especially antagonistic toward coyotes, then maybe we can manage them better for both the coyotes and the people.
“I’m especially interested in learning about interactions between pets and coyotes,” Rivera added. “There are lots of stories about missing pets suspected of, or witnessed, being taken by coyotes, and I’d like to learn how often it really happens and how often people think it happens.”
The survey also aims to gauge opinions about current management practices, such as trapping coyotes with foothold traps, which is illegal in the state. Results of the survey may be used to inform future management decisions related to the harvesting of coyotes.
Rivera’s coyote survey is the result of a survey she had planned to conduct with farmers in Madagascar about conflicts between carnivores and livestock. The pandemic cancelled her travel plans to the island nation off the east coast of Africa, so she sought to focus on a related issue closer to home.
“I fell in love with spotted hyenas while doing an internship in South Africa while I was an undergrad,” Rivera said. “They’re considered vermin there because they are presumed to depredate livestock. It got me thinking about how perceived interactions can change how people think about a species. Those opinions are important. If people don’t care about animals, we’re not going to be able to conserve or coexist with them.”