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New project tracks coyotes through metro Atlanta

Using cameras and collars, UGA researchers aim to understand wildlife movements, geography


Squirrels, birds and opossums have all adapted to living in urban spaces. More recently, so have coyotes.


But much is still unknown about how coyotes move throughout urban areas, such as metro Atlanta, as well as their effect on humans and other wildlife. For example, why are these animals reported in some areas of the city but not others?


Now, a new study led by researchers at the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources aims to shed some light on how coyotes adapt to these spaces. The goal of the three-year project is to track coyote movement and combine that data with other reports of human-wildlife interactions and human demographics to paint a fuller picture of how wildlife can adapt to human environments.


“This research will allow us to better understand the relationship between the design of urban landscapes and wildlife distribution, as well as human-wildlife interactions,” said Summer Fink, a doctoral students and lead researcher on the project. Fink comes to UGA after years of experience working with the Urban Coyote Research Project in Chicago. “For coyotes specifically, we will be able to measure how they are using these urban landscapes, how they move throughout these areas and how this might relate back to reported wildlife interactions and management challenges.”


The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Wildlife Program is a key partner on the project. DNR keeps records on reported wildlife interactions and conducts outreach to educate residents on how to reduce human-wildlife issues. This project will help inform new education and outreach in the community.


“We are working with Georgia DNR staff to develop education and outreach materials, for people of all ages and backgrounds in metro Atlanta, about the wildlife that live in their backyards,” said Michel Kohl, an assistant professor of wildlife management at Warnell who is also working on the project. “With this information, we hope we can increase both public knowledge and interest in urban wildlife throughout the Atlanta area.”


A key component of the research is understanding coyote movement and distribution, and that means tracking the animals. The project officially launched in January when Fink began setting out humane traps in locations inside the Perimeter. These traps are continuously monitored, and when a coyote is caught, Fink and a research assistant place a GPS-enabled collar on the coyote to track its movements.  The traps, designed with a smooth edge and weighted trigger to prevent injury, are identified with signage. If residents see a coyote with a collar, they do not need to do anything.


The project will collect this data over several seasons, and researchers hope this information will offer new insights into the number and distribution of coyotes, when they are in certain places and what they are doing there.


In addition to the GPS data, the team will also set up wildlife cameras throughout metro Atlanta. These cameras will offer additional information on species beyond coyotes, such as raccoons, foxes, skunks and deer.


“For the camera portion of the study, we are looking beyond coyotes to measure the distribution of wildlife across the landscape,” said Kohl. “We are particularly interested in understanding what landscape characteristics may contribute to species distribution.”


For full details on the program and more information about how to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, visit

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