GPS Tracking Being Used to Track Coyotes in Three Southern States

31 Mar 2015

An animal trapper gets the unique experience of letting coyotes go after capturing them, to fulfill a GPS tracking study.

Dan Eaton, owner of CSRA Trapping Services, usually spends his days capturing coyotes, but the act of releasing them is brand new to him. For a new study involving coyotes in the areas of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, Eaton is capturing the coyotes so researchers can attach a GPS tracking device. He will then release them back into the wild for the research study.

The study is being conducted at the University of Georgia in Woodlawn, Georgia. This project is set to last three years in total, as they want to track a total of 160 coyotes. Michael Chamberlain, who is a professor at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, is at the head of the study.

Researchers are concerned that the dropping deer fawn population in these areas, and believe coyotes are to blame, as they are one of their biggest predators. The researchers are also concerned about all of the sightings of coyotes in suburban areas, where resident’s pets are at risk. The coyotes will be released only so the research team can track their whereabouts.

While they assume the coyotes are responsible for killing off the fawn in the area, they aren’t 100 percent sure because they are not native to their area.

“They are a keystone predator in the Southeast right now. It’s difficult to understand how coyotes affect other species until we understand the coyote,” said Chamberlain,

For the first year, they will be tracking approximately 75 coyotes in each state involved in the study with GPS tracking collars. There will be another 80 tracked in the second year. This will be the most comprehensive study of coyotes completed in the Southeast, and it is being done to know more about these wild animals.

They not only want to know their whereabouts when they attack nearby wild animals, but find out more about their hunting techniques, where they find food sources, and what might be motivating them to move over into suburban areas.

There is also a lot of public interest for this study, particularly from people who have spotted coyotes in their neighborhood, or who wonder if their beloved pet has fallen victim to a coyote.

After a coyote is trapped, it is put to sleep so that it does not harm the scientists. Each coyote is weighed and measured and blood and tissue samples are taken. Dental photos are captured as well.

Before the coyote wakes up and is released back into the wild, they get a programmed GPS tracking collar. The researchers will watch each coyote over a period of time, including their movements, behaviors, and where exactly they go, and when.

The coyote’s location is recorded every four hours, and researchers are able to see the locations for three days prior. They will continue monitoring the data and keeping record of it. The collected tissue from the coyotes will be sent to Princeton University, where there is more data available on breeding and migration patterns of the coyotes.

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