Denver Metro Area Coyote Behavior Study

Program Overview

From 2012 to 2017, Broomfield was a participant in the Denver Metro Area Coyote Behavior Study, led by Researcher Stewart Breck, with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center. The USDA National Wildlife Research Center partnered with Colorado State University, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Jefferson County, City and County of Denver, City of Lakewood, and City and County of Broomfield to complete the project.

This study involved the collaring of coyotes in Broomfield and other metro areas with GPS tracking devices to better understand the movements, behaviors, and territories of coyotes. Starting in 2013, researchers began moving into another phase of the study to review community-based hazing of coyotes and how it may alter coyote behavior. From 2013-2014, researchers collected and analyzed coyote scats to provide a better understanding for what coyotes are eating in the Denver Metro Area. Eight coyotes were trapped and collared in Broomfield over this time, and the maps of their movements can be found here.

Research Conclusions

Final Report - Assessment of Human-Coyote Conflicts

In January 2012, three researchers, Dr. Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University, Dr. Julie Young of USDA-Wildlife Services Predatory Research Facility and Utah State University, and Dr. Seth Riley of the National Park Service and University of California-Los Angeles, visited Broomfield to identify management approaches or improvements to existing management protocols to reduce the likelihood of future human-coyote conflicts. You may read and download their full report.

Coyote Behavior

  • Coyotes live in higher population densities in urban areas, indicating that the urban habitat is of high quality for coyotes. They are thriving in urban areas because of the increased presence of rodents, rabbits, cultivated fruits and vegetables, garbage, and intentional wildlife feeding. 
  • Urban coyotes have high mortality rates due to cars, disease, rodenticide poisoning, and illegal shootings. 
  • Coyotes build their dens and primarily reside in natural areas and open space, but they do hunt everywhere - including in residential areas. 
  • Urban coyotes are most active at night, but they can be active during the day. 
  • The presence of prairie dogs as a prey source may decrease human-coyote conflicts. 
  • About 92% of coyote conflicts reported between 2003 and 2010 were incidents involving pets. Over 90% of pet-attacks occurred near a resident's home or backyard. Of the pet-attacks that occurred in open space, 87% involved dogs off-leash. 
  • Less than 3% of coyote conflicts were attacks on humans. 
  • Coyote conflicts are highest in the Denver Metro Area from December to March. 

​Coyote Diet

  • An urban coyote's diet in Denver is still mostly natural; including rodents, rabbits, raccoons, geese, grasshoppers, beetles, prickly pear, and Russian olive. 
  • Less than 5% of mammal hairs found in urban coyote scats were from pets. 
  • Coyotes are still consuming human-provided food sources; cultivated vegetables and fruit, bird seed, garbage and compost, roadkill, pet food, and pets. 
  • There was no correlation between increased pet conflicts and evidence of pet consumption, indicating that coyotes generally see pets more as competition or a threat rather than as a source of prey.

Coyote Management

  • Local governments should develop coyote-conflict management plans and keep detailed databases on coyote conflicts. You can read Broomfield's Coexistence with Wildlife Policy here. The policy details management strategies for human-coyote conflicts. 
  • Community-level hazing of coyotes is an effective form of coyote management, and should be conducted proactively against non-habituated coyotes in order to prevent problem coyotes from developing in the first place. 
  • Hazing is not effective in changing the behavior of coyotes that have already become habituated and aggressive towards humans. Coyotes who pose an imminent threat to human safety should be humanely removed. 

Research Publications

If you would like to know more about the Denver Metro Area Coyote Behavior Study, download and read these research publications from the study: