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Using Coyote Hazing at the Community Level to Change Coyote Behavior and Reduce Human-Coyote Conflict in Urban Environments

  • Author(s): Bonnell, Mary Ann
  • Breck, Stewart
  • et al.
Abstract

The concept of hazing (aversive conditioning) is often promoted as a tool for reducing human-coyote conflict in urban environments. Little scientific evidence exists on the effectiveness of hazing, particularly hazing applied by residents (i.e., community-level hazing). Many wildlife professionals question if residents will properly and consistently apply hazing techniques and if hazing impacts coyote behavior over short- and long-term periods. We describe two efforts in the Denver Metro Area (a citizen science program and an open space experiment) in which we evaluate community-level hazing in the short term. We designed both efforts to engage residents in the issue of human-coyote conflict and encouraged them to apply hazing techniques on coyotes. For our citizen science program, we offered 15 classes between October 2012 and December 2013 and trained 207 volunteers to haze coyotes and to gauge the coyotes’ short-term response to hazing. From 8/26/2012 to 12/26/2015, citizen scientists recorded 739 coyote observations of which 96 (13%) involved hazing. The most commonly used hazing method was voice (77%), followed by noise (33%), approach (33%), and body (28%). Fifty-three percent of the time, citizen scientists combined more than one and up to four methods at a time in their hazing application. Coyote response to hazing varied from rapid fleeing of the area to approaching the person doing the hazing. In the presence of domestic dogs, hazing was less effective. For the open space experiment, we selected four urban park and open space properties (two treatments and two controls) with prior histories of coyote conflict. Here, we report only on how people responded to our educational efforts at treatment sites where we provided passive, non-personal coyote hazing education via signs, email, and social media as well as education stations staffed by volunteers. Based on survey results, 23% of people that saw a coyote tried hazing it during our study trial period. Seventy-eight percent indicated that they would haze a coyote in the future, and 75% indicated the educational effort influenced their decision to haze or not. We conclude that hazing can be a useful tool for short-term relief from a coyote encounter, but the term “hazing” is confusing for some residents. We recommend that instead of using the term “hazing” that other terms such as “scare away” be incorporated into a proactive coyote conflict management strategy. For coyotes that have become exceptionally bold and demonstrated real aggression toward humans, we do not recommend hazing as a strategy to effectively deal with these problem individuals over the long term, but instead recommend the humane removal of these animals from the population.

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