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Urban coyotes in Austin are the focus of a new research project

Texas Parks and Wildlife is teaming up with Huston-Tillotson University to learn more about the coyotes that are moving into city parks and greenbelts. (Image credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife)

Coyotes are being caught on camera across Austin. The sightings are becoming more common, but there's not much hard data about the wild dogs living in the city. It's a problem that's about to change.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is teaming up with Huston-Tillotson University to learn more about the coyotes that are moving into city parks and greenbelts. Urban and suburban coyotes are going to be trapped, collared and then released in a year-long research project.

“No one was looking at urban predators, not at this level,” said Dr. Amanda Masino, Associate Professor of Biology at Huston-Tillotson University.

Dr. Masino is part of a team of educators and students at Huston-Tillotson University that will spend the next year researching the city dwellers.

“The more we learn about the animal the better we can manage the animal and we can manage people's behaviors so we don't have bad interactions,” said Dr. Masino.

The university is working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to trap up to 10 coyotes in east, northeast and west Austin. Professors will work with students to draw blood, insert identifier chips and then fit the wild dogs with GPS collars.

“We'll be able to see whether they are traveling individually or together. We'll be able to see where they sleep, where they hunt, where they roam,” said Dr. Masino.

The year-long study will also examine the bacteria on their skin and paws and what toxins coyotes are being exposed to in urban environments. The goal is to better understand wild dogs living in the city and then find a more effective way to coexist.

“It seems to be a concern because they're around and people are taking note,” said Dr. Masino.

And there's another potential benefit of this research project. Dr. Masino says there aren't enough people of color going into wildlife careers.

“You don't see people of color working in wildlife biology or as park rangers,” said Dr. Masino. “Wildlife and environmental are particularly hard hit. They just don't meet diversity goals.”

This exposure to wildlife research at Huston-Tillotson University could help close the diversity gap.

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