Atlanta Coyotes Wearing GPS Collars

Researchers continue to monitor 20 coyotes in urban study.

John Trussell | April 28, 2023

One of the 20 collared Atlanta coyotes stops just long enough for a quick photo on a trail camera.

You don’t have to search long to find parallels and common denominators between the major U.S. cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Atlanta. Employment opportunities, major sports teams, the availability of the arts, diverse populations and progressive attitudes are the reason that many give for making these cities home.

There is one little-known common denominator that all those cities share that stuns many non-residents. Each of those major cities has coyote populations.

The canine species once known as the scourge of the West long ago began expanding its range westward and eastward across the U.S. Its incredible ability to adapt to any habitat has made it just as comfortable in a major U.S. city as a rural farm anywhere in America.

The City of Los Angles has fought a war with coyotes for decades. It is not a war that humans are winning. City records show that during one two-year period, coyotes killed 949 pets in the city. 

Chicago was late in getting its coyote population. It now has a coyote population estimated at about 4,000.

Coyotes first appeared in New York City a little more than a decade ago and now have populations in Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.

And now it’s Atlanta’s turn to address a coyote population, while it is currently a population that isn’t causing too many problems.

WRD, in conjunction with the University of Georgia, is two years into a five-year study of Atlanta’s influx of coyotes. The study focuses inside the I-285 perimeter. To date, 20 coyotes have been trapped and outfitted with radio collars to track their movements. Coyotes will continue to be trapped and outfitted with radio collars throughout the study. 

There has only been one known encounter thus far with one of the collared coyotes. That coyote was seen on a trail camera.

Kaitlin Goode is the WRD Urban Program manager and is the WRD point person on the urban coyote project. She says it’s way too early to draw any hard conclusions about the coyote population in Atlanta, but some things are becoming evident.

“We occasionally get a call that a coyote killed someone’s cat or tried to attack someone’s dog, but they are not high numbers,” she said. “The numbers of those complaints don’t seem to be increasing. We’re mostly getting calls from people who may have seen a coyote on their doorbell camera.”

Goode is unsure how long coyotes have been in the city limits of Atlanta. She said the purpose of the project is to be proactive and to develop a thorough understanding of the situation, so WRD can educate a public that often has no idea what to do when it sees a coyote in a city setting.

She said she has been in contact with wildlife biologists in Chicago, and it may be possible that Atlanta could have an advantage over other large cities.

“Atlanta has a number of waterways crisscrossing through the city,” she said. “Atlanta is sometimes known as the city of trees. Coyotes seem to be using these tree-lined waterways as their travel routes instead of neighborhood streets as they do in other cities.

“That lessens the encounters between humans and coyotes.”

If one thing has become evident with coyote populations in major cities, it’s that coyotes are there to stay. Humans and coyotes must learn to co-exist.

Goode said it is important for people to understand that coyotes are basically fearful of humans and will avoid contact if all possible. They usually become dangerous to humans only if forced to defend themselves.

The study in Atlanta will soon begin to take scat samples to determine what it is that coyotes feed on in the city. Goode suspects she already knows. She said coyotes are omnivores that primarily survive on small mammals like rats, chipmunks and rabbits, all of which are plentiful in Atlanta. They’ll also eat things they can find in gardens, like fruits and vegetables. They love persimmons.

“They will eat cats, but dogs are usually too large for them to bother with. And it’s important to know that they don’t want to eat your children.”

The purpose of the project is to understand the magnitude of the coyote population in Atlanta and to develop good information to share with the public, she said. The study is likely to find the steps that work in other large cities will work in Atlanta.

Coyotes are primarily nocturnal and most of the major problems in large cities have occurred when people are walking neighborhoods at night. If a dog is not on a leash, it may try to attack a coyote that it encounters. Many of the coyote bites to humans have occurred when trying to rescue a dog from a fight with a coyote.

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  1. kpl@2208 on October 22, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    At least three coyotes seen behind our house many nights a week including one with a tracker color. We have many videos of them if your study is interested. [email protected].

  2. Brandi6.5 on May 24, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    “And it’s important to know that they don’t want to eat your children.”.

    It’s also important to know that coyotes have been known to attack small children. So while it’s true that they don’t target humans in general, they can see small children as targets of opportunity and the residents should be told this. It’s deceptive to tell those residents that coyotes “don’t want to eat your children” when coyotes have been documented trying to do that very thing. Rare? Yes, but it’s known to happen.

  3. zekemire on April 28, 2023 at 11:12 am

    They should be taking every measure available to ELIMINATE them! they are an invasive species, decimating turkey, deer, small animals, cats, dogs and other animals and must be eliminated!
    And do not give me that same old tired baloney that we cannot and must learn to live with them!

    • urbanwildlifeinfo on April 30, 2023 at 4:34 pm

      The definition of an invasive species is broken down to an introduced species to an environment that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Coyotes are not an invasive species. They are highly adaptive and are fulfilling a new niche. They maintain healthy ecosystems by managing populations of rodents, insects, & other small animals. Lethal control allows a newer coyote to claim a new territory and does not solve conflicts. There are many other resources available to prevent conflicts.

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