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Importance of Mammals

Discusses the ecological roles and human uses of mammals.

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Urban Coyote
Teacher Contributed

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are part of a group of animals that may actually benefit from the actions of humans. This coyote is on a golf course near Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.


Social behavior of coyotes

Why It Matters

Big City? No Problem.

Humans have an incredibly strong effect on planet Earth. It can easily be argued we have affected the planet more than any other species. We often hear about the many negative effects humans have had, but have all our effects been negative? Like many questions, this depends on your perspective. Some animals don't seem to mind humans being around and some even seem to thrive in our presence. When we think of domesticated animals (cattle, sheep, dogs) this makes perfect sense, but the benefit of having humans around does seem to extend to some "wild" animals as well. Coyotes are a nice example of a species which seems to do fine around humans. While other species saw their geographic ranges shrink when Europeans arrived in North America, the coyotes range has actually expanded since the 1700s. The specific mechanism as to how humans may have effected this range expansion is still an open question. Coyotes are thriving in some urban areas and this presents some unique opportunities for scientific studies. Find out below about some urban coyotes and how they behave in unexpected ways.


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Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. How common is social monogamy among mammals? How common is it among canids? What benefit is this monogamy believed to convey to coyotes?
  2. How has the geographic range of coyotes changed since the 1700s? Be specific and look at habitats. Does this change prove they have benefited from the actions of humans? Is this situation consistent with coyotes benefiting from the actions of humans?
  3. Cooperative behavior among urban canines is common when resources are scarce. How do coyotes violate this rule?
  4. How do you think abundant resources could alter the benefit of monogamy for canids?
  5. What is a typical diet for urban coyotes? How often do they prey on family pets? How does this situation affect your feelings on how urban coyotes should be managed?
  6. How have coyotes affected the population of song birds in parts of California? What is the proposed mechanism for this change?

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