Last year was a challenge for everyone, and this project was no exception. The research team began 2020 in great shape, having successfully GPS-collared a variety of coyotes across the Chicago area during January and February. GPS collars are especially useful as they allow for remote tracking via satellites. Soon after, the Covid shutdown occurred and we had to pause fieldwork. We were hopeful that we would be able to continue satellite tracking, but unfortunately the collars malfunctioned and we lost track of animals during March and April. We would have been one of the few projects in the country to document wildlife movements during the shutdown, but the technology failed us.
Although the GPS collars failed, we still had 30 to 40 coyotes with VHF radio-collars that required us to physically track on the ground, which we resumed in a limited capacity during the summer of 2020. Research techs continued to track collared coyotes the rest of the year, and we were finally able to begin live-trapping again in November 2020 to collect biological samples for disease monitoring and to put out new radio-collars to increase our sample size. Our goals for 2021 include attempting to get a new sample of coyotes in the most urban areas of Cook County fitted with GPS collars once again.
One question we have received from the media and general public has been some form of ‘did we observe any changes in coyote behavior during the Covid shutdown?’ The short answer is that we were not in a position to document short-term changes if they occurred, but that we have not noticed appreciable long-term changes in their activity or space use. On a small, local scale, some coyotes may have altered their behavior, but keep in mind that there are always a small number of coyotes likely shifting their behavior for one reason or another (usually food related) that may have relatively little to do with the shutdown.
Stay tuned for more information!