How do you study the behavior of wild coyotes while limiting the likelihood of unnatural responses due to human presence, traps, and/or cages? Follow the coyotes into the field, of course!
Two types of field tests that are being conducted on some of the radio-collared individuals are Flight Initiation Distance Tests and Novel Object Tests. Both are ways to examine coyote boldness levels, where “boldness” is a term that describes how willing coyotes are to explore and/or take risks. Note that boldness does not necessarily correlate to coyote aggression.
Flight Initiation Distance Tests are used to measure how boldly animals behave toward humans. Novel Object Tests are used to gauge the relative boldness of individuals to new stimuli in their known environments.
Data collected from these field-based methods will be combined with other approaches to examine behavioral syndromes (i.e. bold-shy tendencies) in forest preserve, suburban, and urban coyotes throughout the Chicago area. So far, there has been quite a bit of variation across the urban gradient.