Coyote pup born to C-144, a female who spends the majority of her time in the Westlake neighborhood. National Park Service.
Coyotes sightings are common in many Los Angeles neighborhoods, especially those that abut Griffith and Elysian parks and places like Brentwood and Studio City that are adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains. But now for the first time, the National Park Service has captured and collared two coyotes that live in urban areas closer to downtown. A female equipped with a GPS collar spends most of her time in the Westlake area and, of interest to researchers, regularly crosses the 101 freeway. An older male has been collared in the Silver Lake area. Here's what the NPS put out today:
“No one knew if the coyotes in these extremely urban areas were establishing their home ranges exclusively within the developed area or whether they were simply passing through on their way to natural habitat patches like Griffith Park or Elysian Park,” said Justin Brown, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “From just a few months of data, we now know that coyotes are persisting within home ranges that have high human densities and little natural habitat, which is quite remarkable.”
Although the park studied coyotes from 1996 to 2004 in the western Santa Monica Mountains along the 101 Freeway and in the highly fragmented Simi Hills, this is the first study of urban Los Angeles coyotes. GPS collars provide detailed movement data with an average of eight data points over a 24-hour period.
The first of two coyotes captured for the new project is known as C-144 because she is the 144th coyote tracked since the National Park Service began studying coyotes in Southern California. A female estimated to be two or three years old, she spends most of her time in the Westlake neighborhood, a densely populated area just west of downtown with very little natural habitat. She is currently raising at least five pups.
C-144 is believed to have one of the most urban home ranges of any coyote ever studied and has already surprised biologists by crossing the 101 Freeway several times, near where it intersects with the 110 Freeway. Decades of coyote, bobcat and mountain lion research in the Santa Monica Mountains have demonstrated that the 101 Freeway is a near-impenetrable barrier further to the west. It’s unclear whether C-144 is crossing directly over the freeway or is finding alternative methods like bridges or underpasses.
C-145, captured later in May, is a male estimated to be between four and eight years of age with a home range in the Silver Lake neighborhood. He has made extensive use of both residential areas and the natural habitat in the area, but thus far has not crossed any of the freeways that surround the neighborhood.
Based on a limited analysis of GPS data for the two coyotes, researchers found that more than half of the recorded locations are in developed areas, such as along roads and in high-density residential areas. The remainder of the recorded locations were in landscapes defined as altered, such as vacant lots or parks. Whereas 77% of locations from the previous western Los Angeles County study were recorded in natural areas, defined as at least one square kilometer of natural vegetation, zero of C-144 and C-145’s GPS points met that definition.
As part of today's announcement, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area also unveiled a new urban wildlife blog, Gridlocked. The first post, by ranger Kate Kuykendall, publishes data from the coyote study showing that the pair have been detected about a third of the time in residential yards but are most commonly found on vacant hillsides. About 10 percent of the time the coyotes are on school grounds.
KPCC got an early heads up on the new study and has a story up with behind the scenes photos. Here's an NPS map on where the coyotes have been spotted.