Coyotes living near cities are bolder: implications for dog evolution and human-wildlife conflict

In: Behaviour
James Brooks Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8203, Japan

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Roland Kays Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27607, USA

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Brian Hare Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

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How animal populations adapt to human modified landscapes is central to understanding modern behavioural evolution and improving wildlife management. Coyotes (Canis latrans) have adapted to human activities and thrive in both rural and urban areas. Bolder coyotes showing reduced fear of humans and their artefacts may have an advantage in urban environments. We analysed the reactions of 636 coyotes to novel human artefacts (camera traps) at 575 sites across the state of North Carolina. Likelihood of a coyote approaching the camera increased with human housing density suggesting that urban coyotes are experiencing selection for boldness and becoming more attracted to human artefacts. This has implications for both human-wildlife conflict and theories of dog domestication. We also note physical traits in coyotes that could be the result of domestication-related selection pressures, or dog hybridization.

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