LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two coyotes who have taken up residence near the heart of downtown Los Angeles are being tracked and studied by National Park Service researchers.
The two coyotes, a male and a female, were captured near downtown in May and have been outfitted with GPS collars, as part of an effort to understand how the animals survive in one of the nation’s most intensely urbanized areas, National Park Service officials said recently.
“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,” Justin Brown, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement. “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.”
Coyotes, which are medium-sized canids common to North America, have a negative reputation but biologists say conflicts with humans are rare. Park officials say they studied coyotes from 1996 to 2004 in the western Santa Monica Mountains along the 101 Freeway and the highly fragmented Simi Hills, but this is the first study of urban Los Angeles coyotes.
The first of the two coyotes is a female dubbed C-144, estimated to be 2 or 3 years old, who appears to have taken up residence in the Westlake neighborhood, a densely populated area just west of downtown with little natural habitat. Researchers say she is currently raising at least five pups.
Biologists say they were stunned to discover C-144 crossing the 101 Freeway several times, near where it intersects with the 110 Freeway. Previous research of coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains had found that 101 Freeway is a near-impenetrable barrier further to the west.
It’s not known yet if C-144 is crossing directly over the freeway, or is finding other ways to pass, like bridges or underpasses.
The second coyote, a male named C-144, is estimated to be between 4 and 8 years old with a home range in Silver Lake. Researchers say he make extensive use of both residential areas and natural habitat in the area, but has not yet crossed any of the freeways that surround the neighborhood.
Researchers say they hope to learn more about how these coyotes are using the landscape, how much space they need and what kind of conflict, if any, they are having with humans as the study progresses.