Lone Tree joining metro coyote study

Researchers expected to trap, collar animals to gather data

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To gain a better sense of its coyote population, the City of Lone Tree will join a metro-area study. Local coyotes likely will be trapped, collared and their movements tracked, with those finding released to the community.

The Denver Metro Area Coyote Behavioral Study already is underway in Broomfield, Jefferson and Adams counties. Twenty coyotes currently are collared and unwittingly providing data for researchers.

“Information is power,” said study investigator Mary Ann Bonnell. “The more we know about our urban coyotes, I think can help reduce this problem we have. It’s not going to eliminate risk, but it can reduce risk.”

To date in 2013, coyotes killed three Lone Tree dogs and residents reported 60 sightings via a reporting system set up on the city’s website. In spring 2012, police believe coyotes killed six dogs in Lone Tree and Acres Green.

Bonnell advocates for educated co-existence.

“When it comes to coyote management, there are some folks that have this idea we should just shoot them to get rid of them,” she said. “I always say coyote math is one minus one equals one. If you remove a coyote, there’s always a coyote waiting to fill that gap in the territory.”

The data already collected shows coyote territories ranging from two to 75 square miles. Tracking maps show many of the animals move through residential areas at night. Those maps often are eye-openers for residents, Bonnell said, who see firsthand that coyotes don’t consider fences designed to keep pets safe as barriers.

“We’ve been trying to get pet owners the message for a long time,” she said. “Just because you have a fence or live in what you think is a very urban place, letting the dog out at 11 at night and not supervising it directly is accepting a certain amount of risk.”

Lone Tree already has a coyote hazing team of area residents and a coyote management policy. This study, Police Chief Jeff Streeter said, will provide another tool.

“These coyotes are not going away,” he said. “So we’ve got to educate and work through that.”

The collars aren’t intended to help authorities find problem coyotes, but investigator Mary Ann Bonnell said they can serve that purpose.

“Having a collar on a coyote does not exempt it from whatever the local municipality’s rules are for dealing with coyotes,” she said. “Let’s say by chance we do put a collar on a coyote that’s involved in some conflict behavior in Lone Tree. If it gets to a level where Lone Tree says that coyote needs to be removed, it’s going to be a pretty easy animal to find.”

The padded leg traps are equipped with a sedative that relaxes the animal until officials reach it. An alarm alerts investigators to a trap release, and traps only are open at night to reduce the chance of what Bonnell called “incidental catch.”

She doesn’t yet know when trapping in Lone Tree will begin, where traps will be set, or how many coyotes investigators will attempt to collar. Trapping sites will be well signed, and more information made public when trapping begins.

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