Newport This Week

Federal Grant to Fund Coyote Research

Rhode Island will receive a $1.1 million grant for a five-year study of coyotes to be conducted by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey and The Conservation Agency. The research will look at the changing coyote population, how coyotes interact with people, and the best ways for people and coyotes to co-exist safely in the state’s increasingly urbanized landscape.

The research will be led by Dr. Numi Mitchell of The Conservation Agency’s Narragansett Bay Coyote Study, and will involve partnerships with the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Roger Williams Park Zoo and

Funding for the project will be provided by DEM’s Division of Fish & Wildlife through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. The total project cost, including private matching funds, is $1.5 million. Matching funds will be provided by the project partners as well as by the Prince Charitable Trusts, the Rhode Island Foundation and other funders.

“DEM is pleased to support the RI Natural History Survey, The Conservation Agency and our partners in this important study of Rhode Island’s coyote population,” DEM director Janet Coit said in a press release. “Coyotes that find abundant and easily obtained food resources around neighborhoods may become bold and habituated to human activity, creating situations that are detrimental to the animal and can also put small pets at risk. This project will document how intentional feeding endangers wildlife and residents, and will encourage the public to identify and stop these practices so that Rhode Islanders can co-exist with coyotes and enjoy viewing them from afar.”

The project team will be asking for the public’s help to find coyote “hot spots,” areas where lots of coyotes visit to get food, raise pups and mark territory. Using GPS tracking collars, trail cameras and more traditional tracking techniques, researchers will observe coyotes before and after cleaning up any significant human-provided food resources in the area. Researchers will track two coyotes in each hot spot for up to a year.

Residents, as well as town and state officials, will also be enlisted to help report and clean up food subsidies around each study site so researchers can look for changes in coyote behavior and population density. Residents can share that information regarding hot spots by using an interactive map at the project’s website, which is the

As part of the study, T.J. Mc- Greevy, research assistant professor of Natural Resources Science at URI, will carry out genetic analysis of the coyote population. Volunteers will collect coyote scat at hot spots for DNA fingerprinting. This will help identify the number of coyotes in a pack and the genetic relationships among packs across the state. Scat analysis will also help researchers learn about coyotes diet from place to place and at different seasons.

Roger Williams Park Zoo will also be participating in the project. “Our goal at the zoo is to provide a clear understanding to the public on the relationship between urban wildlife and the human population,” said Lou Perrotti, the zoo’s director of conservation programs, in a press release. “We want adults and children to understand the personality of the coyote so they can learn to respect and understand this animal, and realize that coyotes are not pests but in fact play a valuable ecological role. We hope that the information we provide will give folks the tools to observe and not engage with any coyote they see in their neighborhoods or parks.”

Mitchell has been studying coyotes on Aquidneck Island and in Jamestown for more than 14 years. Her research suggests that coyotes and humans can co-exist safely in even densely developed neighborhoods as long as coyotes do not come to associate humans with food.

This grant allows Mitchell to expand her research, conducting the first controlled food-removal experiments across Rhode Island. She will also test her theory on the mainland in different habitats than occur on the islands and where coyote movements are not restricted by shorelines on all sides.

“The Natural History Survey was created to facilitate projects like this, with diverse partners, complex funding, and an application of science to real-world problems,” said Survey executive director David Gregg. “The insights we’ll gain and the connections we’ll make in the course of this research will materially improve our understanding of the world around us.”

To learn more about the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study, including links to news, videos and an interactive map, visit

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