UC Davis’ DNA Study of Coyotes in San Francisco

click on image to enlarge

Back in 2007, shortly after I began my own dedicated urban coyote investigations and studies, I became interested in the possibility of using DNA from scat to find out more about our urban coyotes. In researching lab possibilities, I came across Ben Sacks at UC Davis and then Erin Boydston who would soon be working for the USGS. Erin confirmed for me that Ben was involved in such a study. It was Erin Boydston, who had been hired by the Presidio to document the wildlife in that park, who delivered the first sample of DNA (this was a blood sample) to Ben’s lab for analysis where it was determined that the coyotes were from Mendocino County. My timing was perfect, as Ben Sacks asked me to collect scat from San Francisco for his DNA study here. I contributed to the study as the *citizen-scientist* and a naturalist with a special interest in coyotes.

This poster above, with a summary of the project, has just finished being assembled by Camilo Sanchez who has been a part of the project at UC Davis. I’ve been given permission by Ben to post it here.

My own study of coyotes here in San Francisco — investigating and documenting urban coyote behavior including their behavior in relation to people and pets and getting this out to the public, documenting different levels of habituation and its effect on their behavior, and documenting different population pockets, densities, and territoriality in the city — something no one else has been doing — has been ongoing since 2007, hey, making it the longest running such study in the city! I’ve asked Ben if he might be able to do more analysis (I’ve already collected and vialed specimens from throughout the city) — specifically to determine what proportion of our coyotes are the progeny of those originally from Mendocino County, and how many might be immigrants from the South. Because of the structure of funding at universities, Ben told me that he can only continue this study if we find funding for a graduate student. Hopefully this will happen — and the study will be an ongoing one, continuing what was begun in 2006.

When I first started, it was Stan Gehrt — from Ohio State, who runs the longest running coyote study in the country — who spurred me on by encouragingly corresponding with me during my initial documentation work, answering my questions about what I had observed, sharing his incredible territorial diagrams (before they were published on his site), giving me citations, and then connecting me with a graduate student, who came all the way to San Francisco to decide upon and carry out a dissertation project. Interests change, and she decided to move on into journalism and videography. As a journalism intern, and with her background knowledge and interest in coyotes, she interviewed me for a Bay Nature Connections profile where she called me “a pioneer in the photo-documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing their intimate lives”, a phrase I like and repeat when describing what I do!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s