Continued DNA Study

Continued DNA study of coyotes in San Francisco is proceeding forward!

Professor Ben Sacks of UC Davis initiated the DNA study of San Francisco coyotes when he analyzed DNA from the first coyotes that re-appeared in San Francisco in 2002 after decades of absence from the city. It is his study which showed that these early coyote arrivals in San Francisco came from Mendocino County. Ben had previously discovered that markers differentiated various geographical groups of coyotes, and one of those groups he was able to isolate and identify was Mendocino coyotes. San Francisco coyotes matched these.

The study was expanded in 2008 with more samples (which I collected from throughout the city) whereby Ben Sacks’ graduate student, Katherine Marquez, studied the connectivity of our population to surrounding rural populations (2011).

And now we’re into yet another round of tests from scats I collected over the last four years from throughout the city, with many defecations occuring as I watched, so I know “who” they came from as well as their family relationships, among other things. So we already have a lot of information about these coyotes. Ben has generously and graciously taken on the DNA analysis of this project, which he’ll incorporate into his teaching. The earlier scats will be used as benchmarks.

My two main questions include, “To what extent and how are the coyotes in San Francisco related to one another?” This will show movement within the city, and will show to what extent inbreeding has occurred. And, “Are all or most of our present population descended from the original Mendocino group, or have some trickled in from south of the city?” Stay tuned for the results later on this year.

Note that DNA from scat is a totally non-intrusive, non-invasive way of collecting information about coyotes, beyond my dedicated direct-observations which take a lot of time. A lot of what we find out in this DNA study will be confirming what I already know through hours of observation and documentation, but even more of it will be revealing new information and connections.