Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Early-life experience influences dispersal in coyotes (Canis latrans)


Zepeda, Emily et al. (2021), Data from: Early-life experience influences dispersal in coyotes (Canis latrans), Dryad, Dataset,


Natal dispersal plays an important role in connecting individual animal behavior with ecological processes at all levels of biological organization. As urban environments are rapidly increasing in extent and intensity, understanding how urbanization influences these long distance movements is critical for predicting the persistence of species and communities. There is considerable variation in the movement responses of individuals within a species, some of which is attributed to behavioral plasticity which interacts with experience to produce interindividual differences in behavior. For natal dispersers, much of this experience occurs in the natal home range. Using data collected from VHF collared coyotes (Canis latrans) in the Chicago Metropolitan Area we explored the relationship between early-life experience with urbanization and departure, transience, and settlement behavior. Additionally, we looked at how early-life experience with urbanization influenced survival to adulthood and the likelihood of experiencing a vehicle-related mortality. We found that coyotes with more developed habitat in their natal home range were more likely to disperse and tended to disperse farther than individuals with more natural habitat in their natal home range. Interestingly, our analysis produced mixed results for the relationship between natal habitat and habitat selection during settlement. Finally, we found no evidence that early-life experience with urbanization influenced survival to adulthood or the likelihood of experiencing vehicular mortality. Our study provides evidence that early-life exposure influences dispersal behavior; however, it remains unclear how these differences ultimately affect fitness.


Location data: 

Coyotes used in this study were captured year-round between 2000 and 2018. Trapping was done opportunistically in nature preserves and on private properties across the CMA using foot-hold traps or cable restraints. After animals were captured, they were transported to a laboratory where they were immobilized with Telazol (Zoetis Manufacturing & Research) and fitted with VHF radiocollars (Advanced Telemetry Systems and Lotek Wireless). Coyotes were located using triangulation with a truck mounted antenna or by visual observations. Coordinates were recorded with the program LOCATE II (Pacer). Coyotes were located once during the day, typically 2 or 3 times per week, and at night during tracking shifts in which we focused on a group of coyotes and obtained sequential locations at 60 to 120 minute intervals for 5 to 6 hours during the night. When radiocollared coyotes disappeared, we conducted flights with a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft to locate signals and then confirmed on the ground.  Such flights were deployed opportunistically in most years, and covered northeastern Illinois and parts of Wisconsin and Indiana.   

Parent-offspring relationships: 

Parent-offspring relationships were established using blood or tissue samples collected at the time of capture.   Individuals were genotyped using microsattelite markers and scored using Genetic Analysis System Software (version 8.0, Beckman-Coulter, Inc., Fullerton, California). Genotypes of pups were matched with parents using the programs CERVUS and PASOS (version 1.0; Duchesne et al. 2005). Further details can be found in Hennessy et al. (2012).

Mortality data: 

Of the 85 coyotes in the original dispersal analysis, 48 were recovered post-mortem. Mortality data for these coyotes included approximate date of death and the suspected cause of death. In particular, we were able to identify mortality due to vehicle collisions with high confidence.