Posts Tagged: Niamh Quinn
As urban coyote numbers rise, the animals are increasingly crossing paths with residents. There have been police reports of coyotes attacking pets and even people, but there has been no place to report casual coyote encounters. Now there is a new mobile app to help keep track of where those wily coyotes are coming into contact with people. Hikers and people walking their dogs can use Coyote Cacher, created by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, to report coyote sightings.
“I'm so excited about this app because it will help us to collect better information on coyote conflict in California,” said Niamh Quinn, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, who studies human-wildlife interactions. “Coyote conflict appears to be particularly high in Southern California and it seems to be emerging in other areas. The information people provide through Coyote Cacher will help inform government agencies, wildlife researchers, park managers and residents to make better coyote management decisions.”
By reporting encounters with coyotes in their neighborhoods, residents can share information to help neighbors keep their pets and children safe.
“There is a coyote encounter map that will allow the public to keep track of what is happening in their areas,” said Quinn, who is based in Orange County.
Individuals can use the app to check a map to see locations of coyote sightings. Pet owners may decide not to let their pets out at night unsupervised in areas where coyotes have been reported.
“The app allows users to sign up for email alerts,” Quinn said. “These alerts – green, yellow and red – notify users when there is a coyote encounter reported in their zip code.”
Green is the lowest alert level and will give alerts for all coyote encounters in the user's zip code, from sightings to a person being bitten. Yellow will not alert users about sightings, but will let them know about all levels of pet interactions, including pets being chased or attacked off-leash by coyotes, and red alerts. Red is the highest alert level and allows for users to be informed only about the more serious incidents, for example, a coyote attacking a pet on a leash or biting a person.
“This app will also allow me to gather baseline information on coyote activity and the success of community hazing,” Quinn said.
Community hazing involves people shouting and waving their arms at coyotes and generally being obnoxious to make the nuisance animals afraid of humans.
“It would be great if everyone would do this when they see a coyote, but at the moment this is not really happening,” Quinn said. “Also, coyotes in Southern California appear to take a lot of risks and come in close contact with humans so community hazing may not deter them.”
More intense hazing, like shooting them with paintball guns, might be more effective techniques for government agencies to manage urban coyotes, she said.
To find out if any of these techniques work, the UC wildlife scientist would like to put collars on urban coyotes to study whether the animals move away from locations after hazing.
“We are seeking funding to collar coyotes to find out more about their activity and social structure and how they react to different types of management,” Quinn said. “We would need to figure out if the effects of the hazing are long-lasting, or if the coyotes just revert to ‘bad behavior' when the hazing is stopped.”
Although Quinn's research is focused on California, Coyote Cacher can be used anywhere in the United States. The website also offers information about urban coyotes.
Coyote Cacher can be used on a computer or on a mobile device at http://ucanr.edu/CoyoteCacher.
The Coyote Cacher app was designed by UC ANR's Informatics and Geographic Information Systems and funded by UC Cooperative Extension in Orange County.
The Vertebrate Pest Conference is held every two years, usually in California, in cooperation with the Pesticide Applicators Professional Association (PAPA). The leading authorities with vertebrate management expertise from around the world congregate to present the latest research and extension information.
The conference is intended for animal control officials, wildlife managers, agricultural producers, pest control advisers, consultants, educators, researchers and natural resource managers. California Department of Pesticide Regulation and California Department of Public Health continuing education units are available for participants. Special symposia at the conference include bird, wild pig, and urban coyote management.
At the Vertebrate Pest Conference, experts will share the latest information about coyote attacks, human-coyote conflicts, and present several talks on coyote management, including hazing.
Niamh Quinn, a UC Cooperative Extension vertebrate pest advisor based at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Orange County, is one speaker on the growing problem of urban coyotes. With over 3 million people in Orange County, 8 state parks and beaches, countless city parks and 19 county parks and wilderness areas, conflicts with urban coyotes are bound to happen. Managing coyotes includes managing people's behavior too.
“We can't manage what we can't measure. This conference provides a unique opportunity to discuss ongoing conflicts, especially those related to urban coyote management," Quinn said. "Research is needed to understand urban coyote behavior and if these behaviors are changing as a result of the way we are currently living. Outreach is needed to instruct urbanites on appropriate behavior where coyote conflicts are occurring, and managing coyotes is everyone's concern. We need better and improved strategies for measuring and managing these conflicts.”
One talk at the Vertebrate Pest Conference will be a North American overview of bird damage in fruit crops. Other presentations cover field rodent repellents, food safety, and trapping.
California law states: “Except as otherwise authorized in these regulations or in the Fish and Game Code, no person shall harass, herd or drive any game or nongame bird or mammal or fur-bearing mammal. For the purposes of this section, harass is defined as an intentional act that disrupts an animal's normal behavior patterns, which includes but is not limited to, breeding, feeding or sheltering. This section does not apply to a landowner or tenant who drives or herds birds or mammals for the purpose of preventing damage to private or public property, including aquaculture and agriculture crops.”
Feeding wild animals may help non-native, invasive, nuisance and feral animals survive, says Niamh Quinn, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.
“Many of these species have public health risks associated with them, which can cause serious illness in humans,” Quinn said. “Rats and squirrels carry fleas that transmit plague and feral cats also carry fleas that carry typhus. Both of these diseases can be transmitted to people and cause serious illness, or even death.”
During the summer of 2015, two tourists at Yosemite National Park contracted plague, but humans are not the only ones at risk from disease. Wildlife can also become more exposed to disease as a result of people feeding them.
The Pacific Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in America, extending from Alaska to Patagonia. As part of the Pacific Flyway, California is a temporary home for many species of birds. Due to people feeding them, some of these birds no longer naturally migrate.
Sustaining nonnative and feral animals can also have negative impacts on native wildlife, she said.
“For example, the eastern fox squirrel, which has now been released in many cities in the state, is competing with the native western gray squirrel,” said Quinn. “Sustaining the nonnative and invasive eastern fox squirrel could further aid in its distribution in the state, which would spell disaster for the native gray squirrel.”
“Not only do these species have public health issues associated with them, they also compete with native wildlife,” Quinn said. “They prey on bird eggs and can compete with native rodents for food resources.”
Indirect feeding of wildlife can also lead to serious conflicts between people and wildlife, Quinn warned.
“Bears that become accustomed to human food often have to be trapped and re-released and some are even euthanized,” Quinn said. “Coyotes are now common-place in some of our cities in California. Relying on human food could cause habituation of these wild animals and cause conflicts to rise. It is important that we cover our trash cans and make sure that we keep wildlife out of them.”
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has an initiative called “Keep Me Wild” with the slogan “Wild animals don't need your handouts. They need your respect.” Quinn urges people to consider the long-term welfare of wildlife the next time they are tempted to feed wild animals.
For more information about managing pests around homes, visit the UC ANR Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website: http://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html.