Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

February 1997


This paper presents (1) a brief overview of several concepts important to predator-prey behaviors of coyotes, (2) results of an enclosure study of sheep-attack, -immobilization, and -ingestion responses involving 12 male coyotes (Canis latrans) that were paired with sheep after observing various sheep- predation events by conspecifics, and (3) an analysis of sheep predation based upon operant learning principles. Contrasts between comparative psychological and ethological approaches to the study of animal behavior are described. Results of the enclosure study (0.127-ha) showed that following matched-length trials of observing predation, non-predation, and lone sheep, 3, 2, and 1 coyote(s), respectively, made fatal attacks (FAs) of sheep. Although a transitive effect occurred for numbers of observer coyotes completing FAs in the 3 groups, the limited sample sizes precluded confirmation of the "observational-learning" hypothesis. Operant learning principles relevant to the predator-prey sequence are discussed.