U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



J Ethol (2015) 33:137–144


U.S. Government Work


As more research focuses on behavioral syndromes and their role in ecological and evolutionary processes, it is imperative that methods to test behavior are valid. The objectives of this study were to (1) assess behavior in captive coyotes (Canis latrans) using three methods [agitation scores, novel object test, and flightinitiation distance (FID)] and (2) to determine whether the three tests were correlated within individuals to describe behavioral syndromes. Female coyotes had higher agitation scores during handling (2.6 ± 0.5) than males (1.5 ± 0.3; t = 1.90, p = 0.06): scores ranged from 0 to 8 on a 0–11 scale. The most common behavior observed was biting at y-stick. Only 27 % of males and 10 % of females approached a novel object within 1 m, with females (37.3 ± 18.6 s) taking less time than males (136.7 ± 50.4 s; p = 0.09). There was no difference in the distance at which males (17.5 ± 4.0 m) and females fled during FID tests (20.7 ± 5.4 m; p = 0.64, n = 30). We found no relationships between FID and agitation scores (r2 = 0.13, p = 0.12) or time to approach a novel object and agitation scores (r2 = 0.001, p = 0.89). There was a slightly positive relationship between FID and time to approach a novel object (r2 = 0.15, p = 0.03), but no relationship among all three tests (r2 = 0.15, p = 0.45). Our results suggest a behavioral syndrome for boldness and explorations, but these traits are unlikely to be coupled with aggression in coyotes. While these three tests may not be ideally combined to create a behavioral syndrome in individual coyotes, using FID and novel object testing may elucidate a type of behavioral syndrome.

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