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


Date of this Version

March 2003


Published by Can. J. Zool. 81: 2015-2025 (2003).


The primary objective of this study was to develop a better understanding of coyote (Canis latrans) wariness particularly as it related to social status. We determined that territory status (controlling alpha, resident beta, or nonterritorial transient) affected vulnerability to photo-capture by infrared-triggered camera systems. All coyotes were wary of cameras, leading to relatively low numbers of photo-captures, most of which occurred at night. Alphas were significantly underrepresented in photographs and were never photo-captured inside their awn territories. Betas were photographed inside and outside their territories, whereas transients were most often photographed on edges of territories. Both alphas and betas were photographed more often on territorial edges when outside their territories. We next addressed the question of how alphas were better able to avoid photo-capture. Alphas tracked human activity within their territories and presumably learned the locations of cameras as they were being set up. They did this either by approaching our location directly or by moving to a vantage point from where they could observe us. Betas and transients either withdrew or did not respond to human activity. Trials in which a dog was present were more likely to elicit an approach response from alphas. Avoidance of camera stations and the tracking of human activity implied wariness toward objects or locations resulting from their learned association with human presence rather than neophobia toward the objects themselves.