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


Date of this Version



Published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science 125 (2010) 171–180.


The potential for captivity to elicit changes in animal behavior and physiology is well known. Recent research on captive populations has examined the effect of feeding protocols, enclosure types, and enrichment programs on indices of stress and displays of species-typical behaviors. We investigated the impact of enclosure type upon captive coyotes (Canis latrans) by examining differences in coyote behavior and heart rate, among 3.3m2 kennels (K), 65.5m2 small pens (S), and 1000m2 large pens (L). Time budgets and repertoire of species-specific behaviors were compared among each enclosure type and to a sample of wild (W) coyotes. Baseline heart rates and heart rate (HR) responses to food delivery and fecal collection (measured as mean heart rate and latency of heart rate to return to baseline) were also compared among treatments. We found that behavioral budgeting, but not repertoire, differed significantly among enclosure types. Relative to small and large pen enclosures, coyotes maintained in kennels exhibited the greatest amount of stereotypic behavior (P < 0.0001). Coyotes kept in large pens were most similar to wild coyotes in the percentage of time they spent performing exploratory (K: 2.7%; S: 4.9%; L: 8.5%; W: 12.0%) and stand and scan (K: 8.0%; S: 16.4%; L: 22.0%; W: 22.3%) behaviors. Heart rate analysis showed that baseline heart rates and heart rate responses to food delivery did not differ significantly among enclosure types. Mean heart rate responses to fecal collection were significantly higher for kennel coyotes than for those maintained in large pens (P = 0.04). Similarly, latency to return to baseline was significantly higher in kennels than in small and large pens (P = 0.001). These results suggest that enclosure type does influence coyote behavior and heart rate responses to some human activities.