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Scientists collar third coyote in urban study, lose first

This remote camera photo shows a coyote, either C-146 or one of her pack mates, near the L.A. River before C-146 was captured.
National Park Service
This remote camera photo shows either C-146 or one of her pack mates near the LA River before C-146 was captured.

The National Park Service announced on Wednesday that scientists have collared a third coyote as part of a ground-breaking study of how the animals persist in highly urbanized environments. The female coyote, designated C-146, is expected to expand the knowledge of how Los Angeles' coyotes behave, partly because she uses an area of the Los Angeles River for part of her habitat. 

“We’re very interested to learn how this animal is using the Los Angeles River,” Justin Brown, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in a written statement. “So far all of her recorded GPS locations have been confined to a two mile or so stretch on both sides of the river."

Caption: A map of the coyotes captured and collared so far as part of a study of highly urbanized coyotes in Los Angeles County. (Credit: National Park Service)

The coyote is also interesting to researchers, because she is a juvenile and expected to disperse from her parents' care in coming months. Researchers are excited to monitor at what point she leaves and the route she takes when she does.

At the same time, however, the collar on another coyote, C-144, has stopped functioning prematurely, believed to be the result of a dead battery. That coyote was the first collared by Brown and mostly used highly urbanized areas in downtown LA for its habitat. 

Brown said in an email that he was unsure of why the battery died after only five months. It had been expected to last a year. He suggested the batteries may have been defective battery or that poor GPS reception downtown caused extended upload times. 

Researchers said it's unlikely they'll be able to recapture C-144. Despite the early loss of the collar, Brown said the information the coyote provided through 1,200 data points was valuable to the study. 

Even so, the loss was felt because of unusual behavior exhibited by C-144 shortly before her collar's battery died. The coyote, which had spent the majority of her time in the neighborhood of Westlake, left suddenly and headed west through Koreatown, East Hollywood, Larchmont, Windsor Square, and Hancock Park before returning to her territory. Brown said it was the kind of mysterious behavior such an extended study could've helped explain.

“It’s highly unusual for an alpha female to leave her home range like this,” Brown said in a blog post. “We’d really like to understand why she left her territory, but unfortunately without a working collar we probably will never know.”