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A predator in the park: mixed methods analysis of
user preference for coyotes in urban parks
Jackson Wilson & Jeff Rose
To cite this article: Jackson Wilson & Jeff Rose (2019) A predator in the park: mixed methods
analysis of user preference for coyotes in urban parks, Leisure Studies, 38:3, 435-451, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02614367.2019.1586979
Published online: 07 Mar 2019.
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A predator in the park: mixed methods analysis of user
preference for coyotes in urban parks
Department of Recreation, Parks & Tourism, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, USA;
of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
This mixed methods study explores the relative preference people in the
United States have for sharing leisure space in their local urban parks with
coyotes. Two rounds of survey data (n= 482) and a series of interviews (n= 28)
were conducted. In both survey samples, people preferred to share park
space with coyotes less than all other species options (e.g., people experien-
cing homelessness, oﬀ-leashdogs). Interview data suggest that the primary
reason for this lack of desire to share park space with coyotes is a perception
that coyotes are dangerous for people and pets. This strong level of prefer-
ence against coyotes has implications for current eﬀorts to promote human-
wildlife coexistence strategies in many urban and peri-urban locations.
Received 17 September 2018
Accepted 14 February 2019
Coyotes; parks; leisure space;
fear; marginalized park users
Parks are not only physical, material spaces of leisure; they are also social constructs (Proctor, 1998).
Social norms dictate appropriate behaviours in parks and subsequently constrain which humans and
other species are welcome or spurned from these natural urban and peri-urban spaces (Taylor, 1999;
Webster, 2007). These norms are often contentious and create public debates about whether diﬀerent
visitors, including oﬀ-leash domestic dogs (Wilson, Yoshino, & Latkova, 2018) or people experiencing
homelessness (Rose, 2017), should have the same access to public parks as housed people that will
abide by middle-class standards of behavior (e.g., relatively clean clothes, innocuous smell, visiting the
park for supposedly appropriate recreational purposes; Taylor, 1999).
The coyote (Canis latrans) has trotted into the middle of this debate (Figure 1). Coyotes are a North
American canid that are 1–1.5 m in length and 9.1–16.0 kg in weight (Bekoﬀ&Gese,2003). Aided by
anthropogenic changes to the environment, such as the elimination from wolves from much of their
traditional range, coyotes have expanded their range from Northern Alaska to Costa Rica (Bekoﬀ&
Gese, 2003;Rutherford,2018). That increase in range includes urban and peri-urban areas that have
traditionally been socially constructed as spaces dedicated for people (Rutherford, 2018;Wolch,2002).
The presence of coyotes in urban environments has led to a range of responses. Although rare,
coyotes occasionally attack humans (Baker & Timm, 2017). In contrast, they regularly prey upon
domesticated cats and small dogs (Alexander & Quinn, 2011). Fear of coyotes has classically resulted
in attempts to exterminate them (Timm & Baker, 2007). More recently, agencies have adopted less lethal
management stances (Alexander & Quinn, 2011;White&Gehrt,2009). Rather than trapping and killing
coyotes, the goal has been to educate the public on how to minimize negative interactions. However,
there are some that believe this education-based management strategy is not appropriate for parks and
other urban green spaces and coyotes should be removed from all urban and peri-urban locations
CONTACT Jackson Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org Department of Recreation, Parks & Tourism, San Francisco State
University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, HSS335, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA
2019, VOL. 38, NO. 3, 435–451
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
There is conﬂicting evidence about current North American attitudes towards coyotes in local
parks. In a US-based nation-wide survey, Kellert (1985) found that dogs were the most liked and
coyotes were one of the less liked animals, but he also commented that the ‘traditional European
antipathy toward the predator’(p. 168) was waning, and Americans were moving towards a ‘far
greater diversity and conﬂict of viewpoints, paralleling America’s divisions on wildlife, or the
necessity of wildlife damage control’(p. 168). Baker and Timm (1998) described this shift as, ‘...
attitudes of many people in today’s society toward wild animals have changed from respect and
fear to a certain reverence’(p. 309). Timm (2006) characterized this shift as the public ‘developing
(a) “Disney mentality”toward wildlife’(p. 144). Although these statements suggest a growing
tolerance of coyotes, an increasing number of attacks (Baker & Timm, 2017) and negative
evaluations of coyotes in the media (Alexander & Quinn, 2012) may reverse this trend. As
Gehrt (2004) equivocally stated, ‘Although the sight or sound of a coyote elicits fear in some
residents, it often produces more favorable responses in others’(p. 84).
Given the lack of clarity about the public’s perception of coyotes in their local parks, this study
examined the relative preference for sharing parks and other urban green spaces with coyotes using data
from a survey that compared the preference for sharing park space with other entities and interviews to
further explore those rankings. These analyses inform contemporary perspectives of wildlife in urban
space and provide data to inform park management practices. This research also helps characterize
human-animal relations in settings that are most typically characterized as leisure spaces.
Figure 1. Galante (2018) urban coyote.
436 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
A sequential mixed method design was used, grounded in pragmatism (Creswell & Creswell,
2018), a paradigm that focuses on consequences. Operating from this perspective often leads
researchers to use multiple methods to investigate the research question. This study used surveys
to understand preferences, and conducted interviews to help explore those rankings. Survey
samples (n= 482) were collected online and in-person using an instrument developed for this
study to understand the relative preference of people to share park space with diﬀerent entities.
A series of interviews (n= 28) further explored participant preferences for sharing public park
spaces with coyotes.
The instrument was developed to understand the relative preference of people for sharing public
park space with eight diﬀerent entities; person, person perceived as experiencing homelessness,
person with on-leash dog, person with oﬀ-leash dog, homeless person with on-leash dog, home-
less person with oﬀ-leash dog, oﬀ-leash dog with no person, and a coyote. The eight entities were
chosen based on current controversies focused on the presence of dogs (Wilson et al., 2018),
homelessness (Rose, 2017), and coyotes (Webster, 2007) in urban and peri-urban parks.
The instrument had ﬁve sections. After the informed consent, respondents were asked, ‘What
is the name of the park that you most frequently visit for 15 minutes or more?’and then asked to
identify the location of that park. The name of each respondent’s primary park was inserted into
subsequent questions about the park to provide respondents with a concrete, known context to
ground their responses. Second, respondents were presented with two attention-checking dichot-
omous survey items. These two items described one of two pictures and requested the respondent
to click on the described picture. The third section started with an introduction informing the
respondent that there would be a series of 28 unique items asking which entity they would prefer
to see in their primary park they had previously identiﬁed. The 28 dichotomous items forced
respondents to choose the most preferred of each of the eight entities (e.g., dog, homeless person,
coyote) in comparison to every other entity. Each of the 28 dichotomous choice items were
presented independently, and the survey automatically progressed after the respondent made their
choice. Each of the dichotomous choice items had the same directions, ‘Click on the one you
would prefer to see in this park’(e.g., Figure 2, below).
The fourth section included a single item requesting participants to rank the eight entities by
preference to see in the park. Including both a series of dichotomous choice items and a single
ranking item provided a measure of reliability of preferences. The order of the dichotomous
choice items and the choices within the ranking item were randomized to eliminate ordering
eﬀects. The ﬁnal section collected information about respondents’behaviour and demographics.
This section included the level of park devotion and demographics.
In order to maximize the validity of survey responses, a series of 28 cognitive interviews were
conducted in two waves before survey data collection (Willis, 2005). The results of these interviews led
to modiﬁcations to reduce the cognitive burden associated with number of required ‘clicks’,clariﬁca-
tion of the described purpose of the survey, alteration of two icons to make them more neutral, and
expansion of the gender item to include a non-binary response option. There were no additional
consistent issues identiﬁed during the ﬁrst round of in-person survey data collection.
The ﬁrst convenience sample of survey respondents was collected using an intercept method at
four Northern California universities and one airport. Although the authors considered collecting
LEISURE STUDIES 437
data at parks, the concern was that this method would oversample more frequent park users. In
contrast, the goal of the study was to generalize across type of park and park user, so the choice
was made to avoid collecting data at parks. Furthermore, the data was collected in California
because that state has had the greatest number of reported coyote incidents (Baker & Timm,
2017). At the intercept points, research assistants asked respondents to take a 10-min survey
concerning parks. There was no incentive for participation.
The goal of the second sample was to compare the attitudes of the Californian sample to a more
geographically dispersed sample of people living in the US The second sample used the Amazon Turk
service to collect responses from people in the US (operationalized as people responding using
American IP addresses). The survey was described to potential respondents as a 10-min academic
survey focused on parks. Participants were given an incentive of $0.70 USD to participate. The sample
of American respondents was scheduled on a Saturday morning, in order to collect a sample that was
older and more likely to be employed full-time (Arechar, Kraft-Todd, & Rand, 2017) to complement
the ﬁrst sample which was largely collected on university campuses.
Interviewees were purposely selected to maximize participant diversity. In particular, parti-
cipants were selected to include a balance of male and female participants, dog guardians
and non-guardians, and participants of varying ages, immigrant status, and experience with
homelessness. During the ﬁrst round of interviews, the primary author recruited six people
to participate in interviews. Those people were known to the author and were chosen to
maximize demographic diversity. A team of trained interview assistants recruited and
interviewed an additional 22 people in the second round of interviewing. Interviews either
conducted through Zoom, a video calling service that created video and audio recordings
and initial transcriptions, or in-person using a hand-held audio recording device. Most
interviewees participated in the interview in their residence; however, some participated in
a public place (e.g., café or place of work). The interviews included the think-aloud method,
where participants explicated their reasoning and thought process as they responded to the
electronic survey (Presser et al., 2004; Willis, 2005). Although interviewees responded to the
survey, none of their responses to the survey were included in the analysis of the survey
data. Moreover, interviewers used verbal probes, both extant probes inquiring why partici-
pants responded to an item in the way that they did as well as emergent probes further
clarifying or gaining additional information about their initial responses.
Figure 2. Example of dichotomous choice survey item approximately here.
438 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
Survey data were downloaded from Qualtrics into Excel. Data were cleaned, coded, and explora-
tory analyses were conducted in Excel. Subsequently, data were uploaded into IBM SPSS v.24.
where t-Tests, ANOVAs, Friedman tests, and Wilcox signed rank tests were performed.
Data from the interviews were used to both modify the survey instrument and qualitatively
contextualize the results of the study. Interview transcriptions were coded according to ﬁrst in relation
to the eight entities (e.g., coyote, oﬀ-leash dog, person experiencing homelessness) then subsequently
using emergent codes (Brinkmann, 2014). The quotes with their extant entity and emergent codes
were compared against each other to gain additional insights about the data and facilitate further
development of emergent codes. Transcripts were then re-read in comparison to the emergent codes
in order to continue the hermeneutic circle and further reﬁne the codes (Kvale, 1983).
Results are provided for both survey and interview data. Survey responses (n= 482) indicate that
coyotes were consistently ranked as the least preferred option for sharing park space with people.
Data from 28 interviews were coded into four themes; safety, (out of) place, aﬃnity for wildlife,
and conspeciﬁc loyalty.
A total of 510 responses were initially collected (ﬁrst round n=287,secondroundn= 223). Eight
responses were deleted because the respondent failed to correctly respond to the two attention testing
items (ﬁrst round:5, second round:3). An additional 20 responses were deleted because the respon-
dents failed to complete two or more dichotomous choice items or did not complete the single ranking
item (ﬁrst round:13, second round:7). A third attention check involved the 28 dichotomous choice
survey items. No respondents clicked only the images that appeared on the left, or only on the images
that appeared on the right, so this attention check led to no further removal of responses. This resulted
in 482 useable responses (ﬁrst round n=269,secondroundn=213).
As intended, the second sample was more geographically diverse and older than the ﬁrst
sample (Table 1). Nearly all (95%) of the primary parks (park they most frequently spent time in
for 15 min or more) in the ﬁrst sample were in California. In contrast, the online sample included
primary parks in 43 diﬀerent states and only 8% of the primary parks in the second sample were
in California. Moreover, online respondents communicated a higher rate of experiencing home-
lessness, dog guardianship, and walking their dog in a park. In contrast, there were no statistically
signiﬁcant diﬀerences between respondents’gender, level of education, or household income.
Table 1. Comparison of demographics of survey respondents.
Demographic variables Sample 1 (n= 269) Sample 2 (n= 213) p-value
Gender (Female) 52% 47% .227
Age (35 years or older) 23% 48% <.001***
Education (Bachelor’s or higher) 52% 54% .621
Household Income ($50k or more) 47% 46% .878
Homelessness (past or current) 9% 18% .004**
Dog guardian 45% 54% .038*
Regularly walks dog in park 57% 74% .006**
LEISURE STUDIES 439
Twenty-eight interviews were conducted. Interview recording durations ranged from 14 min 37
sto 53 min 26 s (
x= 30 min 41 s), resulting in more than 14 h of recordings. Gender was nearly
evenly balanced between women (n=15) and men (n= 13). The sample was relatively young. Over
half (n= 15, 54%) of the participants were in their twenties. Over two-thirds (n= 20, 71%) of the
sample was White. One-ﬁfth (n= 5, 18%) of the sample were immigrants to the US (e.g., Europe,
Asia, or Latin America). Three (11%) of the interview participants had previously experienced
homelessness. Eleven participants (39%) currently owned a dog. An additional participant’s dog
had recently died, but she still considered herself a dog guardian. The number of dogs owned by
any participant varied between one to three dogs.
Ranking for preference to share park space with the eight entities; person, person visibly
experiencing homelessness, person with on-leash dog, person with oﬀ-leash dog, homeless person
with on-leash dog, homeless person with oﬀ-leash dog, dog, and coyote; ranged from 1 most
preferred to 8 least preferred. The median rank for coyotes in both samples was 8 least preferred
(Table 2,Figure 3).
Analysis of the single ranking item indicated that the coyote option was the least preferred
option for both the ﬁrst (Friedman mean rank = 6.58, X
(7) = 895.529, p< .001) and second
sample (Friedman mean rank = 7.05, X
(7) = 734.700, p< .001). The analysis of the dichotomous
items similarly identiﬁed that ‘coyote’was the lowest ranked entity in the ﬁrst (Friedman mean
rank = 6.45, X
(7) = 895.529, p< .001) and the second sample (Friedman mean rank = 6.78, X
= 734.700, p< .001). This provides reliability evidence that the rankings of preference for sharing
public park spaces with coyotes were consistent across samples and question form (dichotomous
choice items or ranking item).
Table 2. Coyote ranking descriptive statistics.
Sample 1 Sample 2
N 269 213
Mean 6.58 7.05
Median 8.00 8.00
Std. Deviation 2.392 1.914
Skewness −1.482 −2.023
2610 19 11 12
Figure 3. Distribution of coyote rankings.
440 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
The mean rank of coyotes was higher (i.e., less preferred) for each demographic, behavioural,
or attitudinal subgroup with some exceptions. Sample 1 respondents that were 35 years or older
(n= 60) ranked both the oﬀ-leash dog (
x= 6.43) and person experiencing homelessness with an
oﬀ-leash dog (
x= 6.13) as less preferred than a coyote (
x= 5.95). Moreover, sample 1 respondents
that had experienced homelessness (n= 23) ranked the oﬀ-leash dog (
x= 6.35) as less preferred
than the coyote (
The ranking of coyotes did not signiﬁcantly diﬀer by most demographic, behavioural, or
attitudinal subgroups (Table 3). Males and respondents that visited parks and other green spaces
at least once per week signiﬁcantly (p< .05) preferred coyotes (closer to 1) compared to female
respondents, and respondents that visited other parks and green spaces less frequently.
Description of preferences
To better understand some of the nuances and contextual factors that contribute to understanding
preferences for coyotes in urban parks, interviews with survey respondents elicited narratives of
meaning and understanding. Data from the interviews were coded into four emergent themes:
safety, (out of) place, aﬃnity for wildlife, and conspeciﬁc loyalty (Table 4).
The most common issue associated with participants’descriptions of their coyote ranking in the
survey was safety. Participants discussed their fear that coyotes might harm their pets, other
people, or themselves. The number of coyotes and the participant’s experience with coyotes were
associated with diﬀerent levels of fear.
Table 3. Coyote ranking by subgroup.
Male 6.25(2.574) .018*(.021) 6.82(2.152) .032*(.022)
Female 6.94(2.131) 7.37(1.447)
Less than $50k 6.48(2.453) .509 7.24(1.867) .113
$50k or more 6.68(2.388) 6.83(1.953)
Less than a bachelor’s degree 6.92(2.192) .041*(.016) 7.05(1.992) .997
A bachelor’s degree or greater 6.32(2.515) 7.05(1.854)
Less than 35 years 6.79(2.245) .016*(.022) 7.12(1.788) .604
35 years or more 5.95(2.746) 6.98(2.049)
No 6.64(2.338) .325 7.28(1.610) .000***(.066)
Yes 6.13(2.881) 6.00(2.721)
Frequency visiting primary park
Fewer than 1 visit per week 6.64(2.375) .690 7.20(1.928) .313
1 or more visits per week 6.52(2.424) 6.93(1.914)
Attachment to primary park
Neither, Somewhat, or Extremely Unattached 6.77(2.181) .389 6.65(2.203) .110
Extremely or Somewhat Attached 6.50(2.503) 7.16(1.818)
Frequency visiting other parks and green spaces
Fewer than 1 visit per week 6.82(2.208) .034*(.017) 7.20(1.770) .009**(.032)
1 or more visits per week 6.17(2.657) 6.29(2.408)
No 6.88(2.077) .036*(.017) 7.09(1.932) .775
Yes 6.26(2.692) 7.02(1.906)
Regularly walks dog in park
No 6.37(2.690) .696 7.48(1.455) .175
Yes 6.18(2.710) 6.95(1.906)
LEISURE STUDIES 441
Fear & danger
Although one participant admitted he did not know enough to evaluate whether coyotes were
dangerous, ‘Idon’t know how dangerous coyotes actually are’(Tyler), most participants expressed
some level of concern about coyotes. At one end of the spectrum, John declared, ‘The coyote
presents a danger in this community and I would want to see Animal Control help take the coyote
to a safer location.’In contrast, Robert, an experienced outdoors person stated, ‘I have an
extremely tiny amount of fear associated with coyotes. I’ve never experienced a problem, so
why should I?’
The most common reasoning for not fearing coyotes was that they are more scared of humans
than we should be of them. ‘This is an interesting question because coyotes don’t freak me out,
because they’re usually scared of you’(Mike).
Experience with coyotes
Robert, Mike, and Santiago directly or indirectly referenced their rural experiences as the basis for
their lack of fear. ‘Maybe just because I’m a country guy and I like, kind of, I like seeing the
coyotes, they don’t scare me or anything’(Mike). Santiago stated, ‘I grew up in the mountains of
Mexico and later moved out in the country of the States. I have heard and seen a lot of coyotes.
They didn’t bother me. I didn’t bother them.’Ellie contrasted her own fear and inexperience with
coyotes with other people’s experience, ‘If they’ve seen coyotes, they’re comfortable with coyotes.
They’d probably be like, “Screw people, I’m comfortable with coyotes.”’ Terry also expressed her
perception that coyotes were scared of humans, though she was adamant that she did not want
a coyote in her park.
Even though multiple participants claimed not to be concerned about their safety relative to
coyotes, they addressed the issue of safety without being prompted by interviewers. This prior-
itization suggests they were aware that other park users may be concerned about their own safety
around coyotes. For example, even though she thought that she would not be bothered by
a coyote, Soﬁa said she would take steps to minimize the chance it would hurt other park visitors.
I would inform the people that work at the park if there was a coyote. People need to be aware of the coyote.
You don’t want it to harm anyone and keep it to yourself. You worry about the rest of the people at the park.
Participants often perceived that children were the most vulnerable population to coyotes.
‘Coyotes in a park seems a little dangerous. . . especially at . . . there’s a lot of kids’(Corey).
Shiva similarly communicated his concern about children, ‘I am worried about the safety of the
kids who come out to play. I don’t want my kid to come in contact with a homeless (person) or
Table 4. Interview themes & subthemes.
Safety Fear & danger
Experience with coyotes
Single versus multiple coyotes
(Out of) Place Wild creature in a domesticated space
Home in the park
Novelty & excitement
Aﬃnity for wildlife Love of nature
Conspeciﬁc loyalty Unsheltered homelessness vis-à-vis coyotes
442 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
his dog or coyote.’Tyler stated, ‘I’d be kind of worried about my kids going to a park that has
a bunch of coyotes, but I think it’dbeﬁne seeing a coyote.’Corey graphically described this
concern, ‘A coyote might try to bite me, I dunno. . . eat some babies, I dunno!’
Beyond human children, multiple people shared their concern that coyotes might hurt their or
other people’s pets. Terry shared, ‘I grew up next to a canyon with coyotes and they killed many
dogs in the neighborhood over the years.’Katrina, the guardian of two small dogs, explained her
desire to not see coyotes by ﬂatly declaring, ‘Coyotes eat dogs.’
Comparisons of coyotes with dogs clariﬁed the relative perceived danger of coyotes versus oﬀ-
leash dogs with no humans. Many of the interview participants compared the coyote with the oﬀ-
leash dog with no people and concluded that, as expressed by Elena, the dog was ‘less risk than
a coyote.’Alanis claimed that, ‘Dogs are usually more friendly than coyotes.’She subsequently
further described her concern with coyotes, ‘I get dogs oﬀa leash are scary, but they aren’t trying
to hunt you.’Nathan stated, ‘I don’t want to come across a coyote in the park and I can still
manage with an oﬀ-leash dog since I am a dog owner myself and know the dog psychology
a little.’Shiva had a similar claim that he was more prepared to deal with an oﬀ-leash dog, ‘I know
(a) little dog language and probably can do away with a dog on (the) loose. . . But a coyote? I still
want to live!’Petra originally claimed that, ‘I’m not bothered by them. My dog doesn’t react to
them in a negative way,’but she also thought that a coyote was more dangerous than an oﬀ-leash
dog with no associated human.
The perception of the oﬀ-leash dog with no humans was sometimes associated with a back-
story participants created for the dog. Petra expressed that she thought the dog might be lost and
need help. Similarly, Soﬁa thought that the dog was just separated from its guardian and it likely
needed food. ‘I know that the dog is probably hungry and he is with his guardian. The dog is less
likely to harm me than a coyote.’
Single versus multiple coyotes
One dimension of danger mentioned by three participants was the number of coyotes seen at one
time. For example, Santiago expressed, ‘I am actually okay with seeing a coyote. I would not feel
threatened unless it’s a pack.’In contrast, Robert was eager to seem multiple coyotes, ‘I’d prefer to
see a pack of coyotes over a single coyote.’
(Out of) place
There were substantial comments about the juxtaposition of wild coyotes in domesticated spaces
and whether a coyote belonged in that space. Although the previously discussed issues around fear
were present for some respondents, others discussed the novelty and excitement of seeing coyotes
in their urban or peri-urban parks.
Wild creature in a domesticated space
One of the dichotomies that participants alluded to when making the argument that coyotes
should be excluded from urban parks was the concept of wildness. It was reasoned that wild
coyotes should be excluded from domesticated park spaces. ‘(A coyote) is a wild animal, and if it
was just walking around by itself in a park, it would seem very out of place’(Anna). Nathan
referenced the same concept of wildness, ‘I would never want to see a coyote in the park. It is like
getting a wild animal into an urban city park.’Similarly, Shiva exclaimed, ‘I want to see a coyote
on a safari. . . not in my park where I am on a walk.’
There were multiple expressions of disbelief that a coyote would ever be in an urban park, ‘Tell
me something. . . what’s up with the coyotes? Is someone really trying to get coyotes in the park? ’
LEISURE STUDIES 443
(Nathan). Jeremy thought that a coyote could only be at his suburban park if it was lost. ‘Seeing
a coyote in this area would be out of the norm. . . I would also be worried about the coyote it most
likely wandered into this area by accident and is lost.’John similarly claimed that seeing a coyote
in a metropolitan area would be abnormal. ‘I live in a suburban area that is right outside of
a metropolitan area. Seeing a coyote out here is by no means normal.’
Home in the park
Multiple participants expressed the idea that they felt comfortable with seeing coyotes in the park
because that was a normative space for coyotes. There were two general concepts that these
participants referenced, ‘what is normal’and ‘home’. Ginny expressed that in her experience, ‘I
feel like that would be a normal thing to see in a park.’Santiago explained, ‘I think it’s pretty okay
to see a coyote out on the trail. It’s their home, we are in their territory. Wildlife was there ﬁrst.’
Linnea referenced this concept succinctly by stating, ‘Because they belong there and we don’t.’
Ginny explained that coyotes were appropriate in natural places because they had relatively fewer
options than dogs and people, ‘You can walk your on-leash dog in a lot of diﬀerent places. But
a coyote can only be in so many.’
Novelty & excitement
While many participants did not want to see a coyote in their primary park (e.g., ‘Coyotes give me
the creeps. Why would anyone want to see a coyote in the park?’), multiple participants wanted to
see a coyote because it would be a rare or exciting experience to see a coyote in their urban or
peri-urban park (e.g., ‘I would like to see the coyotes, just because I love seeing the coyotes. . . You
gotta love the coyotes!’<Geraldine>). Charlie described why seeing a coyote in the downtown
park he frequented would be the most desirable option:
That’s the only one of these options that would be like, ‘Whoa, check it out, there’s a coyote here!’Because
you’re like in the middle of the heart of the city. You’re not like in the or anything. . . That’s the only one that
would be a story to tell. Like, ‘Dudes, I saw a coyote, next to <place of work>!
These responses point to the juxtaposition of seeing a ‘wild’animal in a built, urban setting,
interconnecting with other subthemes. ‘I just think that that’s cool. I always love to see coyotes. It
is a special treat’(Walter). Carmen struck a more tentative tone than the participants quoted
above. ‘Most people would be scared of them, but I think I’d be more fascinated to see one in
person. I’d still take caution though.’
Aﬃnity for wildlife
Beyond debating whether the coyote should or should not be in their primary park, some
participants wanted to see a coyote because it met their interest to experience nature.
Love of nature
Sometimes this was simple, because the participant expressed both a desire to see coyotes and
alove of wildlife. ‘I think it would be pretty cool to see a coyote there actually, just because I like
wildlife’(Mike). Robert explained, ‘(A coyote) is part of what I am hoping for is a natural
experience which is part of why I leave the comforts of town and home.’Similarly, Tyler stated,
‘That’d be rad (to see a coyote). When I’m going to the park I’m not there to see people, I’m there
for nature anyway.’
However, there was also conﬂicts between ideals about wildlife and a desire to see a coyote in their
primary park. Nargis’fear of coyotes and lack of desire to see them conﬂicted with her ideals
about wildlife. ‘If you feel you have these kind of creatures around in the park, it’s kind of healthy
balance, right? You still have wild around you.’Similar to Nargis, Javier expressed safety concerns,
444 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
but he also valued coyotes as free wild animals, ‘'Cause coyotes should live in nature and they
should not be in some type of cage or something. I believe that coyotes should also be free.’
Moreover, he thought that coyotes needed access to the natural space more than dogs, ‘The dogs
have been domesticated, so the dogs could be happy just outside your house. And the coyote is
The ﬁnal emergent theme was that other humans should be preferred over other species,
including coyotes. Terry expressed, ‘Who would choose encountering a coyote over a person
experiencing homelessness? I mean I’m sure somebody would. . .that makes me sad that someone
would choose a coyote over someone who is down on their luck.’Similarly, Ginny thought that
people should come before animals, ‘I guess coyotes have only a limited place to be in a park, but
I feel like I think homelessness takes precedence.’Geraldine shared an opposing view, ‘I feel that is
(coyotes’) natural habitat and the homeless people have other choices as to where they can stay.’
Survey respondents ranked coyotes as the least preferred entity with which to share public park
space. Although the current study is cross-sectional and therefore cannot measure changes in
attitudes across time, concern that coyotes are being embraced by modern Americans (e.g.,
Kellert, 1985; Timm, 2006) is not supported by the current study.
The lack of preference to share park space with coyotes suggests that even among the some-
times marginalized groups focused on in this study (people experiencing homelessness, dogs, and
coyotes) coyotes are the least preferred. The qualitative analysis of the interviews suggests that fear
for their own and other people’s safety, a perception that coyotes do not belong in the city, and
a relative preference for other humans all may have contributed to coyotes’relatively poor
ranking. Alternatively, the interviews also suggest that a perceived lack of danger, a belief that
coyotes have a right to park space, and an aﬃnity for wildlife suggest ways that park managers
could support a greater tolerance or appreciation for coyotes in urban and peri-urban parks.
Although some participants were eager to share space with a coyote, the survey responses indicate
that the majority of respondents preferred to not share public park space with a coyote. The
interview data strongly suggest that fear was based on a perception of coyotes as dangerous
creatures that would harm themselves or others. Participants feared the supposedly wild nature of
these animals (Rose & Wilson, in press).
Alexander and Quinn (2012) analysis of the portrayal of coyotes in Canadian media found that,
regardless of the actual hazard posed by coyotes, they were often labelled negatively based on the
actions of a few individuals and that coyotes were often described as bold, brazen, and wily
criminals with malicious intent. But how dangerous are they to humans and pets?
Attacks on humans
From 1997 to 2015, Baker and Timm (2017)identiﬁed 367 coyote attacks on humans. Nearly half
of the known attacks occurred in California; however, the geographic range of attacks has
increased over time (Baker & Timm, 2017; White & Gehrt, 2009). There are only two known
people that have been killed by coyotes, one in California in 1981 and one in Nova Scotia in 2009.
Speciﬁc to the focus of the current study, White and Gehrt (2009) media analysis found that one-
quarter (25%) of the victims were in parks and half (47%) were recreating when they were
attacked. Similarly, Alexander and Quinn (2011) media analysis found that 42% of humans
were playing or walking in greenspace when they had an interaction with a coyote.
LEISURE STUDIES 445
Although coyotes have attacked humans, it remains a rare occurrence. White and Gehrt (2009)
calculated that there were 3.46 annual incidents of coyotes biting humans in their North
American study, and Alexander and Quinn (2011) identiﬁed an average of 2.67 annual bites in
their Canadian study. Baker and Timm (2017) more liberal deﬁnition of an attack results in an
annual average of less than 20 (19.32) attacks annually. To put this in perspective, there are
approximately 4.7 million incidents of dogs biting humans each year in the US (Gilchrist, Gotsch,
Annest, & Ryan, 2003).
Multiple interview participants shared their concern that coyotes pose an acute danger to
youth. This concern is often echoed in media reports and some early studies of coyote attacks
(e.g., Carbyn, 1989; Fimrite, 2015). One of the two known incidents of a human being killed by
a single or multiple coyotes was a three-year-old girl in Southern California (Howell, 1982).
However, an analysis of all attacks indicates that children are no more likely to be attack victims
than adults (White & Gehrt, 2009). In contrast, children are more likely to be the victims of dog
bites in the US (Gilchrist et al., 2003).
In the current study, men preferred sharing space with coyotes more than women. More than
30 years ago, Kellert (1985) similarly identiﬁed that women preferred predators, including
coyotes, less than men. However, there is no evidence that women are more likely to be
a victim of a coyote attack compared to men (White & Gehrt, 2009).
Attacks on pets
In contrast to the relatively small threat coyotes pose to humans, coyotes can be dangerous
neighbours for domestic dogs and cats. Baker and Timm (2017) speculated that the ‘coyote attacks
on pets in some suburban areas are now so common that they are no longer considered news’(p.
124). The authors reasoned that the number of coyote attacks on pets may be increasing because
of a growing number of coyotes and pets, a greater habituation of coyotes, or an increased rate
that people report the loss of their pets to authorities (Baker & Timm, 2017). This warning about
the increase in number of coyote attacks on pets was matched by the warning that increases in pet
predation foretell an increased risk to human safety (Baker & Timm, 1998).
Coyotes eat cats. While some studies have found evidence of consumption of relatively low
levels of cats in urban coyote diets (<1%-6.7%; Morey, Gese, & Gehrt, 2007), others studies suggest
cat consumption is a more prominent part of urban coyotes’diet (Quinn, 1997; Shargo, 1988).
Alexander and Quinn (2011) reported that all of the coyote-cat incidents in their Canadian media
analysis resulted in the death of the cat; however, such a media analysis may suﬀer from
a selection bias where only the more extreme cases of domestic animal death were recorded. In
their observational study, Grubbs and Krausman (2009a) observed 36 coyote–cat interactions. The
cats were killed in 19 of those interactions. The authors concluded that ‘any cat outside is
vulnerable to coyote attack’(Grubbs & Krausman, 2009a, p. 684).
Dogs are also potential coyote prey. ‘Animal Care and Control assures us that coyotes don’t
really want anything to do with humans, and it’s just your dogs, especially small ones, that you
should worry about if they’re running around oﬀ-leash’(Barmann, 2016). In a review of Canadian
media from 1995 to 2010, Alexander and Quinn (2011) identiﬁed 108 coyote–dog interactions.
Nearly two-thirds (63.7%) of the interactions were with small dogs where most (59%) were killed.
In contrast, only 1 of the 25 large dogs reported interacting with coyotes died.
Such predation may support the population of songbirds and other potential cat and dog prey
species (Crooks & Soulé, 1999; Gehrt, Wilson, Brown, & Anchor, 2013; Gompper, 2002), but ignores
the emotional loss of pet guardians. Webster (2007) claimed that, in contrast to wild animals which are
valued at population levels, pets are valued as individuals. One such grieving dog guardian referenced
this distinction with a statement that demarcated the in-group pets from the out-group wild coyotes,
‘Something has got to be done. Our animals are in danger’(Batey, 2016).
Therefore, the concern expressed by some interview participants that coyotes were dangerous
for their small four-legged family members appears to be a correct assertion. Katrina’s assertion
446 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
that ‘Coyotes eat dogs,’should be expanded to ‘Coyotes may eat any small mammal they can
catch, including small oﬀ-leash dogs and free-roaming cats.’
A coyote’splace is. . .
In the interview data, there is a clash between the view that coyotes have a claim on the limited
urban green space and those that strongly deny that claim. The natural range expansion of coyotes
into all parts of North America and their ability to live in limited natural areas in urban areas
means that, in contrast to the perception expressed by many interview participants, the partici-
pants’primary parks are already likely part of coyotes’home range (Bounds & Shaw, 1994;
Gompper, 2002). The abundance of food in urban areas allows coyotes to maintain smaller
home ranges than coyotes in rural areas (Gehrt, Anchor, & White, 2009; Grinder & Krausman,
2001). Therefore, the density of coyotes in urban areas is often greater than in rural areas
(Atwood, Weeks, Gehring, & White, 2004; Fedriani, Fuller, & Sauvajot, 2001; Kenaga, Krebs, &
Clapham Jr, 2013). In the conﬁned urbanity of San Francisco, it has been estimated that there are
over 100 individual resident coyotes (Stienstra, 2014).
Not everyone is receptive to this current reality. These conﬂicts with ‘the idea that cities are the
exclusive domain of humans’(Wolch, 2002, p. 726). In her essay against coexistence with coyotes,
Webster (2007) stated, ‘Cities are not for the Third Worldness of the Wild Kingdom’(p. 107).
This perspective sees coyotes as an aﬀront to attempts at eliminating the pollution of animals from
anthropocentrically-focused sanitized urban environment (Jerolmack, 2008; Wolch, 2002).
Coyotes seem ‘doomed to be considered morally transgressive as they transgress the spaces we
have deﬁned as “for humans only”’ (Jerolmack, 2008, p. 88). They possess a level of agency, which
may conﬂict with some human sensibilities. ‘When animal and human trajectories collide in the
built environment, to the extent that animals cannot be tamed or controlled, there is an under-
lying existential human experience of social disorder’(Jerolmack, 2008, p. 89).
Even though coyotes live in urban and peri-urban areas, and make use of parks in these spaces,
they generally avoid humans. In contrast to coyotes living in more rural locations who are
primarily crepuscular (Bekoﬀ& Gese, 2003), coyotes living in urban and peri-urban areas are
nocturnal (Atwood et al., 2004; Gehrt et al., 2009; Grinder & Krausman, 2001; Grubbs &
Krausman, 2009b; Moll et al., 2018). This temporal shift is thought to be one way coyotes avoid
humans. Moreover, coyotes avoid areas with high levels of human activity (Atwood et al., 2004;
Gehrt et al., 2009; George & Crooks, 2006; Mueller, Drake, & Allen, 2018; Reed & Merenlender,
2011). Furthermore, neither resident nor transient coyotes are attracted to areas associated with
human activity (Gehrt et al., 2009).
Although mass killings of coyotes have been a common practice in North America (Alexander &
Quinn, 2011;Howell, 1982; Timm & Baker, 2007), killing coyotes in urban areas has become an
increasingly unpopular management action over the last 30 years (Kellert, 1985; Loring, 2015; Vaske
& Needham, 2007). Moreover, relocating coyotes is often not an option. In California, where the
largest portion of coyote attacks have occurred, it is illegal to relocate coyotes, and lethal measures
are used only as the last resort (Batey, 2014). The most common contemporary management
strategy appears to be some version of coexisting with coyotes that focuses on educating people to
minimize negative interactions (Fimrite, 2015; Timm & Baker, 2007; Webster, 2007).
Although some individuals may desire to see coyotes and may believe that coyotes have a right to
public space, survey data suggest that most individuals would rather not have to deal with these
creatures in their public parks. The data communicate that there is still a strong sentiment that parks,
especially urban parks, are the domain of people and their domestic pets. The pervasiveness of this
perspective suggests that authorities either need to engage in some targeted educational campaigns to
LEISURE STUDIES 447
change people’s perceptions of coyotes, modify their management strategy, or risk a backlash of
public opinion. The qualitative data from this study suggest that if a strategy of coexistence with
coyotes is going to be successful, then management attempts need to directly address humans’fear,
perception of coyotes as intruders, and support human’saﬃnity for coyotes and other non-humans.
Education campaigns may start by increasing people’s knowledge. Coyotes are not very
dangerous to humans. Furthermore, attempts should be made to reduce habituation by eliminat-
ing opportunities for coyotes to acquire anthropogenic sources of food (e.g., keep cats indoors,
leash dogs, remove fruit and nuts from trees; Alexander & Quinn, 2011). Furthermore, people
need education concerning what to do when they encounter a coyote. Residents are often advised
to haze coyotes with loud noises, ﬂashing lights, and other aggressive actions (Kessler, 2016);
however, any management actions need to be monitored for long-term eﬀectiveness (Baker &
Timm, 2017; Bounds & Shaw, 1994). Second, education campaigns may only lead to behaviour
change if they ﬁrst convince people that coyotes are permanent residents in urban and peri-urban
areas and extermination or relocation are not viable options. Increasing awareness of the number
of coyotes in the area may be one way to support this outcome.
Third, general aﬃnity for wildlife should be supported. This support for a local environmental
ethic may be helpful for urban wildlife, and may also promote a more general positive environmental
ethic. An important aspect of this goal is that any attempts to support an aﬃnity for wildlife in an
urban environment in an urban setting must work with the current perception of some human urban
residents that access to public space may be a zero-sum game where support for a non-human
animal, such as a coyote, may equate to a loss for the most marginalized human individuals.
The sequential mixed method study oﬀers many methodological advantages; however, there are
limitations to the study. Although the sampling strategy beneﬁts from samples at the regional
(Northern California) and national level, neither are simple random samples, limiting the general-
izability of the ﬁndings. Although there may be concern that using an online survey service that
uses a small incentive for participation such as Amazon Turk could lead to a distinct sample, the
major demographic diﬀerences were the intended ones, the online sample was older and more
geographically dispersed, and the ranking responses of the two samples showed similarities.
Furthermore, the survey results did not control for diﬀerences in rural versus urban background,
nor was the degree of urbanity of the respondents’primary park measured.
Future studies can build on the ﬁndings in this study by measuring how respondents’
perspectives diﬀer based on the location of the park and the respondent’s experience with coyotes
and nature more generally. Furthermore, additional research should seek to measure how
management strategies can impact people’s fear of coyotes, perception of coyote’s right to
urban space, the public’saﬃnity for nature and how those changes impact the humans’relative
preference for sharing park space with coyotes and other wildlife.
Parks are materially constructed spaces that are often socially constructed as spaces of leisure for
humans and their canine companions at the same time as they are habitat which other species use
to sustain themselves. Evaluations of preference for interactions between diﬀerent species of park
visitors and residents require a reconsideration of which aspects of parks should be considered
timeless, and which aspects which should be modiﬁed based on contemporary perspectives. This
study provides evidence that most people prefer not to share their urban and peri-urban parks
with coyotes. If that option is no longer available and coexistence is to be the status quo into the
future, then authorities need to engage in educational campaigns to change the perception of
predators in urban and peri-urban public spaces.
448 J. WILSON AND J. ROSE
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributor
Dr. JeﬀRose is an assistant professor-lecturer in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism at the University of Utah. His
research examines systemic inequities expressed through class, race, political economy, and relationships to nature.
He uses this justice-focused lens on homelessness in parks, socioecological systems, outdoor education, and place
attachment in protected areas.
Jackson Wilson http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1257-9497
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