September 26, 2012
Chicago’s Urban Coyotes Show A Strong Monogamous Bond With Their Partners
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Some women in a relationship may refer to their cheating male partners as dogs, but a new study shows that women may have to start calling their men who stray something else if they want to be more accurate.
Scientists at the Ohio State University studied urban coyotes living around Chicago and found them to be 100 percent faithful to their mating partner, according to a new study in the latest edition of the Journal of Mammalogy.
“I was surprised we didn´t find any cheating going on,” said study co-author Stan Gehrt, an ecologist at the university. “Even with all the opportunities for the coyotes to philander, they really don´t.”
“In contrast to studies of other presumably monogamous species that were later found to be cheating, such as arctic foxes and mountain bluebirds, we found incredible loyalty to partners in the study population,” he added.
For the study, the Ohio State scientists took genetic samples of 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over the course of six years. To collect their samples, the scientists tried to perform cruelty-free entrapment by using padded foothold traps or non-choking neck snares to catch the animals. However, some of the pups were dug from their dens and held by hand.
Small blood and tissue samples were taken from all the coyotes in the study. The adults were anesthetized during this time and were also equipped with radio-collars so that the scientists could track and record their movements. All coyotes were released at the same location where they were captured, according to the research team.
A genetic analysis that was performed of the blood and tissue sample showed no evidence of polygamy within the population and in addition to genetic testing, the researchers also studied the coyotes mating pairs´ habits. The animals were observed to maintain long-term monogamy that often lasted for more than one breeding season. Male individuals were seen guarding their partners from other male interlopers possibly looking to mate.
During the female´s estrus cycle, when she is most receptive to pregnancy, the mating pair “will spend all their time together - running, finding food, marking their territory. They´ll always be right at each other´s side.”
“We´ve been able to follow some of these alpha pairs through time, and we´ve had some of them stay together for up to 10 years,” Gehrt said.
These results run contrary to the habits of many sexually reproducing animals, including humans. However, Gehrt said the monogamy makes sense for females that are capable of producing and overwhelming number of pups.
“If the female were to try to raise those large litters by herself, she wouldn´t be able to do it,” said Gehrt. “But the male spends just as much time helping to raise those pups as the female does.”
The finding came as part of a wider study that has been focused on studying the urbanized doggies since 2000. The research team plans to gain a better understanding of how the coyotes adapt to urban life while maintaining relatively little contact with people.