Using citizen science to inform urban canid management

Marcus A. Mueller, David Drake, Maximilian L. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urban wildlife populations present different scenarios for managers compared to rural populations, partly because of greater diversity in stakeholder attitudes and opinions regarding urban wildlife. Wild urban canids—especially coyotes (Canis latrans)—have been of increasing interest throughout North America in recent years. Our objective was to evaluate the potential of using iNaturalist-generated observations of urban red foxes and coyotes for cost-effective, customizable data collection to inform urban canid management. Our research is important on two fronts; first, it is a way to engage the public to make them more aware of urban canids, and secondly, it is an attempt to empirically test if we can more efficiently and effectively track coyotes and red foxes in urban areas. We used iNaturalist to collect over 800 community-generated locations for red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and coyotes in Madison, WI from 2015 and 2016. We concurrently placed radio-collars on 11 red foxes and 11 coyotes to determine areas used in this urban ecosystem. We compared iNaturalist to radio-telemetry locations to identify factors that led to a positive relationship between these two inherently different spatial data sets. Greatest overlap between iNaturalist and telemetry data for both red foxes and coyotes occurred in areas with moderate human development and there was minimal overlap in natural areas. The overlap between iNaturalist and telemetry locations was comparable for both species, but the underlying mechanism differed by species-specific habitat use. iNaturalist reports appeared to show where and when humans most often interacted with red foxes and coyotes, rather than their true spatiotemporal distribution. Understanding the relationship between community-generated reports and local canid distribution may inform how iNaturalist can be used as a management tool and allow managers to proactively monitor and manage human-wildlife interactions with urban wildlife.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-371
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Canis latrans
  • Citizen science
  • Coyote
  • INaturalist
  • Red fox
  • Vulpes vulpes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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