Utah Scientists Are Working To Reduce Conflicts Between Native Predators and Humans

Oct 14, 2019

A captive-bred Coyote that lives at the USDA Predator Research Facility in Millville, UT.
Credit U.S. Department of Agriculture

  


The US Department of Agriculture has one research facility in the whole country dedicated to research into conflicts between humans and carnivores. That facility happens to be located in Utah.

The research at the USDA Predator Research Facility in Millville, Utah focuses on how best to mitigate conflicts between carnivores and humans. Dr. Julie Young is the director of the facility. 

“The best type of human-carnivore interaction is when you can watch a carnivore from afar, and you’re not altering its behavior, and it’s not threatening you. And that’s a wonderful opportunity because it’s rare to have,” Young said.

 

“Coyotes are good in the wild because they can do things like eat a lot of rodents, so they can be positive for people. But things they can be negative about is if they come into direct contact with livestock, they can kill livestock. And then the other type of conflict that we sometimes work with is species of concern, whether that’s a threatened or endangered species that maybe coyotes are predators of, such as desert tortoises, or just species of human interest. Like how do Coyotes affect mule deer populations?”

Dr. Young says that despite occasional conflicts, coyotes are important for western ecosystems.

“I think that they can also provide some really interesting ecosystem functions. They eat a lot of rabbits. And rabbits actually forage a lot of our vegetation that could be available to livestock to eat. So by killing coyotes you may actually be creating more competition for your livestock.”

The facility houses almost 100 captive-bred coyotes, but aren’t the only focus of the researchers there.

“But we do rehabilitate orphan black bear cubs for the state of Utah. And when we can we do research on them, either while they’re here or once they’re released into the wild. And then we also do a lot of research on carnivores that are never housed here in captivity but in the wild, and that includes cougars, kit foxes, wolves, grizzly bears and black bears.”