Coyotes and Foxes Study

In 2020, the Saint Louis Zoo began a study to better understand carnivorous mammals of the dog family, such as foxes and coyotes, at the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park. This study also is looking raccoons, opossums, minks, skunks and others.

This developing study leverages the strengths, experiences and existing collaborations of scientists from the Zoo and other area institutions.

The researchers are studying the health of the coyotes, foxes and other animals at the WildCare Park and potential disease risk to future Zoo animals on the property. This information will help the Zoo determine the best ways to live with these animals at the WildCare Park. This study also will serve as a template for some of the Zoo's other conservation work for species around the world.

Important first step

Identifying what species are present on the property is an important first step in making informed decisions about property design and future uses, including collection planning and management, native wildlife corridor management, habitat management and restoration, and educational program development.

Animals

Animals that have been identified in 2020 include:

  • Bobcat
  • Coyote
  • Domestic cat
  • Grey fox (not confirmed)
  • Mink (not confirmed)
  • Opossum
  • Raccoon
  • Red fox
  • Skunk

Scientific Methods

Camera traps or trail cameras are placed strategically across the property in all the habitats from forests to golf courses. The photos collected from these cameras tell researchers which species are present and allow them to estimate the number of animals of each species using the property. The photos also help researchers understand which parts of the property these native species prefer.

In 2021, skilled veterinary teams plan to humanely trap and anesthetize the animals so they can place telemetry collars on them. Telemetry will allow scientists to track the animals' movements and determine their home ranges.

At the same time, they will collect samples (hair and blood) for health assessments before releasing the animals back into their native habitats on the property. The health assessments will help identify infectious diseases in these animals that may be of concern for the future Zoo animals living at the WildCare Park.

The health, safety and psychological well-being of the animals included in all of the studies are priorities for Zoo researchers. Only skilled personnel handle animals for species ID or health assessment purposes. These interactions are for the shortest amount of time possible and the animals are released back to their wild habitats after the necessary data collection is complete.

Conservation

See more about how the Zoo is helping carnivores around the world: