A wild coyote runs in a field near Hunt Club Road in Ottawa.
Credits: Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency
If you want loyalty in a relationship, hook up with a coyote. Those that live in the city never ever stray on their mate.
Stan Gehrt, a wildlife ecologist at Ohio State University, wanted to know why coyotes — cousins to the dog and wolf — are multiplying in cities across North America. This includes in Canada.
So he and a team took genetic samples of more than 230 coyotes in the Chicago area and were surprised to find no evidence they ever messed around on their mates.
Alley cats may have a reputation of sleeping around, the much-maligned coyote is apparently never caught up by temptations in the city.
While there have been no comparable studies done, Gehrt suspects country coyotes are probably just as loyal.
“(It’s) likely to be similar in rural areas because there should be fewer opportunities to cheat,” he points out.
The findings are surprising to Gehrt, because in and around cities, where there’s lots to eat, other dog-family members, such as some fox species, stray on mates.
Past studies of other presumably monogamous species, including arctic foxes and mountain bluebirds, have found they cheat when given the chance.
The new research, which appears in The Journal of Mammalogy, helps explain why coyote populations thrive in cities. As females produce large litters, the baby-daddy stays around to help with the upbringing.
Male coyotes spend as much time raising pups as the female, says Gehrt.
The coyotes studied didn’t live on the fringe of cities. Each would have to travel 15 km to 40 km to reach the edge.
What happens if a coyote dies is just as interesting to researchers.
“A very general pattern is that females tend to stay in the territory if they lose their mate, whereas males tend to leave if their mate dies — but we have exceptions to both,” he said. “It is actually fascinating for us when one of them does die. I call it a coyote soap opera and it is never boring.”