Long-term pair bonding and genetic evidence for monogamy among urban coyotes (Canis latrans)

Hennessy, C. A., J. Dubach and S. D. Gehrt

Coyotes (Canis latrans) occur across North America in many types of ecosystems, including urban areas, yet certain aspects of coyote behavior remain obscure. Previous observational studies have provided evidence that coyotes are socially monogamous; however, the degree to which coyotes exhibit genetic monogamy has not previously been determined. We used radiotelemetry and genetic techniques to determine the mating system of an urban coyote population. We obtained samples from 236 coyotes captured during 2000–2006 in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area of Illinois. Individuals were genotyped using 12 polymorphic microsatellite markers. Among 18 litters comprising 96 offspring, we found no evidence of polygamy, and detected a single instance of a double litter (pups from different parents sharing the same den). The 2 mated pairs that contributed to the double litter had not interbred. However, the relatedness values shared between 1 mated pair and the pups that were not their offspring suggested that they were closely related, possibly as cousins or grandparents/grandoffspring. Across all radiocollared mated pairs, mean home range overlap for the male and female was 80.1% (SD = 13.4). Among 7 mated pairs, 3 of which were radiotracked over multiple years, there was no evidence of mate abandonment and multiyear monogamy was maintained. Despite the high food resources available and high population density, urban coyotes display no variability in their monogamous mating system.

Hennessy, C. A., J. Dubach and S. D. Gehrt. 2012. Long-term pair bonding and genetic evidence for monogamy among urban coyotes (Canis latrans). Journal of Mammalogy 93(3):732-742.