Enclosure Utilization and Enrichment Structure Preferences of Captive Coyotes

Jeffrey T. Schultz, Julie K. Young


Environmental enrichment improves well-being of captive animals using a variety of tools, including adding complexity to the physical environment. Designing enrichment structures requires an understanding of behavioral and biological responses to enrichment efforts. Captive coyotes (Canis latrans) utilize shelter structures to hide, rest, and display vigilant behavior. Because these simple structures are regularly used, new and more complex enrichment structures could enhance enclosure enrichment. This study examined the time captive coyotes spent at discrete, complex enclosure features to determine: (1) how coyotes utilize enclosure space and shelter structures; and (2) if coyotes have a preferred enrichment structure design. Three enrichment structure designs (ramp, closed, and neutral) were installed simultaneously in 0.6-ha enclosures during two breeding seasons (January – March). Additional coyote pairs were monitored in control enclosures with simple structures. GPS-collars and scan sampling were used throughout a 28-day testing period to record space use and behavior. Coyotes spent most of their time at perimeter and open areas, but also exhibited a preference for shelter structures. Coyotes utilized the complex enrichment structures in treatment enclosures more than simple structures in control enclosures. Although there was no statistical preference for one specific type of complex structure, composite evidence from GPS-collars and behavioral data suggested that coyotes were most frequently located at ramp structures. Coyotes utilized ramp structures more during the daytime and demonstrated higher rates of vigilance there. This study advances the knowledge of captive coyote spatial patterns while helping improve environmental enrichment planning for captive facilities through the exploration of adding complexity to animal enclosures.


Canis latrans; environmental enrichment; GPS collars; space use

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.33687/zoobiol.002.01.2336


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