Behaviour 2019
Safety from Skunks? Black-and-white dogs, but not cats, have less negative interactions with urban coyotes.
Theodore Stankowich, Kathy Vo, Max J Amaya. California State University Long Beach, Long Beach, California, United States

Coyotes are well-adapted to living near humans and entering urban spaces, presenting an ongoing issue of human-wildlife conflict, with coyote attacks on domestic pets becoming more common. To study the factors that influence conflict severity, we distributed an online survey to report data on previously or currently owned cats and dogs including body size, coat coloration, time spent outdoors, and severity of interactions with coyotes. From 1874 survey responses, we found that cats that spent more time outdoors had more negative interactions with coyotes, but there were no effects of size or coat color. In contrast, smaller dogs had more severe negative interactions, but dogs with more contrasting coat patterns and, in particular, those with entirely black-and-white coats had far less severe interactions with coyotes. There were no effects of breed or time spent outdoors. These results suggest that coyotes may generalize their natural, learned avoidance of black-and-white skunks to similarly colored domestic dogs. This bold color pattern along with dogs’ natural defensiveness toward coyotes may deter further aggression by coyotes and reduce the risk of attack.