Behaviour 2019
Effects of early-life experience on innovation and problem-solving in captive coyotes
Andrew C. Garcia1, Mitchell A. Parsons1,2, Julie K. Young1,2. 1USDA National Wildlife Research Center, Predator Research Facility, Millville, UT, United States; 2Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT, United States

Increasing urbanization has led to more wildlife living in novel landscapes such as cities. Mesocarnivores in urban habitats have opportunities to pursue non-traditional food resources, which often require innovative and exploratory behaviors. To understand if early-life experiences impact later-life behavior, we examined how a ubiquitous urban carnivore, the coyote (Canis latrans), responds to a multi-access puzzle box at two life stages: pup (~5 weeks) and dispersal (~10 months). We first exposed pups (n=12), still living with their parents, to a baited puzzle box for 2-hour trials across ten days. Other pups not tested (n=6) served as controls for dispersal-age trials. Coyotes received the same puzzle box, both individually and with their mate, at dispersal. We recorded tests and coded behavior for solving capability, latency to approach, and interaction time. Most pups solved two of the three access points. At dispersal, coyotes approached the puzzle box, yet none solved any of the access points. This study provides insight into how early-life experiences shape adult mesocarnivore behavior.