Cook County Coyote Project

Chicago, Illinois

© Morgan Heim / Urban Coyote Initiative

Our Collaboration:

The Cook County Coyote Project is the longest running urban coyote study in the nation. Also known as the Urban Coyote Research Program, the study is headed up by Dr. Stanley Gehrt, who has worked since 2000 to understand urban coyote ecology and management strategies. If you’ve ever run across a news story about Chicago’s urban coyotes, you’ve probably heard Dr. Gehrt’s name mentioned.

We were awarded a National Geographic Expeditions Council grant in 2016 to work alongside Dr. Gehrt on a two-pronged study exploring the personality and boldness of urban coyotes, and we’re doing some innovative camera trapping tests along the way. 

The study looks at individuality using both genetics and behavioral observation. By placing novel objects within the home range of radio-collared coyotes and recording their reactions on camera, we’ll get insight into just how bold a coyote is when facing something new. 

The goal is to determine if there is a link between these behaviors and genetic markers associated with similar behaviors. This exploration into the personality and genetic linkages within urban coyotes is the first of its kind.

Providing editorial-quality images of urban coyotes will not only illuminate nuances of behavior, but also create compelling photographs that spark the curiosity of the public.

We were excited to work with the Cook County Coyote Project through our grant, and now have an even deeper appreciation of their ongoing and often ground-breaking research. 

Continuing Work: 

Not only will we continue photographing Chicago’s coyotes independently, but we also will explore through photojournalism some topics that fascinate us that we learned about through our time with this collaboration, including:

  • A photojournalism photo essay or short documentary about the parallels between coyote territory lines and gang territory lines, exploring how these marginalized canids mirror marginalized people
  • Field work to continue a photographic exploration of individual urban coyote personalities and behaviors, and how they are shaped or influenced by their territory (dense urban versus suburban versus park preserve, and so on)
  • A photo essay or short documentary film exploring Chicago’s level of tolerance compare to other similarly sized cities, and what might be drivers behind varying attitudes

Explore Images: 

Explore our other collaborations