Compassionate Conservation: Extending Welfare Concerns to Coyotes


Dr. Shelley M. Alexander, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Calgary


We need to expand our compassion footprint to wild animals like coyotes. It is estimated that one coyote is killed every minute in the USA, which is a statistic echoed in Canada. For instance, in 2009 alone, approximately 70,000 coyotes were killed on a government-sponsored bounty in Saskatchewan, and untold numbers of dead coyotes dumped along borders and in landfills of adjacent provinces. The welfare implications of routine culling are ignored because coyotes are an extremely resilient species. Arguably, a lack of understanding of the emotional lives of social animals like coyotes plays into citizen requests for and management agencies compliance with the use of lethal force. Further, calls for more compassionate science and management that are based on the knowledge of animal suffering tend to dismissed considered "biased" research or "advocacy" – not science. The idea that coyotes are a menace and should be killed is supported by some citizens, and select interest groups can drive killing, even if the larger citizenship does not agree with this practice. Finally, some agencies are working to promote co-existence and no-kill strategies, but this is difficult in the face of multiple worldviews about what wild species deserve our compassion and belong in proximity to people. This talk will introduce Compassionate Conservation science and convey key findings from a decade of research on coyotes, concepts from animal geography and personal experience raising/studying orphaned coyote pups.


  1. The causal factors of human-coyote, coyote-pet entanglements.
  2. Elucidating the ecological, ethical and social pressures shaping these engagements.
  3. Exploring the emotional lives of coyotes as evidence of moral considerability and the need for compassion.


Dr. Shelley Alexander is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary. She has more than 25 years of experience studying wild canids, specializing in wolves and coyotes in Canada, and is the Founder and Lead Scientist for the Foothills Coyote Initiative. Shelley is also a recognized specialist in geospatial analysis (GIS, Satellite imagery and statistics) for conservation and a road ecologist – studying the effects of roads on species movement patterns. Her other research collaborations include: modelling swift fox critical habitat with the Conservation Science Centre - Calgary Zoo, studying road effects on large carnivores in the Yucatan and developing species-environment models for endangered painted dogs with Painted Dog Research, Zimbabwe. She is a member of the Science Advisory Board for Project Coyotes, USA, Member of the Board for the North American Society for Conservation Biology and Science Advisor to Coyote Watch Canada.