The coyote seen roaming around Downtown Chicago the other night may not be one of the pack fitted with GPS devices and let loose around the city “to help deal with rats and mice,” but learning that there is actually such a pack sent us into ecstatic fits.
According to researchers involved in The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project, there are over 250 coyotes fitted with radio collars now roaming the streets, parks and backyards of the metropolitan area. This is “the largest urban study of coyotes in the world.”
We have tracked the coyotes day and night and located the collared coyotes more than 40,000 times. This allows us to peek into the hidden lives of urban coyotes. We use results from this unique project to answer common questions regarding coyotes in urban areas. Many aspects of coyote ecology have direct management implications. Although our study was focused on Cook County, Illinois, we believe the things we have learned about coyotes and people living together are indicative of many metropolitan areas in the Midwest and eastern United States.
Set up an API to give mobile software developers a way to access those radio pings, and there might be apps to track the coyotes' urban ramblings. Google Coyote®. And yes, we're betting that it will have an audience. It's no different than nature webcams and participatory GIS platforms, like Google Earth, both of which have sizeable user base. It's also not uncommon for a lot of people to have their only extended contact with the wilderness mediated virtually. Make the interface slick, and the data pornographers and Tufte zombie acolytes will come in droves.
Develop it into an iPhone app, and you have the makings of an urban safari fad, as popular as birdwatching or urban GPS-tagged fruit harvesting. And to make it more interesting, that is, to approximate the conditions of a Serengeti safari, dial down the app's locative precision. Instead of giving you exact coordinates, it only tells you that the coyote is roaming somewhere in Hyde Park.
Touring the city in search of indigenous cyborg fauna.
Into the Wild