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New Project Uses Social Media to Track Foxes and Coyotes

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We've reported recently on the development of the relationship between social media and wildlife conservation and already there's a new chapter in that tale, or rather... Tail (sorry, I couldn't help myself). An initiative called The UW Urban Canid Project operating out of Madison, Wisconsin is using Facebook in order to keep track of the fox and coyote activity in the area. 

The official page has only just pushed past 1,000 likes, but it's extremely active, posting the latest information and encouraging Madison residents to log their fox/coyote sightings on the page. The project also makes regular use of iNaturalist, a platform that allows users to document their wildlife sightings and mark them on a map to help scientists get a better habitat data. The Facebook page is also geared somewhat towards improving the relationship between Madison residents and urban foxes, which are widely regarded as pests.

Another big part of it is 'scat collection', which is a fancy way of saying 'gathering poo'. The page encourages residents to collect fox and coyote droppings or 'scats' and report their findings, since doing so can be extremely helpful for dietary study. You wouldn't think people would be up for something like that, but allegedly there's been a very positive response.

If you ask me, the reason this has such a big appeal is because it anthropomorphises the animals. Being kept informed about the activity of specific foxes and coyotes as they move around the area creates a kind of narrative and if people think getting involved will add to that, they will. Habitat research like this is always buoyed by increased voluntary engagement and social media is brilliant at that. People like to feel like they're a part of something.

Page fans have even joined the research teams on trap checks, allowing them to see the animals up close. It does carry a risk of being bitten, but there's even an advice section on how to handle a close encounter so as to avoid such an outcome. It's a bizarre irony that Facebook, which fundamentally places a thin barrier between people and the real world, can be such an effective tool for getting people more interested in protecting the natural world, but hey, whatever works. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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New Project Uses Social Media to Track Foxes and Coyotes Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Rating: 5

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