"Coyotes, those ubiquitous rascals of the West, occupy a special place in American society. They are inextricably entwined in the traditions and folklore of Native Americans and the early trappers. But as the western ranges were transformed into grazing lands for vast numbers of domestic sheep and cattle, admiration for the coyote turned to frustration and anger as they included lamb and veal on their diet." Fred Knowlton, Utah Field Station
The National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) Utah Field Station, with facilities in Logan and Millville, Utah is the leading predator research complex in the world. The station, home of the Predator Ecology and Behavior Project, researches coyote biology and behavior as well as predator-prey interactions. In addition, station personnel develop and test depredation control tools and techniques.
Over the years research work has included the following:
In 1972, the San Antonio, Texas, Field Station of the then Denver Wildlife Research Center (DWRC), moved to Utah State University in Logan. The following year, 1973, the Logan station leased 120 acres of land south of Millville, Utah, to develop a research facility for captive coyotes. In 1991, the Utah State University Foundation purchased the Millville facility and adjacent land and permanently leased the site to the USDA/APHIS for use as the core of a state-of-the art wild animal research and educational facility.
A pivotal event in the history of the Utah station occurred at the Millville facility. In the early morning of October 24, 1992, the Millville office building and the field station leader's Utah State University office were firebombed. In addition, fencing at the Millville facility was cut and about sixteen coyotes were set loose. Although most of the coyotes were returned to the station, total damage came to $200,000. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a highly secretive and loosely organized animal rights group, claimed responsibility. In 1995, Rodney Coronado, of the ALF, acknowledged complicity for the arson as part of a plea agreement regarding other vandalism charges. The 1992 attack on the Station resulted in the construction of a new office-research building at the Millville site.
Fred Knowlton, the first Utah Field Station leader, began work with NWRC in 1964 at the San Antonio Field Station. In 1995, Knowlton decided to relinquish administrative duties at the station to pursue research full time. As a result, Russ Mason, a research psychologist at NWRC's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania field station assumed leadership of the Utah facilities.
Like many federal entities, the Utah fields station underwent many organizational and name changes over the years. As part of the DWRC, the station was a unit of the Animal Damage Control (ADC) Program under the Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1986, the DWRC was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The ADC Program assumed a new name - Wildlife Services (WS) in 1993. The DWRC moved its headquarters to Fort Collins, Colorado in 1997 and changed its name to the National Wildlife Research Center to better reflect the scope of its research and its national prominence.
Today, the Utah station consists of offices at Utah State University campus in Logan and the research facility at Millville. The Millville research area includes a main building housing additional offices, labs, kennels, and experimental pens. The grounds also support a residence (for an after hours presence), pastures and corrals for the sheep and horses, rabbit pens, and more than a dozen observation buildings. With 100-130 animals, the site has the largest captive coyote colony in the country. Though many research projects are conducted at the Millville site itself, the facility also serves as the staging area for NWRC projects throughout Utah and the Western United States. Current work includes:
The station enjoys a close relationship with the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University (USU) and jointly conducts numerous research projects with USU faculty and graduate students. Currently four of Logan's ten full-time employees have adjunct faculty appointments and, over the years, the facility has supported thesis research projects for thirty five graduate students.
With a long and interesting history, the Utah Field Station continues to do exceptional research regarding predators and wildlife management methods.