During the last century, the coyote (Canis latrans) has increased its distribution in Central America. Before the 1980s, it had not been recorded in Panama. New records show that coyotes have crossed the Panama Canal, indicating that continues to expand; therefore, there is a possibility that it will reach northern South America.
Our objectives were to identify potential coyote colonization routes to South America, and the variables that favor its expansion. We hypothesized that habitat fragmentation benefits coyote expansion. We applied 7 algorithms to model the potential distribution of the coyote, using 196 presence records and 12 variables. The models with better performance were used to generate a consensus model. Using our consensus model and the areas with highest probability of presence, a potential colonization route was generated between Central America and northern South America. This route lies through southern Costa Rica, along the Pacific coast of Panama to the south, to the Andean mountains in northern Colombia.
The variables that explained potential coyote distribution were human population density, altitude, and percentage of crops with positive influence, and tropical broadleaf forests with negative influence. These results indicate that human activities and deforestation are related to coyote distribution expansion. Actions can be implemented within the identified route to improve environmental management, in order to avoid the presence of the coyote in the ecosystems of northern South America.