Where does the material come from?

Some of you have asked about the source of my material. It all began several Christmas seasons ago with the gift of a Trail Camera.01160012

One other attribute to this story is the location of our home. My wife and I live just north of the community of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Our backyard abuts Bureau of Land Management acreage.  Three hundred yards to the east of the BLM property is a Bosque (Spanish for woodlands) that provides riprap for both sides of The Rio Grande River.  On the opposite side of the Rio Grande lies the Sandia Pueblo, a Native American Reservation.  I speak about our home location because for several years all manners of wildlife both feathered and fur bearing lived and hunted the Bosque.  Our sub-development was not as populated, or as noisy nor were there many other developments nearby in those days.  I had seen porcupines, raccoons and coyotes roaming about during that time but never close to the homes, that trend soon reversed itself.  A drought sat in and for the next two years the river started drying up.  Almost immediately, some of those Bosque critters were coming to neighborhood backyard bird feeders and water fountains to augment their diminishing food sources.  That was three years ago, that was the same year Santa Clause delivered my first trail camera.

The summer before the camera went up there was a terrible commotion in our garage one particularly hot night.  I had left the garage door opened just a few inches hoping for some cooler air.  Apparently, a raccoon had snuck in then helped himself to a stash of bird seed.  That varmint created such a mess it took two days to clean up and set things in order.  By now there was a regular game trail going on behind the back fence and emboldened rascals of the four legged persuasion, walking down the street in front of our house.  It was time to decide, coexist or find a way to rid our selves of the pests now frequenting our home.  We enjoy nature but it was getting a little too friendly.  The internet has a lot to offer on just about every subject, some references are good and others pretty bad.  This was also about the time that a few communities with in New Mexico were taking up Coyote Hunting Contests.  I retired January 1st, 2011 from the Regulation and Licensing Division and went to work almost immediately for the New Mexico Legislature as a Financial Analyst.  That job entailed determining what potential legislation would cost the tax payers.  One of the bills I reviewed was the concept of licensing Coyote Hunting Contests, more on that in another story.  Hard facts were in front of me and with my new desire to rid our home of pests, the future was set- almost.

The internet offered that efforts to exterminate Coyotes were futile at best, better to make the Coyote uncomfortable near your home.  The internet also carried stories about ongoing Coyote studies which could be verified, I emailed a couple of those leads.   I found there were a few columnists  who were very happy to share their references in addition to those I was gathering, the life of the Coyote was beginning to reveal itself.  The Coyote is not a complicated animal, it thrives were other animals have perished.  The Coyote is only a nuisance when it kills livestock or attacks the family pet and scares the bejebus out of inattentive home owners.   However, the story of the Coyote seems to be almost all negative hence the desire some have to eliminate it from their surroundings.

Now that I have a better grasp on the Coyote’s prescience it doesn’t seem as malevolent, it passes my yard by though I sometimes get his picture with my trail camera.  During cold nights his family will be photographed as they make their way to the old Bosque hunting grounds.

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A family at work

Two years ago there may have been a Coyote in the backyard, I found a big blood spot on the grass.  And too, one of the rabbits that fed on the grass went missing.  That is what nature is all about and every once in a while it will happen in your backyard.  I installed wire mesh on all the entry points rabbits use to access the grassy areas and made sure all of the birdfeeders are positioned over open, sandy soil which discourages small rodents.  I have learned to keep bird seed inside the garage in locked containers with all external doors closed tightly.  There has been no evidence of critters in the yard since!         I paid attention to the assimilation of Coyote material I was gathering and it seems to have paid off.

Have a great summer every one!!!  Stay tuned, there is more to come on the Coyote Cam!

 

 

 

Natural Selection

The May 14th, 2016 edition of the Coyote Cam focus was directed at a blind, pregnant female Coyote struggling to survive. Only the intervention of a human saved the dying pregnant Coyote.  The blind female Coyote gave birth to five puppies which are to be released back into the wild.  Saving dying Coyotes and releasing young Coyotes into the wilderness is contradictory to every Coyote Cam story to date.  Without fail, most if not all humans see the Coyote as a threat to their livestock, family pets, and oh yeah – children.  Why then does someone need to intervene and prevent the death of a blind and pregnant Coyote?

Most readers will note that the Coyote Cam centers on the history and survival skills of the Coyote in rural wilderness, suburban and urban settings. In the wilderness nature’s law prevails whereas in suburban and urban localities nature’s law gives way to what we humans decide is best.  Most human dwellings require green grass and flowers around homes and yards.  Flowers are a thing of beauty but secondary to that, they also draw butterflies and hummingbirds.  To further enhance our outdoor enjoyment we hang bird feeders around the yard hoping to attract song birds and in a few cases we even put out bird baths.  There is no argument that these feeders do attract birds and sometimes, squirrels.  Unfortunately, squirrels, mice and rabbits are attracted to the seeds dropped to the ground by these backyard feeders.  Squirrels, rabbits and mice are a buffet to a hungry Coyote!  All too often these same feeders are inside the fence where the family pets eat and play.  It just doesn’t get any better for a Coyote, food and (remember the bird bath) water all in the same location!  Lets not forget that most humans are complacent in the fact the backyard is a safe place allowing children to play unattended.

Conversely, Nature has a rule that perpetuates and improves life in the wilderness and that is that sick, young, old or injured animals provide sustenance for other wild life. An animal carcass provides meals to all species of wild life, scavengers even include other Coyotes!  Conversely, the suburban / urban Coyote has developed survival skills based in part on the inattention of humans.  Humans, intentionally or unintentionally, do little to protect their home environment against animal intrusions hence Coyotes find easy access to food and shelter.  Every one complains when neighborhood dogs tip over garbage cans but was it really a family pet that did the deed?  Coyotes can push over garbage cans as easily as the family pet!

Newport Beach California

Sterling Heights Michigan

Reviewing the week’s national media Coyote postings, two interesting articles appear. The first is from Newport Beach California which reveals its Coyote problem was bad enough in August 2015 that citizens threatened to take matters into their own hands.  The authorities stepped in and currently are attempting to establish a prioritization monitoring system whereby Coyotes posing a sever threat are terminated.  Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the country, Sterling Heights Michigan residents are seeing Coyotes in residential areas.  Alarmed citizens are being told by the Police Department there to use all possible precautions to avoid a direct encounter with the varmints.

In the last Coyote Cam posting we find a human seeking ways to save a blind and wounded rural Coyote. Did the well intentioned person of the previous posting intercede in “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection?”  Let the rest of us know how you feel, leave a comment.   Stay tuned- there is more to come on the Coyote Cam

Domestic Predator, The Housecat?

Any reader of this blog knows that Coyotes are predators but did you know that the family cat can be more of a cold blooded killer then the Coyote?  Recent reports from biologists suggest that the common household cat is directly responsible for killing more then 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds each year and perhaps an equal number of small mammals.  Granted, Tabby’s eat only some thirty percent of their assaults. More likely as not, they play with their victims first then offer the sometimes still moving target to the family household as a trophy.  Nonetheless, the family cat is hazardous to all avian life!

CBS News ran an article comprised of studies done by the University of Georgia and National Geographic.  A kitty cam (miniaturized video recorder) was used during these studies and recorded things never before seen in the life of the average household cat.  Several important facts came to light that support the powers of the household cat’s predator abilities which, is seen more graphically in its larger cousins.  First, the article determined that there are some 60 million domestic cats alive in the United States. Second, a study of the cat’s physical anatomy determined that felines are well suited for the life of a predator.  The cat’s body from tail to nose has the widest flexibility of all animals.  A cat’s paw can articulate much like that of the human wrist and hand, dogs can not perform this act.  The retractable claws and padded paws allows the cat to silently stalk its prey.  The cat’s spine can be 180 degrees out of alignment with no lingering effects.  In addition to its flexible back, the front half of a cat’s body operates independently permitting faster sprints and turns then dogs.  So why do I bring up the seemingly superior family cat in a blog about Coyotes?

A family at work
A family at work

Reports of Coyote habitation compared to the number of cats present in the same locations suggest that for what ever reason, cats do not thrive. Said another way, if Coyotes are present cats tend not to be present.  Field studies reflect that cats stop hunting when Coyotes are around though not in every case.  Cats that do manage to co-exist do so in the immediate vicinity of their homes.  Apparently, cats understand their home turf provides some degree of security.  While, in outlying areas and away from their home turf the cat’s security is less certain.  One theory has it that while it is fine to be faster in short bursts when there is more then one hunter it may not be a great enough advantage for the cat.  Coyotes are often seen as loners but during and for some time after pups are born Mom and Dad are teaching the pups how to hunt.  The family forms a pack and hunts together until the pups are about eight to ten months old.  Though there are no formal studies on the subject this author believes it is during this cycle that family cats begin to disappear.  During daily walks of late Spring and into mid-summer it seems that pictures of missing cats become more numerous.  The Coyote pups begin to range farther and farther from their family den eventually establishing their own dens and hunting areas.  The original Coyote pair start their mating cycle anew ending their attachment to the former pups / now mature adult Coyotes.  Could it be that we have the Coyote to thank for protecting migrating birds and other wildlife?  More studies into this area of Coyote predation are needed!

Stay tuned, there is more to come on the Coyote Cam!