A look back

The Coyote Cam started as a lark some few years back but only this year has it evolved into a concerted effort to study Coyotes and their habitats. The following is a simplistic overview of how Coyotes came to be in our neighborhoods. A few things about Coyotes are fact; Coyotes adapt, Coyotes thrive where other animals fail, and Coyotes will always be with us. It is hoped that the sharing of this material will provide some Coyote knowledge to all who follow this blog.  Coyotes are not going away, learning to coexist is a better alternative.

Long before civilization began to intrude on wild life Coyotes had a few predators- mainly wolves, mountain lions and some times, bobcats. Life was good for the Coyote as they would often feast on animals killed by the larger predators. Unfortunately, the Coyote became the next meal when those larger predators returned to reclaim their kills. The Coyotes soon understood that in order to survive they would need to expand their food sources to avoid being eaten themselves. Avoiding those larger predators the Coyote developed stealth or as some call it – shape sifting. Coyotes are stealthy but stealthy only goes so far when you are hungry. The Coyotes were not picky eaters then or now so the smaller game population of rabbits and squirrels provided an alternative to hazardous left over carcasses. Not only were the smaller game less attractive to the wolves, mountain lions and bobcats but the squirrels and rabbits often had larders of seeds and berries. The Coyotes learned that rabbits and squirrels equated to seeds and berries which could be another food source in difficult times.

About the time civilization (farmers & ranchers) showed up Coyotes found that their predators were disappearing. Any time ranchers and farmers lost livestock it wasn’t the lowly little Coyote’s fault, it was the larger predators killing the livestock. If a framer or rancher could shoot anything with four legs it was probably going to be the larger predators – wolves, mountain lions and bobcats.  To put it simply, the Coyote saw and learned that when man showed up it was hiding time.  The Coyote had a long history of being stealthy and it was probably that trait that saved the species for years to come.  As the Coyote’s predators were thinned out by man the Coyotes expanded into new territories and thrived. New and larger hunting areas, better den sites, larger families.  Life was good.

Life was good as long as agriculture was the core industry of the Coyote’s environment.  Alas, the world was evolving. Agriculture was giving way to manufacturing – the new industry! Some ranchers and farmers found that they could sell off some of their acreage to developers and acquire more land further away from cities.  As more and more land was being converted to home sites there was less and less agriculture, man was moving into the Coyote’s neighborhood.  Barely a hundred years has passed and man is living in what used to be the Coyotes backyard, a few generations later and man is now the Coyote’s next door neighbor.  Wait a minute here – man is at the hierarchy of life so why is it that man is considered the new entity on the Coyote’s block?  Current media reports that Coyotes are appearing in our neighborhoods so how is it that Man is considered “the new guy on the Coyote’s block?”  At first this new arrival was more deadly then the Coyote’s former predators.  Hunting territory was cut into fenced off lots, vegetation which provided concealment for the Coyote was cut down and replaced by roads. Vehicles that traveled the roads killed Coyotes (and their prey) in large numbers.  Coyotes are resilient, they remembered what it was like to be hunted. The Coyote retreated into the background but they did not go away!  Their numbers were fewer because both their hunting territories and available den sites were being reduced as humans built ever larger homes.

Ah – but the humans brought with them pets and backyard feeders. In addition to those pet and backyard feeders Coyotes found that many humans threw out uneaten foods – garbage? By golly these humans are good neighbors after all, they build city parks around their homes! The trees in the park grow old, the old trees have hollows and cavities good for dens.  Some previous Coyote hunting grounds were being converted into human entertainment, baseball parks, football stadiums and best of all – huge parking lots like the one at Solder Stadium in Chicago. The Coyote Cam reader will remember that Soldier Stadium is also home to a family of Coyotes.  Looks like the good times have returned if you are a Coyote.

Get out there and enjoy a walk this Spring!

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

Something is a foot

Perspective is every thing! A new camera and a different angle of view makes a lot of difference when trying to photograph Coyotes.

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OH – and the bait as well.

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In the past this blog has stressed what not to do such as leaving bird feeders unattended, letting debris and litter stack up on the ground. It draws bait – er . . I mean rodents and small game such as the rabbit pictured above.  As it turns out there are also plants that have seed and seed pods left over from the past summer.  This author has discovered that these seed sources not only draw small four legged game but birds as well.  Unfortunately, the birds draw household cats (pets maybe).  The trail camera kept recording cats but those random pictures just did not seem appropriate for a blog about Coyotes.  Talk about the wrong perspective!  Several articles presented here reflect that cats, along with small dogs are often Coyote fodder. But that is a story for another edition.  Back to the pictured rabbit.  Seems the Coyote was hot on the scent of the rabbit!  Several pictures show the rabbit then a few minutes later, the Coyote shows up with his nose to the ground as seen in the above picture.  Yes, one photo is dated several days before giving the impression the Coyote was a bit early.  Let us just say that they did cross paths and there is now one less rabbit in the neighborhood.  Last evening several Coyotes were howling away down by the river.  Maybe, it was because there is a newcomer to the Coyotes, an owl.

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This bad boy (girl?) stood about two feet high and in flight, appeared to have a six foot wing span. The lighting was not what is pictured, it was actually late sunset / early evening. Very limited lighting at best.  For you photographers out there – Canon Rebel T3i, F 3.5, telephoto lens at 200mm and shutter speed around 125.  Post processing to clean up noise and finally, cropped to the subject.  OK – it was not the trail camera but who said wildlife was going to be on the trail camera only?  The Coyote Cam is attempting an improved photography mode in the coming months.  The advanced mode should drastically improve quality.

How was your Thanksgiving?

I hope it was a good one!

Stay tuned – there is more to come from the Coyote Cam.

Video of an attack?

Most, if not all, of these postings warn that Coyotes are all around us. This author set up a trail camera (affectionately dubbed the “Coyote Cam”) over a game trail just outside of our back fence.  After recovering several photographs of this game trail the most traveled animal turned out to be the Coyote.  Photographs of the Coyotes appear at all times of the day even though this predator is more nocturnal in its comings and goings.  A disclaimer here is that our family enjoys bird feeders and a large gurgling water fountain in our back yard.  Unfortunately these items do draw any animals walking the game trail mentioned above.   Cleaning the area is a must to minimize predators hanging around!  The water fountain is turned off at sun down. Then, a lot of time is expanded in removing seeds dropped from the feeders to the ground to reduce the number of  mice, squirrels and rodents (the favorite foods of Coyotes)!  Nonetheless, Coyotes are not specifically meat eaters.  Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat what ever is available including any missed seeds from the bird feeders.  The things in nature we enjoy are also the things that entice predators.  This is the core message of this blog – remove any enticements and make the predators unwelcome!!

If there is little to no food available for the Coyote they will look next for shelter. Having a dry comfortable den close to a food source is a good thing for a Coyote.  Hazing or being an objectionable host deters the Coyote and they will seek other areas!  Now . . . there are some humans out there that have too much time on their hands with nothing to do.  Remember the old adage, “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop?”  Baiting Coyotes, or any animal / bird is nothing new but video taping the act . . . well – lets just say its questionable at best.   Having said that the following link is a video of a “Coyote Attack?” from several years back.   The video is a good review of what NOT TO DO.  Tease / bait a Coyote.  Coyotes will remember where they had an interesting time.

 

 

YouTube has some great Coyote footage but be warned it can be a bit gruesome for the faint of heart. It is interesting that over the last few years readers and viewers have taken up the Coyote’s cause.  However, there does not seem to be a middle ground of affection for the Coyote.  You either hate / fear this predator or leave it alone to make a home in your midst.   Better still, are the folks who figure the Coyote is not going anywhere and rather then having their live stock eaten will provide the Coyotes an alternative food supply.  This alternative food supply works up to the point when it is not present.  With that in mind the Coyote will always go with Plan B, the live stock!  The feasibility of providing an alternative food source is still under review.

Have you seen Coyotes in your neighborhood? If so what have you done on a personal level to get rid of the offending Coyote?  The next time you see a Coyote call your local animal control agency (along side of the police and fire department’s emergency numbers insert the local animal control telephone number), most do not have an after hour’s number so you will probably be redirected to the police department.  Keep a note of where, when and if the animal exhibited any strange behaviors (walking wobbly or appeared to have been injured). Injured animals will more readily use their teeth if they can not retreat!  While you are out walking be alert, carry a stick or golf club, a loud whistle and be prepared to stand your ground.  Coyotes can be persistent as was seen in the above link.

That is it for this edition – if you have any questions please feel free to post.

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

Fade to invisible?

It is said that when Native Americans first began to hunt they were less then successful. The lowly Coyote took pity upon them and taught them how to blend into the landscape, walk silently, and become successful hunters.  The nick name early Native Americans gave the Coyote was “Shape Shifter.”   While modern day Native Americans are mostly found on reservations, the Shape Shifter can be found almost every where.  Even more astounding is the Coyote’s ability to survive when all of its known predators do not.  How then does the Shape Shifter not only survive but thrive in today’s societies?

Last edition of the Coyote Cam recounted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the need for Federal Coyote Pooper Scoopers in order to determine the Coyote’s feces content. The fecal analysis to determine what exactly the urban Coyote was consuming.  Several former editions of this Coyote Cam maintain that the urban Shape Shifter consumes berries, seeds, mice, rabbits, squirrels, along with the occasional pet (cat or dog).  If one looks about his or her home there is little else an animal could eat!  Professional animal observers have pointed out on numerous occasions Coyote’s love of trash cans and communal dumpsters.  Multiple media reports of human and Coyote encounters also reflect the Coyote’s diminishing fear of humans!  Folks – this is where it starts to get a little scary.  If they no longer fear humans it wont be long until they are jumping six foot fences into our backyards.  That is exactly what happened in Colorado this summer.  The following link repeats a news cast wherein a dog owner stood helplessly by while her young pup was being snatched.

Woman Watches In Horror As Bold Coyote Snatches Her Puppy

Can we ever get rid of the Coyote problem? Probably not.  What we can do is to make our home and immediate area inhospitable to the Coyote!  If you feed your pet outside once it has finished its meal remove the food bowl and any tidbits left around that area. While cleaning up after a pet feeding take a moment and look around. Do you have a bird feeder in your yard?  Check for seed on the ground.  Mice will come for that ground seed and they in turn, draw Coyotes.  How about those fruit trees?  Any peaches or apples on the ground?  Learn to think ahead of the Coyote – they seek an abundant food source.  While Coyotes will eat fruit and seeds in the absence of meat, squirrels and mice rely on those same fruits and seeds.  Hence, Coyotes being the fast learners they are- hang around fruit and seed piles to harvest a squirrel or luckless mouse.  Eliminate the Coyote’s food sources!

Next, never let your dog outside alone to do its “business.” Yes some pets do not function well on a leash so it may be time to retrain your Spot (hopefully your Tabby is not pooping in your neighbor’s flower bed) to accept this embarrassing encroachment on their privacy.  A trend to use poop bags for dog walks is gaining popularity, Coyotes have the best poop analyzer in the world – their nose.  Start using those poop bags!  Those poop bags keep the walking paths not only sanitary but diminish the Coyote’s ability of finding your home.  Tidy poop removal will cause the remaining stuff to dissipate more rapidly!

Finally – learn to haze! All you college graduates know what hazing is.  Making the underclassmen feel like morons, right? To a certain degree the same thing applies to Coyotes only in their case we want to frighten them.  The biggest problem we have today is that the casual walk with the family dog is not casual anymore.  However, being prepared to scare the Coyote will aid in making them feel unwelcome!  Hazing a Coyote is not hard!  First, make sure Spot is safely attached to you if possible.  Throw up your hands and make yourself bigger – start yelling “Go Away.”  Be Loud!  If you are at home and can get to the water hose spray the Coyote, they do not like being wet.  Most all county extension offices have Coyote specialist – call them and find out what they recommend.  If you don’t have a Coyote problem now it is only a matter of time before you do.  Be prepared for that eventuality because it may already be there, the Shape Shifter is watching you.

Stay tuned – there is more to come on the Coyote Cam. Thanks for reading!

Really? Feds Need Help – Collecting Coyote Poop

There was a movie not too long ago entitled, The Last Emperor.  The story recalls the life of Pu Yi, China’s last Emperor whose capture by the Red Army ended that country’s Sovereign rein.  In one episode Pu Yi recalls memories of growing up in the Forbidden City.  Pu Yi relates to the viewers that his life was predestined and all manners of medical oversight given him to insure a healthy life.  One particular instant involved the Royal Stool Smeller, it was that person’s job to smell the youngster’s excrement to determine if any ills were present.   Wouldn’t you like to have that job?

Well if you hurry you can still get in on the ground floor. OK, it will not be to determine what ails animals but it will entail locating and bagging Coyote poop to analyze what they are eating.  It seems this writer has a desert rabbit that has decided it likes our backyard thyme plant, pictures to follow.  Unfortunately for the rabbit its desire to consume herbs may well make it the local Coyote’s next meal.  Pictures will not follow that event!  Readers will recall Coyotes C144 and C145 from the last posting.  Those two urban Coyotes can be differentiated from suburban Coyotes in that they maintain home territories within parks and undeveloped urban lands.  Urban Coyotes are the ones most scientist are interested in observing.  What do they eat?  Fruit from backyard fruit trees?  Vegetables?  The random kitty / puppy- what exactly do these urban Coyotes exist on?

For an extended insight into the real story of “Searching for Coyote Poop” use this embedded link:

http://www.newser.com/story/224688/feds-need-public-help-collecting-coyote-poop.html

Stay tuned- there is more to come on the Coyote Cam

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!