Walk through The Rio Grande Bosque

Just when you think you understand all that there is to know about Coyotes they will fool you (me!). A recent news article from suburban Detroit describes a home owner waking to the sound of braking glass.  Another person living there also responded to the braking glass and together they found a Coyote sprawled on the floor beneath a broken dinning room window.  They immediately called animal control officers who removed the Coyote from the couple’s home.  As the officers were walking away from the house the home owners returned to clean up the broken glass and over turned furniture.  Surprised, the home owners found yet another Coyote in a comatose state underneath the over turned furniture.  They yelled for the animal control officers to come back and retrieve the now staggering Coyote.  Now this being that time of the year when Coyotes are romantically engaged it would not be farfetched to imagine that one of the Coyotes was either running in fear or was being pursued.  We don’t know which was which since the sex of either Coyote was not divulged in the news article.  Nonetheless, the lead Coyote must not have seen the window but imagined it as a path of freedom and the following Coyote was hot on its heels.  Food or a potential mate is the driving force in the animal kingdom but through a glass window?  Hmm . . . .

The above article’s readers were discussing the elimination of these uninvited guests and trouble makers. A few folks apparently put their mouths in motion (pen to paper / hit the send button) before engaging their brains.  Conversely, the folks who read this blog know that the State of New Mexico as well as Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas (dang near every state in the union for that matter) prohibit discharging firearms inside city limits.  It seems our Canadian neighbors in Kirkland, Montréal have similar laws on discharging weapons in inside municipal boundaries.

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Sadly, the use of leg traps (steel jawed) is still permitted in some areas but again, pretty well discouraged by many state wild life agencies specifically near human habitations.  Think about Spot or Fluffy or worse yet, a young child being snared by a leg trap.

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Most state wild life agencies do permit the use of “padded” leg traps but even those have alarms that electronically alert that the trap has been tripped.  Having said this many times before –  Once you have seen a Coyote in your neighborhood it is probably too late to get rid of them.  The dens and hunting areas are well established by the time you see these fur covered menaces!

Some say Coyotes are the reason for missing pets and for that reason the Coyote should be exterminated. There are other reasons for deterring Coyotes such as rabies and mange.  Both of these illnesses can be transmitted to Spot or Fluffy by unhealthy Coyotes.  This past summer of 2016 saw several people in California bitten by a supposed rabid Coyote while a local Albuquerque Coyote recently recorded by a local TV station, was found to be suffering from a sever case of mange.  Sick animals are usually easy to spot and for that reason may serve as a warning sign there are problems coming soon to a yard near you.  Coyotes are increasingly less fearful of humans though when confronted they will skulk off and disappear.  The Coyotes are not gone they have moved beyond where humans habitually look for them and there they will hide until we leave that area.

This author use to hunt (in the early days with a gun though now with cameras) and the one thing that never escapes my thoughts is that the Coyote will let humans pass very closely before they react. The nearby Bosque (wooded area bordering the Rio Grande River) provides a great walk through nature.  The river draws migrating water fowl making their journeys south in the winter and returning north in the spring.  While the river is not fished it does have sufficient water flow that encourages wild life to seek water and shelter along its banks and wooded areas.  Coyotes are common to this area and are sometimes seen attempting to take a drowsy duck or inattentive goose that has drifted too close to the river’s edge.  Many times I have walked by a scrub oak bush or mesquite bramble only to scare a Coyote (and myself as well) into a rapid retreat.  If cornered the Coyote will defend itself, if there is an escape route the Coyote will depart at a high rate of speed!  It should be noted that local Coyotes remain less aggressive then being reported elsewhere.  Fortunately there haven’t been any reported cases of mange or rabies reported here.  Our Bosque appears to be healthy.

 

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

Who is out there?

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The Family

It is that time of the year when Mom and Dad Coyote are pushing last year’s pups out the door and beginning a new family. Mom and Dad will be seen running with the now mature pups.  Some folks tend to call these groups packs (wolfs hunt in packs) but in fact for Coyotes it is just a family outing.  Randomly Coyotes sometimes do hunt as a unit but those times are rare.  More often then not Coyotes tend to be lone, opportunistic predators.  The Coyote families are starting to disperse as winter progresses, we see them in our neighborhoods. Coyotes are becoming more habituated all the time as reflected in many previous Coyote Cam articles.  National Geographic has a fine article which expands on the dos and don’ts of co-existing with city type Coyotes and this blog’s readers will recognize the article’s recommendations.

Cold Paws
What Snow?

Following today’s officer elections of the “Friends of Rio Rancho Open Space” we discussed the various critters roaming about our section of the Rio Grand Bosque.  Seems the Coyote was getting a lot of reviews.  More importantly for our mostly suburban area is that the number of feral hogs is on the rise, those varmints cause terrible destruction to lawns and gardens.  Unfortunately and as our group would agree, predator numbers will rise along with the food source provided by the feral hog piglets.  More Coyotes can be a good and or a bad thing depending on their environment.  Generally speaking, most city residents will not see feral hogs running about.  However, those of  us living in the suburban areas often have to endure domesticated farm animals (in the city this includes dogs and cats) going wild or feral.  These animals are especially hard to control as they stay close to homes.  As has been addressed in this blog on previous occasions, trapping and shooting unwanted animals in and around these locations is highly prohibitive.  On a positive note Coyotes provide suburban dwellers an alternative toward controlling unwanted feral animals.  On the negative side, when the feral animals are gone the elevated number of Coyotes often become our new unwanted neighbors.

The new year is upon us and winter is casting a chill almost every where in our country.   Many folks prefer to remain inside their warm homes at this time of the year.  Sadly, following the Holiday season is also the worst time of the year for depression or “cabin fever.”  Want a really great mental boost?  If the sun is shinning get outside if only for a few minutes.  If you are able to take a short walk it is a good time to look out and about your neighborhood to see what tracks are in the newly fallen snow or wet ground.  OK – if your home is in frost bite city be sure to take precautions before going outside!  Make sure to get out and about for a few minutes if you are able to safely do so.

If you haven’t done so go back and click on the links above. The National Geographic article is a really good read and the FORROS web site might just inspire you to take a more active interest in your own neck of the woods.  The Coyote Cam is gathering news from around the country and hopefully, will be more closely associated with a national group in the near future.  Any one desiring to ask questions or submit articles for use are encouraged to email the Coyote Cam.

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!

 

 

 

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!