Good morning to all you Coyote Cam readers / watchers, the first of September has arrived. So what does that mean to the Coyote fan? We have talked in general terms about Coyotes spotted and encountered through out the country but not a lot about their family life so lets get down to basics. Back ground history for the following material was derived from the New Mexico Game and Fish, these fine folks work hard to ensure New Mexico’s wild life is properly managed. A lot more Coyotes are seen at this time of the year as the pups are now grown and capable of going about on their own. The Coyote family consists of an “Alpha Core” (Dad and Mom are monogamous most of the time) and pups that will hunt as a unit early on in that family’s cycle. Though more often then not at this time of the year, the youngsters are venturing further from the den developing their own capabilities. The pups are accepted back for a few more weeks but they will soon go out into the world on their own. Wolves hunt in packs dictated by a social order as opposed to the Coyote family hunting unit.
Breeding begins about mid – late January through February with gestation running about 60 plus days. Birth starts a little after St. Patrick’s Day or from mid March to late April of each year. The pups do not open their eyes for 10 days but will leave the den 2 – 3 weeks later. It is about this time that Mom may decide to move the pups to a new location as the youngsters get more active. Coyotes are known to have several dens available in their territories so Mom has several to choose from. The Coyote families eventually dissolve with the young males leaving prior to the arrival of Mom and Dad’s next liter. Of curious note here is that some of the original litter’s female pups will hang around and help Mom with her next litter. These “babysitters” are really helpful bringing food to Mom and helping to move their new brothers and sisters during the first few months to avoid den parasites and predators. The pups are typically weaned at 5-6 weeks after birth. The pups accept regurgitated food from the parents at this time but will soon begin their hunting training by accompanying Mom & Dad along with any of the older pups from the previous litter. As soon as the youngest are getting about on their own and able to keep up with Mom & Dad the other older siblings began to leave the Alpha Core. The mortality for young Coyotes is close to 50 percent, most pups will never see their first birthday!
Family units consist of 3 – 8 members and have relatively small territories of 2 – 3 square miles but may range out to 40 square miles depending on conditions. The Coyotes mark their territories with urine, fecal matter and anal-sac secretions. With their territories marked and ownership established the Coyote family lives a somewhat undisturbed life. The now mature adults from previous litters are establishing their new territories or arguing for ownership from the current owners. This time of the year is full of Coyotes, mature pups expanding their territories and looking to strengthen their viability. The new males are going crazy trying to figure out what this mating thing is all about and at the same time hunting enough food to sustain life and limb. From now through the next few months Coyotes will be more active then during the early summer months, especially the males.
Stay tuned – There is more to come on the Coyote Cam!
The number of family run American farm and ranch numbers are dwindling being replaced in large part by corporate commercial operations. Every year sees another farmer or rancher taking a second job to augment their agriculture careers. In addition, financially they are being forced to sell off land as it becomes more valuable as a sub-development rather then for growing crops or raising livestock. Other factors to consider are the stigma of not only trying to protect ones animals against predators but the harvesting of agriculture animals. More and more animal protection groups only see suffering animals in rural America, no comments about the need for production of protein products! Meanwhile, consumers only complain when their grocery store / market prices increase.
Through out American history farmers and ranchers have tried several methods to eliminate predation
Most “leg traps” were used by trappers in order to preserve as much of the animal pelt as was possible. Farmers and ranchers knew that the leg traps could be used very effectively against large predators as well and additionally, the pelt provided another source of revenue. However, the leg traps could and did trap livestock. It wasn’t until later that poisons were used though there were as many negative side effects as there were positive ones!
First came the neck strap packet of poison. Most predators attack their victims by clamping their jaws on the victim’s neck. The action of clamping down on the neck strap released a poison into the attacker’s mouths. Unfortunately, the animal wearing the neck strap most always died or was severely injured! Loosing livestock is not a good thing so another delivery system that did not kill or maim the livestock was needed.
The ground delivery system as its name implies is buried in the ground with the top “bait” portion exposed. The “bait” is treated with a predator attractant. The system is powered to thrust the bait and poison into the animal’s mouth and throat when it is clamped down on and tugged. No livestock are harmed and the predator is eliminated. However, the unintended consequences of poisons is that it doesn’t stop with the intended recipient. Most of the poisons used were supposed to be fast acting but many factors did not make it so. The varmints would devour their meal then wonder off and die. The poisoned predator would eventually be consumed by (vultures) other carnivores who in turn were poisoned by the tainted predator, the poison kept on working through multiple exposures!
Several media comments and or “Letters to the Editor” espouse support for hunting but then oppose trapping or the use of “mechanical calling techniques.” The “conflicted hunters” then make a scary statement about the “carnage” resulting from Coyote Hunting Contests often including pictures of multiple dead coyotes. The one thing the contest opponents fail to mention is that the system far out weighs what had gone on before. Ever watch a poisoned animal die? A shooter can and does discriminate targets making the coyote the only animal that is eliminated! As long as his livestock are not shot few ranchers / farmers are too concerned about the sudden decline in the number of four legged predators.
Stay tuned there is more to come on the Coyote Cam.
The hierarchy of nature dictates that prevailing weather will control the environment which then dictates the level of animal habitation. Early Europeans settling in the US found hearty soil capable of growing more crops with not near the exertion required in their home lands. Growing seasons were longer and in most cases more moderate. Clear out a few trees and mend the rocky soil and abundant crops would result! The cattle ranchers did not need to bend their back to the soil but instead required open prairies with a plentiful water supply. While these two life styles would seem dissimilar in fact animals were needed on the farm – milk cows, chickens and heavier animals for plowing. Humans have noted that domesticated animals thrive when they are grazed rather then being fed. Healthy livestock fare better in transportation then animals simply fed Yes, livestock are fattened up in feed lots but grazing makes for more durable animals! Where ever you find livestock you will find predators ready to stalk them, it is nature. The sad part of nature is that when humans interfere nature suffers. Interference is not part of nature yet humans continually try to alter the outcome nature has set in motion.
Predators are born with a sense of smell far more advanced then others. Don’t forget that dogs and cats are predators too. Ever notice how they can sense food left out on a counter? Back to the wilds – bears, large cats and canines can smell other animals in distress. In as much as bears, large cats and wolfs are pretty well hunted out that leaves the Coyote. Livestock placentas are extremely motivating as a predator food source. Earlier on in this blog’s history a rancher was interviewed in relation to a Coyote Hunting Contest and she related the following story in support of the contests. The rancher knew one of her cows was in the final stage of delivering. As most cows do they try to find a spot away from the others to give birth. The rancher found the cow and watched a calf being born. From out of the bush a Coyote appeared and went after the half born calf. The birthing cow could not do anything in defense as the calf was not fully delivered. The rancher said she didn’t have a gun but did her best to scare the Coyote off. Unfortunately, the Coyote had a firm hold on the unborn calf and during the struggle between the cow, the Coyote and the rancher- the unborn calf was fatally injured. The struggle proved to be too much for the cow as well, she died from shock and loss of blood a bit later. The rancher lost not just the calf but the cow as well. This is not an isolated story either, all domesticated animals are subject to the same fate. Coyotes do not kill for sport but to satisfy hunger and they are aggressive during that activity.
This brings us back to the opening comments.
Look up Coyote Hunting Contests and there will be a few internet sites advocating the sport yet many, many more suggesting the Contests are nothing more then legalized mass animal killings. Passing through the western and southwestern part of the United States the visitor will find an agrarian environment, long and empty miles of nothing but cattle or sheep. Often you can travel for several hours and never see another vehicle. Yet, just like others east of the Mississippi ranchers and farmers dread losing the extra help directly and indirectly provided by the state. Just like the loss of family produce farms will eventually impact everyone’s kitchen so too will the loss of livestock. It is time to take a realistic look at animal predation before it is too late.
Stay tuned, there is more to come on the Coyote Cam!
For some time this blog has been dedicated to urban interaction with Coyotes.A few readers asked why not look at the Coyote from the other side?The urban Coyote has a comfortable life compared to the suburbs or worse yet, rural lands.For the remainder of this year (2017) we will shift our focus to Coyote survival in rural areas.The farmer’s and rancher’s lively hood is at stake every day with weather as the primary detriment and livestock predation a close second.The USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service is referenced for this and other articles. Sheep and lamb mortality can be as high as 80 percent in some cases almost entirely due to Coyote predation.Cattle are much larger and hence their size poses a problem for Coyotes but not one that can’t be over come.The young and sick have always been targets for predators and cattle are no exception.Cattle ranchers constantly struggle with predation and calving operations are extremely vulnerable to the coyote when mom and dad coyote are teaching their pups!When the average size livestock loss is running over $50,000 per year something has to be done.Fare warning here, the following material may not be suitable for all readers.
When Buffalo roamed the American prairies the Wolf, for many years, reigned supreme as the canine alpha predator!The lowly Coyote learned to survive using stealth and cunning to evade the Wolf as well other predators.Alas, as the human migration pushed ever westward the Wolf was hunted to the verge of extinction.Trappers and commercial hunters severely reduced wild life populations (think buffalo) but it was the settlers who had the most detrimental impact on the alpha predator population!Farmers and ranchers saw the Wolf, Mountain Lion and Bear as the primary reason for livestock losses!As a result the Coyote’s primary nemesis was eliminated and the Coyote’s hunting territory expanded as well as his reproductive activity.Interestingly, many studies have shown that Coyotes live about six to eight years in the wild.Conversely, in captivity Coyotes can live twelve plus years.Other studies found that during the least stressful periods wild Coyote pups survival averages around one or two pups out of six.Amazingly, when external pressures exist (hunting or higher level predators) pup survival can be 100 percent.In the case of elevated pressures suggestions are that with the removal of the adult Coyotes the pups have more on which to survive.
Coyote hunting contests have been around for years although on a smaller scale following the demise of the Coyote’s predators.
The agriculture community would come together to hunt the Coyotes as needed.Returning home to the Southwest part of the country in the late 60s a few ex-helicopter pilots found new jobs shooting Coyotes with a shotgun from their low flying helicopters.
The Coyote Cam reader has probably heard of the “Duck Call,” “Goose Call,” and a “Turkey Call,”The next advance in Coyote Hunting came with the mechanical Coyote Call.Coyote Calling has become big business as there are no licenses required to hunt the Coyote.
Today, Coyote Hunting has become a contest to see who can harvest the maximum numbers of Coyotes over a given weekend with a trophy or reward given out.Several gun shops around the southwest, in conjunction with a few farmers and ranchers, have devised an annual Coyote Hunting Contest.What is interesting is that even after these events the next season’s Coyote population shows little, if any, reduction in numbers.
Stay tuned, there is more to come on the Coyote Cam.