Policies on Coyotes?

Readers should know that the majority of material for this blog is gathered from various media then offered up for discussion. This author makes every attempt to cite sources as well in some cases, embed the original document in the blog. Carrying on with this year’s focus on rural Coyotes it seems there are fewer instances of interaction with humans involved in agriculture being reported. No, it is not that there are fewer occurrences. Remember that the agriculture industry looses livestock to predators almost on a daily basis. Therefore, the industry has to allocate resources to either eliminate or diminish those losses to a negligible level. Agricultural loss control mechanisms do not rise to the level of neighborhood pets being taken by predators. Instead, those in the agriculture industry consider the Coyote just another daily chore to be dealt with and entered as an expense item in their financial planning.  The media is not interested in those mundane agricultural chores but does rely on the old adage – “if it bleeds it leads.”

A recent “Idaho State Journal” news article describes a young man loosing his dog and suffering an injury due to cyanide gas exposure from an M44 predator control mechanism. Only the local television station in Idaho Falls carried the story in conjunction with the “Journal.” No other regional or national news media made mention of the story as of the date of this posting. It seems that if any regional or national coverage of predator control comes about is when a certain segment of society deems it so.  What does this say about the news media?

After a few months of watching the evening news this viewer notes that the major networks offer news of the day ending with a warm / feel good story. Intriguing how some ninety percent of network evening news is followed by ten percent or less of feel good stories. An Emu being chased by several good Samaritans or a young bear swimming in some one’s back yard pool – Not that those articles aren’t interesting but who determines what feel good story is to be offered?  Several teams must spend some time in selecting the subjects but what are their guidelines to providing a positive end to their daily presentations?  There are policies which provide guidance to these folks that put together the daily news in its entirety but who wrote the original policies?  Are those policies ever reviewed to ensure they are in conformity with today’s wants or needs?

Coyotes in agriculture or Coyotes in the neighborhood? One thing for sure the Coyote is not wanted in either environment.  How does either of those stories end?  For the Coyote the story will always be stealth and adaptation to elude its stalkers.  For the humans living in the rural countryside the Coyote’s fate is sealed.  For the Coyotes in the city / urban / suburban neighborhoods their fate is determined by how aggressive they become.  What does this say then?  Depending on city ordinances Coyotes are better off living in town then on the farm!  Will the Coyote be the lead story on the evening news or will it be that feel good ending to your day?

 

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

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.

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.

coyote-caught-in-leghold-trap

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.

vet-helping-trapped-cat

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.

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

A dead battery?

The National Parks Service (NPS) “collars” Coyotes. As well, a lot of animals are collared by multiple entities and the collar tags given numbers to differentiate the data obtained from that collared animal. Interesting stuff, really! Take for instance P-22 or as some of you may know him, the Big Cat of Hollywood.

http://proof.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/14/a-cougar-ready-for-his-closeup/

The data from that collar provided insight on the comings and goings of an urban, male Mountain Lion. Best known for its photograph with the famous Hollywood sign in the back ground P-22 gained a lot of notoriety when it apparently consumed a Los Angeles Zoo Koala Bear for dinner.

To a lesser degree C- 144, an alpha-female Coyote and C-145, a male Coyote are being tracked through out Western Los Angeles.

https://www.nps.gov/samo/blogs/Location-Location-Location.htm

The alpha-female Coyote’s tracking data has raised some eye brows as she crosses the infamous Los Angeles Freeways seemingly at will. Based on the data and follow-up field assessments it appears urban animals have evolved or at least learned to survive just about anything humans can throw at them.   C-145 enjoys the leisurely life style of most young males, feeding and mating whenever the occasion arises. For what ever reason even though both Coyotes were tagged about the same time they never seem to cross paths. On a side note here: It should be pointed out that a lot of states and their larger communities are working to provide all wild life a safe means to cross freeway systems such as tunnels and walk-ways. Nonetheless, it would seem the animals in this review are not doing a bad job of finding their own way, Thank You Very Much! Ah but now comes the sad part of this story- the battery went dead. C-144 had just returned from one of her long jaunts, another eye-popping event as most alpha-female Coyotes seldom if ever leave their home turf. After only a day or so after her out of territory walk C-144 went blank. She was seen with the collar but obviously the collar was malfunctioning and is most probably attributed to a dead battery. Here is the problem, once tagged Coyotes are not often recaptured to be retagged. So now the previous C-144 is more a dead weight on the female Coyote’s torso. Will we see more of this female Coyote? Probably. She seems to have lasted a lot longer then her counterparts. Several more Coyote stories are coming in these days from Columbus Georgia up to New York and even further north to New Brunswick Canada. New Brunswick media reflected on last winter’s Coyote eliminations by a local fur trapper. He related that the local deer populations were down but Coyote numbers seemed greater then in years past. The trapper suggested that the Coyote numbers would fall as they rely on deer for a major part of their diets. Followers of this blog will recognize the relationship between Coyotes and food sources. Unfortunately, the urban animals don’t just rely on a single food source. Specifically, urban Coyotes have come to understand we humans discard sufficient food sources as well as shelter. Unlike the New Brunswick Fur Trapper above, readers understand that just like C-144 even though we can’t track her, from time to time we will see her.

Stay tuned, there is more to come from 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.

PRMS0014_edited-1
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!