Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t!

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

  bear-trap

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!

Livestock Protection Collar
Predator Control Device

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.

  M44 diagram

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.

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Its them or me-

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.

coyote-hunting-tactics
Coyote Hunting Contests

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!

On the other hand, Coyote Hunting

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. 

early-coyote-hunting
Early Coyote Hunting

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.

helicoyotehunting
Helicopter Coyote Shooter

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. 

coyote-call-results
Coyote Caller and Results

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.

 

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.

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.

M2E3L1-1R350B320

OH – and the bait as well.

M2E1L0-1R350B320

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.

owl-on-the-roof

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.