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.

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.

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.

 

Eastern Coyote is Bigger!

The Eastern Coyote is bigger then the Western Coyote, not by much though. The distinction between the Eastern and Western Coyote species is in weight and DNA samples, not much else separates them.  Speaking about DNA, biologist note the relationship between the Grey Wolf and the Western Coyote found specifically in Southeastern Canada to be a very good match.  Existing records suggest the hybridization occurred some time around the mid 1800s at about the same time they began moving eastward.  While the Eastern Coyote is not as big as the Grey Wolf their family units occupy a greater territory then do their relatives, the Western Coyote.  Much has been written about “packs” but the Coyotes are comprised of “family units” which is another separation factor between it and the Wolves.  Readers will want to keep the concept of “family units” in mind as this blog contributes future postings.

 Eastern Coyote_edited-1

The Hybrid Wolf/Coyote did not exist before Europeans migrated to the New World.  The Eastern Coyote was noticed in the North Eastern areas of the United States about 1930 and has expanded its territory through out the eastern states all the way South to Virginia.  Interestingly, the Eastern Coyote was not known to be a problem until the 1980s and 90s.  It was about that time urban developments expanded making urbanites and coyotes unlikely neighbors.

As has been written in previous issues of the Coyote Cam, Coyotes easily adapt. Home owners bring a lot to the Coyote in terms of easy food and shelter.  Look around you.  How many bird feeders do you see?  How many pet food bowls do you know are left out on the porch?  See any garbage cans with debris stacked along side them?  Do you see cats or dogs running about the neighborhood?  Anyone have firewood stacked close by?  What about that park not far from where you live?  Coyotes have been known to paw the area below birdfeeders to eat the dropped birdfeed.  Oh yeah, that dropped birdfeed also draws mice and other varmints which the coyote will devour without a second thought.  Records and neck tags trace Coyotes daily lives which reveal they wait to cross streets until the vehicle traffic is in their favor.  The Coyotes will travel to an area with high grass and make a den for its family.  It doesn’t have to be high grass either, a wood pile or w washed out paved parking lot will do too.  Coyotes adapt and survive!

Thanks for your time – Stay Tuned, their is more to come on the Coyote Cam!