First of September

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 New born pupsbut 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 The Familyand 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!

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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.

 

Who is out there?

M2E1L0-1R350B320
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

Happy New Year

Good bye 2016 and Hello 2017! Time for a change but human nature changes very slowly.  Coyote news reports from across the country remain consistent, people ignore the laws of nature and pets (especially small pets) suffer.  Sad to say another family pet was lost in Chicago and what was worse is that it happened on Christmas Day.  The tragic story involves three specific traits; Coyote numbers are on the rise, People think it is ok to feed wildlife, People think that just because their pets were safe last week the pets will be safe this week too.  Combine all three of these traits and a recipe for disaster is set in motion. Even though the number of reported Coyote incidents has risen dramatically many more go unreported.  There have been more pets lost this year then in any other year and that number will continue to rise.

Many citizens attend public meetings seeking information to eliminating the “Coyote” problem every week. During each of those meetings an authority will advise the attendees there are multiple issues needing correction before the Coyote threat can be reduced.  Some of those discussions will reflect that the process of eliminating the Coyote threat carries unintended consequences such as possible injuries to pets and humans.  Prior issues of the Coyote Cam speaks to poisons and leg traps for those not familiar with the unintended consequences of attempting to eliminate Coyotes.  Most authorities advise that Coyotes are often seen well before they become a nuisance and that is the best time to be proactive in Coyote elimination!  As soon as the first Coyote is seen in the immediate area residents should look for the attractant that drew the Coyote to them.  This is a great time to introduce yourself to your neighbors if you haven’t done so already!  Many neighborhoods have “Crime Watch” organizations and those folks bring a lot of eyes so why not watch for Coyotes as well as bad guys.  Some of you might put the Coyote and bad guys in the same bag but they are different, one is a creature of nature while the other is a creature with only bad intentions.  Pooling the resources of neighborhood watch associations can be the first line of defense against Coyote problems!

One of your neighbors is stand offish and not the joining type. I can hear the murmurings of readers growing louder!  In the case of a Neighborhood Watch Organization this is not really  a problem as others can be relied on to augment the nonconformist.  However, when it comes to yard maintenance and picking up after pets the nonconformist becomes the focal point for Coyotes.  There will always be a nonconforming individual in the neighborhood crowd, someone who is not reasonable or responsible.  This is where the local health or code enforcement authorities will make a difference, one call to those authorities and the nonconformist can rely on random checks through out the year.  Some communities with strong health / code enforcement agencies establish a list as they realize nonconforming individuals need the proper motivation to clean up their home and lawns.  Yeah that first call to health / code enforcement can be tough but the positive outcome could result in a nicer neighborhood and one free of Coyotes.  The object is to encourage the Coyotes to go elsewhere and that is one of the goals of this blog, helping to better understand Coyotes and their habitats.

City and suburban areas are fairly easy to protect once one knows what to look for but the urban and agricultural areas will most certainly have an ongoing Coyote issue. A Coyote problem requiring sterner means of control, proactive here means terminating the critters.  Unfortunately, this is where Coyote experts have learned that termination is not one hundred percent certain!  Over the years Coyotes have learned to not only survive but thrive in impossible situations.  In almost each and every case where Coyotes have been killed the following season sees an uptick in numbers.  Mother nature abhors a vacuum and the Coyote validates that theory.  Once the Coyote has established a territory they instinctively increase their numbers when ever the current numbers decrease.  The final point in conjunction with the afore mentioned concepts is that once a Coyote has established its territory there is little to no chance of eliminating its progeny!  Act when the first Coyote is seen and the eventual elimination is a tad more efficient!

Changing the story line here – This past Christmas the Coyote Cam was active, four Coyotes (alright – three full figures and a portion of a fourth) were recorded. The timing is interesting in that the Coyote Cam was a Christmas present some four years ago and the very first time it was put into use it recorded several Coyotes.  The time in between then and now saw only a few Coyotes but the realty was that two cameras had to be replaced.  Down time between camera replacements were lengthy which would account for the lower number of Coyote photographs.  Following this edition readers will note the latest photographs of the local Coyote family, they do seem healthy this year!  Why would the Coyotes hang around when so many of the neighbors take stringent precautions?  Bureau of Land Management is not proactive in critter control until the animals involved become a problem.  As noted above several pets are killed but few are ever officially reported as killed but simply as missing.  The lands adjacent to this neighborhood are managed(?) by BLM and until missing pets are denoted as killed by Coyotes BLM will not take any action to eliminate the Coyotes running through BLM property.

Thank You for allowing this writer time off for Christmas and New Year. I sincerely hope you and your family are healthy and looking forward to the coming year.

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

That was then, this is now

Predators kill livestock, Coyotes represent the largest population of predators. Solution- eliminate the largest population of predators (Coyotes). Most if not all of the material represented here is available through various global wild life records. In addition to those records and on a similar vane, Conservation Officers owe their history to the mid-evil Game Wardens employed by private land owners. Record keeping of both domestic and wild life activities began with these folks and in some form or another continues today through various and multiple governmental agencies through out the world. A side note here- New Mexico (NM) late 1969: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and probably highly motivated by NM Ranchers & Farmers, was paying a $25.00 bounty on the head of each Coyote.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Coyote populations, along with other predators were increasing with the number of livestock available. Anyone working in agriculture knew there had to be a way to manage livestock predation (killings). The original predator control was a spring loaded steel leg trap commonly referred to as a “bear trap.”

Overkill at the very minimum
Overkill at the very minimum

However, the “bear trap” was indiscriminate. It caught everything including unsuspecting humans. Additionally, the “bear trap” maimed when tripped resulting in tremendous pain and extreme mental anxiety. If the trapped animal didn’t die from shock it would endeavor to free itself only to incur further injury which inevitably produced death. That trap lost popularity for obvious reasons though a padded version with tabs of pain dulling drug was introduced in an effort for a humane solution. Personal observation: Whiskey (lots of it) would have been my preferred pain killer! In this case an animal gets trapped and attempts to gnaw at the holding jaws only to be sedated. Several problems arise from this method of predator control. When mechanically trapped, animals tend to bite at the restraining mechanism which produces mouth tissue and dental damage. The padded trap does reduce initial sever injury but once sedation begins the restrained animal is now defenseless and can be attacked by other predators including its own kind. Additionally, sedated animals loose their ability to govern their body temperatures and can then die by exposure.

Another predator control mechanism called The Livestock Protection Collar (collar) works well but the thing is a bit pricey meaning only a few livestock wear one.

Predator Control Device
Predator Control Device

Even though the “collar” works, its location around the neck of the protected animal still allows killing injuries. Another problem with the “collar” is that after scavengers eat the deceased predator’s carcass the predator’s tainted body then kills the scavenger.

Finally, a device called the M44 uses a cyanide proponent designed to convert to hydrogen cyanide gas on contact with the predator’s moist mouth and throat.

M44 M44 diagram

 

This device is driven below ground level, loaded with the cyanide proponent then topped with bait. The M44 is activated as the Coyote attempts to tug and pull the bait up.   This delivery method restricts the toxin to the predator’s lungs, rarely if ever entering the blood stream meaning that scavengers would be less likely to be harmed. The padded trap with its tabs, the collar and the M44 are all highly regulated! The M44 requires a high level authorization by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and extreme levels of monitoring make it expensive to use and maintain. While trapping for food and pelts attained their goals, predator controls using trapping have a poor history!

All through history the most effective, least painful and longest lasting predator controls are selective harvesting. Believe it or not, barnstorming pilots used to shoot Coyotes in the 1920s between shows. Back to 1969- some of the guys returning from Vietnam who flew helicopters suddenly discovered a way to maintain their pilot’s certification. The BLM contracted helicopter crews to focus on Coyote elimination but economic restrictions soon put an end to that predator control mechanism. Livestock predators do not concern themselves with economics, only the need for bountiful food supplies.

Most states in the U.S have mandatory hunting licenses, typically the fees charged for those licenses do not cover the operational expenses of the issuing agencies. All most all of the states have to augment their fish and games agencies suggesting voters do have input in to how those agencies operate. Hunting regulations set forth parameters for the different species and their hunting seasons. Regulations provide for hunting times to start at sunup and end at sundown. Other regulations restrict hunting near highways and residential structures.

An interesting loop hole- several species are not regulated and depending on the state, Coyotes often fall into that category. In as much as hunting / shooting Coyotes is not regulated the common custom of the day is to shoot them on sight. The Coyotes are after all, the most populist predator. Coyote hunting contests have been around a long time. Originally a bunch of ranchers or farmers would get together in an effort to reduce predation pressure on their combined livestock and see who was the best shot (largest collector of coyote carcasses). It was an occasion to get together with friends, have a meal and catch up on news of the world and the community. The Coyote contests have drawn attention to what some would call the wanton slaying of an animal. Tell that to the rancher or farmer who witnesses a calf or kid being pulled from its mother by a hungry Coyote. The State of New Mexico’s legislative session will consider a bill that outlaws Coyote Hunting Contests. A law banning Coyote hunting may be tough to get enacted in the state. New Mexico’s primary private industry is based on oil & gas but that land also covers a lot of farm and ranches. The following link is provided only for a reference as to which states may pay bounties on Coyotes. It is not all inclusive but gives the reader an ideal of what to look for in their own states. The codes for what the states permit is found at the bottom of the web page.

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4a2_bounty.php

The hunting contests have grown from a well intentioned effort to protect livestock into a commercial event with prizes for the most Coyotes killed or the largest taken.

How about you? Should we protect livestock or wildlife or both? If you would like to leave a comment please do so in the comments area. In the mean time – stay tuned there is more to come on the Coyote Cam

 

 

Coyote? Where?

Look around!  You may not see them but you will know the Coyotes were there if you pay attention to the ground.  Are there any paw prints, footprints or tracks?  Not a tracker you say, ground is too hard for a visible impression, wouldn’t know a Coyote print from a domestic dog / wolf / fox?  The paw print is a good place to start- the following table will help you spot more then just the Coyote’s presence.  The accompany table is not drawn to scale but approximate lengths from toe to heel are included in the drawings.  Courtesy of Desert USA

Paw prints to look for-
Paw prints to look for-

Lets start with the table, notice that the Coyote paw print is considerably smaller then the Wolf’s and somewhat smaller then that of the Large Dog’s print.  The smallest print is that of the Red Fox though most city dwellers will not see that species especially if Coyotes are present.  Having said that it seems a small community named Waverly just outside of Winnipeg Manitoba Canada is now seeing Coyotes where once only the Fox hunted.  Adapt or perish?  Also in the above table, notice that the two front, inner toes of the Coyote actually turn inward and toward one another.  That trait sets the Coyote apart from its cousins almost as much as anything can.  In addition to the tracks all animals leave their calling card in the form of droppings.  In as much as most domesticated animals are fed prepared foods their droppings do not contain the remains found in Coyote droppings such as bones or remnants of prior meals.  Unfortunately, undigested dog and cat collars have been found in Coyote droppings!  References suggest Coyote droppings are found on or near the perimeter of their hunting grounds which helps to mark their territory.  Look in the center of or along the side of walking paths for twisted / knotted droppings (scat), this is usually a Coyote though other animals do have similar droppings.  The droppings and identifiable tracks together will mark the passing of a Coyote in the immediate area.  So many cities have removed the larger predators that the Coyote has easily taken over the now pavement lined hunting grounds.  Oh, that’s right- a few humans leave their garbage unsecured meaning a buffet of easy pickings.  All of us contribute in some form or another to the survivability of Coyotes.  Bird feeders and water fountains supply the basic needs for more then just birds.  Rabbits and squirrels make their homes close to feeders and available water, this allows the Coyotes a little diversity in their diets.  It may be time to re-evaluate the location of those bird feeders and to possibly elevate that fountain higher off the ground and away from vegetation.

Bottom line for Coyote prevention- if your pets and or wild life would eat it so will the Coyote.  If the Coyote has acclimated to finding food at specific locations such as the pet’s food bowl in your backyard and it is not available then the next best thing for the Coyote is the family pet.   Keep garbage containers securely covered, pet food bowls inside, accompany pets outside, on a short leash when exercising and always, always carry a big stick (tongue in cheek credit to Teddy Roosevelt).

Another episode of the Coyote Cam is at an end but stay tuned, there is more Coyote News on the way.

Where have they gone?

A family at work
A family at work

I recently read an article “Coyotes have expanded their range” dated Dec. 23, 2014 in The Courier.  http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/sports/coyotes-have-expanded-their-range/article_cb7b3422-6b44-54d8-9ab9-fc5e4f4864d3.html

Living in Rio Rancho, NM not far from the Rio Grande River we often see many different varmints walking / running through our subdivision.  A few Christmases back I received a “Trail Camera” as a present, I knew right away where the camera should be hung.  At first there were four-legged visitors (of the Coyote persuasion) regularly stopping by the back fence.  The first photographs taken in late 2012 reflected multiple coyotes, typically parents teaching their pups to hunt.  Another external sign of coyote presence- we receive our mail via a common pedestal stand and it is normal to see pictures of “lost pets” with the date of disappearance and the lost pet’s name with a telephone number to call.  In those early days it was not uncommon to see three, four or more notices taped to the stand.  However, for some reason the “lost pet” notices taped to the stands have diminished in numbers these days.  During a walk through the neighborhood there seemed to be fewer homes with pets which may be the reason the coyote populations appear to be decreasing.  This would seem to be in line with the fact that (as noted in the above article) pets and their food bowls are standard targets for the urban coyote.  There has only been one lone coyote photographed these days!

The above article notes that the coyote has spread its territory but do you know how wide its territory has expanded?  The coyote has been trapped as far north as Alaska and seen in old Mexico even all the way down to Columbia?  Some number of years back, Outdoor Life and The Anchorage News carried a story about a bear attack on coyote trappers.

http://www.adn.com/article/20121113/brown-bear-mauling-near-kenai-river-badly-injures-trapper

http://retrieverman.net/2012/03/31/coyotes-make-it-to-colombia/

Having a strong interest in coyote stories I scan the internet and news media for sightings, stalkings and attacks.  The last two years, maybe longer,  have shown a steady increase in the number of validated coyote attacks on humans. Colorado saw a coyote attack on a three year old boy playing in the presence of his parent.  Coyotes used to be intimidated by humans but now view us as just being in the way of their food supplies. Colorado, California and New Hampshire are beginning to report numerous such attacks,

http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/New-Hampshire-Dog-Fights-off-Coyote-Attacking-His-Owner-283117241.html

Where have they gone?  Probably not far they are just out of sight for now.

Stay tuned, we will see what tomorrow brings.