There is a season –

Hi - Im just passing throughFirst, a disclaimer is required here. This writer has always been an outdoor sportsman which includes hunting and fishing.  In conjunction with being an outdoor sportsman we all need to recognize that predators come in all sorts of packages; fin, fowl and animal (both the two legged and four legged varieties).  It is my belief that good stewardship includes land as well as wildlife!  A well maintained wildlife environment provides a shelter against encroaching humans and conversely, predators from wondering neighborhoods.

The end of 2017 saw an uptick in the number of Coyote attacks, a lot of those attacks were fatal to family pets. This blog has long talked about the number of Coyotes being encountered in usually non-wildlife areas (think neighborhoods here).  This blog has recounted the number of state, county and city agencies discouraging folks from feeding wild life yet a few people still see mangy Coyotes as hungry and in need of feeding.  Television and newspapers note with regularity the number of Coyote and human pet interactions in gruesome details.  One would think the Coyote is right up there with national enemy number 1.

Conversely, there are a number of groups through out the United States that advocate saving the Coyote.  Just this past Sunday in the Albuquerque Journal a column entitled Coyote-killing contest riles some might suggest that stopping cruel and insensitive Coyote killing contests ought to be the law as it is in some other states.  OK, lets not paint all citizens with one brush.  We are not all trying to save the Coyote – ask any pet owner who has witnessed their family (member) pet being killed by a Coyote.  The majority of those folks see a need to eradicate the neighborhood Coyotes.  Leave the city limits and there will be another person that has no need of the Coyote, those in the agricultural industry.  Farmers and ranchers not only loose family pets to Coyotes but they loose a part of their income to Coyote predation.  Cattle and sheep fare the worse loses due to Coyote attacks because currently, there are few other predators other wise – losses would be far greater! As any veterinarian can attest, Coyote attacks are often expensive to treat.  A sheep or cow being much larger becomes even more expensive to treat.

Why has the Coyote become so infamous – in one word, humans. An ever growing population of humans is forcing wildlife into smaller and smaller parcels of land.  Humans have paved roads into the lands once dominated only by wildlife.  These roads create a quasi type of wildlife fence, cross it at the wrong moment and death is instantaneous.  Those lands parceled by roads are also drained thereby eliminating sources of drinking water for wildlife as well the environment of water fowl.  Wetlands, once home to water fowl are fast becoming construction sites.  Say what you will, we humans are the ones encroaching on wildlife!  OK, the point of no return has not been reached . . . yet!  There are still areas where wild life abounds but that area is diminishing in size every day.  The last place a Coyote wants to be is out on a ranch or farm, their life spans are limited out there!  Much safer are the city neighborhoods where humans provide food that doesn’t have to be hunted and shelter that doesn’t require preparation or maintenance.  Go ahead and leave those pet food bowls outside, be sure the backyard fountains are running and by all means don’t bother covering those garbage cans.  Birdfeeders should be filled to over flowing so not only birds but squirrels come to visit.

Your bird feeder is empty but you want have to worry about the cat

Thanks for your readership!

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!

Natural Selection

The May 14th, 2016 edition of the Coyote Cam focus was directed at a blind, pregnant female Coyote struggling to survive. Only the intervention of a human saved the dying pregnant Coyote.  The blind female Coyote gave birth to five puppies which are to be released back into the wild.  Saving dying Coyotes and releasing young Coyotes into the wilderness is contradictory to every Coyote Cam story to date.  Without fail, most if not all humans see the Coyote as a threat to their livestock, family pets, and oh yeah – children.  Why then does someone need to intervene and prevent the death of a blind and pregnant Coyote?

Most readers will note that the Coyote Cam centers on the history and survival skills of the Coyote in rural wilderness, suburban and urban settings. In the wilderness nature’s law prevails whereas in suburban and urban localities nature’s law gives way to what we humans decide is best.  Most human dwellings require green grass and flowers around homes and yards.  Flowers are a thing of beauty but secondary to that, they also draw butterflies and hummingbirds.  To further enhance our outdoor enjoyment we hang bird feeders around the yard hoping to attract song birds and in a few cases we even put out bird baths.  There is no argument that these feeders do attract birds and sometimes, squirrels.  Unfortunately, squirrels, mice and rabbits are attracted to the seeds dropped to the ground by these backyard feeders.  Squirrels, rabbits and mice are a buffet to a hungry Coyote!  All too often these same feeders are inside the fence where the family pets eat and play.  It just doesn’t get any better for a Coyote, food and (remember the bird bath) water all in the same location!  Lets not forget that most humans are complacent in the fact the backyard is a safe place allowing children to play unattended.

Conversely, Nature has a rule that perpetuates and improves life in the wilderness and that is that sick, young, old or injured animals provide sustenance for other wild life. An animal carcass provides meals to all species of wild life, scavengers even include other Coyotes!  Conversely, the suburban / urban Coyote has developed survival skills based in part on the inattention of humans.  Humans, intentionally or unintentionally, do little to protect their home environment against animal intrusions hence Coyotes find easy access to food and shelter.  Every one complains when neighborhood dogs tip over garbage cans but was it really a family pet that did the deed?  Coyotes can push over garbage cans as easily as the family pet!

Newport Beach California

Sterling Heights Michigan

Reviewing the week’s national media Coyote postings, two interesting articles appear. The first is from Newport Beach California which reveals its Coyote problem was bad enough in August 2015 that citizens threatened to take matters into their own hands.  The authorities stepped in and currently are attempting to establish a prioritization monitoring system whereby Coyotes posing a sever threat are terminated.  Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the country, Sterling Heights Michigan residents are seeing Coyotes in residential areas.  Alarmed citizens are being told by the Police Department there to use all possible precautions to avoid a direct encounter with the varmints.

In the last Coyote Cam posting we find a human seeking ways to save a blind and wounded rural Coyote. Did the well intentioned person of the previous posting intercede in “Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection?”  Let the rest of us know how you feel, leave a comment.   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!

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!

To Hunt or to Haze?

Coyote hunting contests re-emerge as a possibility to control Coyote populations.

New Mexico, like a lot of other states, permitted Coyote hunting contests and from all appearances, will continue to allow the activity to continue.  Over the past several years some New Mexico citizens decided the Coyote hunting contests were unacceptable.  Those same citizens once again purposed a change to the laws via Senate Bill 253, the Senate subcommittee hearing the bill is comprised of a Democratic majority.  The Senate then passed the bill on Feb. 15, 2015 passing same over to the House Water, Agriculture and Wildlife committee for further deliberations.  As of the date of this blog the House subcommittee has not acted on the bill and few doubt the Republican House favors its passage.  Stand tuned we will report the outcome when it is made public.

Expanding to the national scene

Don’t think that a little cold water and ice will stop our four legged predator friends?  Seems members of a Coast Guard Ship breaking ice in Boston Harbor came across a Coyote in an unusual spot.  Coyotes will expand and contract their ranges relevant to their food sources and den capabilities.  Finding a Coyote in the middle of a frozen Boston Harbor is not so far fetched.  Readers may recall an article posted in this blog concerning Coyote trappers in Alaska.  If a Coyote can make it there they can make it anywhere – sound familiar?

It seems more Coyote encounters are finding their way into this document.  Chappaqua, N.Y via CBS on March 3, 2015 reported more and more Coyotes are being spotted and some packs are being seen.  One of the pest professionals interviewed advised he was using a rubber, leg trap with an alarm whenever the trap is tripped.  Some of those citizens affected offered suggestions from learning to live with the predators while others deemed extermination to be the best practice.  In another internet blog, Northjersey.Com reported on Feb. 28, 2015 of a Coyote being seen and recorded by Englewood Cliff’s Upper School and Memorial Field security cameras.  The Coyote appears to have made this part of its territory as the sightings at this location are being repeated.  A number of animal control personnel stated for the Northjersey.Com the Coyotes are here to stay.  Saying this part of the country has permitted timber and brush to reclaim much of the surrounding land which provides ready habitat for both the Coyote and its natural prey such as rodents.  In one sense Coyote presence may be good- the Coyotes kill the rodents off prior to the rodents becoming disease infested.  However, the addition of human created garbage and household pets is insurance the roaming Coyotes will never go hungry as well the near by brush and high grass provide Coyotes shelter.

Meanwhile, Pittsburg and Kansas are reporting an increase in the number of Coyote encounters and police there are warning residents to be on the alert.  Hazing is one possible way to scare off unwanted animals and Coyotes do seem to avoid areas of anti-social behavior. Chicago has decided to begin using “paint balls!”  Who knows lets hope it works.   As has been reported here ad-infinitum; garbage, pets and their food bowls must be kept secure.  More and more material also suggests keeping nearby areas free of debris and or vegetation which might create potential den sights.  Until next month’s edition- carry a big stick when taking your walk!

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.

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.

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,

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

Stay tuned, we will see what tomorrow brings.