Coyotes! – Who Knew?

Certainly not I, not really,  even though I did know they were in the Northeast and, if it comes to that, in both of our home neighborhoods. In Maine, there’s a whole pack of ‘em in the woodland right across the road. We hear them often on summer nights, yipping and laughing and howling.

Here in the Hudson Valley we don’t hear them nearly as often – or as close – but we do see them from time to time, including just a couple of weeks ago in a field near our friend Ilana the chicken queen‘s  farm.

Eastern coyote (with mangy tail), apparently hunting for voles

And then we saw what looked like coyote tracks while we were out skiing. The post on skunk tracks is a perennial favorite, so I asked Bill if he’d consider doing a guest post guide to reading tracks in the snow.

He did. It’s far more than I bargained for. And so are the quite scary coyotes.

COYOTES, THOSE GAUNT DOGS OF WINTER

By Bill Bakaitis

Part  one: WHAT THE SNOW SAID

The snows of winter provide a record of the recent history of forest and field. Walking a piece of land this time of year reveals a natural history that is otherwise opaque and difficult to understand. Tracks left by the passing animals read like a book and even a halfway trained eye can see at a glance the recent history of those passing through snow and time.  In such a scape, the forest comes to life, becomes immediate and compelling, as the snow reveals a world filled with activity, the activity of animals coming and going, animals interacting with one another, and animals interacting with the clumsy passage of the chance outside human visitor.

Although a bow hunter and an avid outdoorsman, I am nevertheless reluctant to venture out into the woods during the gun season for deer.  I was therefore particularly eager to get out once the gun season ended and a week-long layer of snow covered the ground.

Luckily, Leslie and I live in an area where there are thousands of acres of undisturbed forest nearby:  State Lands, private estates, educational and research facilities, camps and preserves, as well as the remains of farms gone fallow and otherwise vacant.

It was quite easy therefore to select a piece where I thought I would be alone, and could enjoy the blessings of nature. Here I rarely see any evidence of humans except on one or two paths skirting along an edge of this large tract of reforested farmland. Not far along one path I veered off and almost immediately found a set of deer tracks.

They were quite fresh: the edges were sharp, not yet eroded by wind or weather, and the tracks at the edge of the nearby stream were still muddy, evidence of a recent disturbance.  At first I thought the deer probably spooked as I came up the trail, but by careful comparison of my tracks and those of the deer, I came to the conclusion that the deer probably passed by a half hour to hour before my arrival.

That appraisal was confirmed a few moments later when I came upon the tracks of a large canine following the deer. By following off to the side of the tracks, I quickly surmised that the tracks were probably those of coyote, not dogs, and that there were at least two, perhaps three coyote following the deer.

The deer apparently was being pushed by the coyotes.  This, I thought, is a trail worth following, and so I did for the next two or three hours.

The tracks carried me far into the forest, always the coyote tracks coming over and therefore after, those of the deer. The largest set was persistent, dogged, never wandering far off the trail. Another set, or perhaps two of nearly identical size, seemed to join the trail for a period of time and then divert, returning again at a later juncture.   And always my tracks were the last, obliterating everything underfoot.

At one point a yellow urine stain squarely midway between the 5″ to 6″ straddle of the larger sets of tracks indicated that one of the coyotes was a large female; I judged that she was being assisted by one or two smaller animals, possibly her young of the year. The urine stain was clean, with no trace of the blood tinge which might mark her estrus in the coming weeks.  The snow was telling me a lot about this family.

And then, during one of those peculiar loops of the trail, miles from where we began, I found a set of my tracks with those of a coyote overlaying my bootprint.  An immediate surge of adrenaline raced through my body as I realized what the snow said, that, at least momentarily, I had become the tracked, not the tracker.

Compared to the deer I was both soft and slow and during all of this time I had not seen another set of human tracks. Here I was all alone in the woods with a family of large presumable hungry canines.   What an eerie feeling!  I had become so immersed in the snow’s story that it was like slipping into a dream- space of natural drama. And in that space, the deer, the coyote and I had become equals.

It was not quite a panic, but I immediately broke off the trail and headed overland towards a place where I knew a path to be, thinking the next time I come I’ll bring a handgun, just to be safe, thinking about how bold the coyotes have become in this area, thinking about the kills I knew these 50 pound animals had made, the calves killed in Steven’s barnyard, the remains of the piebald deer I found near here last year, the dogs and cats killed in town, the stories of the German Shepherd which last fall had not survived an encounter with a family of coyotes…

This is a safe kind of fear, mostly a product of my imagination, both thrilling and non-rational, but it was with a sense of relief when I reached the trail to find both human tracks and those of someone’s faithful companion, a well fed, jaunty Golden Retriever perhaps, judged by the joyful, sloppy character of its tracks. These signs were as comforting to me as a fire on a cold day and I followed them to the highway which was still a mile off.

Back home I resolved to follow up on those coyote stories.

Part two: WHAT THE NEIGHBORS SAID

It is a well reported observation: After a few years of eclipse, the Coyotes are back. Grown accustomed to the suburban exurban environment of the north east they are more and more likely to be seen in broad daylight in our fields, forests and yards. Their nightly songs are quite common throughout the area. For many the coexistence has been harmonious, but for others, one fraught with anxiety and trouble.

The manager confirmed for me that in the children’s camp a family of three coyotes became so bold that by the end of summer they began to hound the young campers and then, once the camp closed,  to dog the seasoned staff.  A stalwart of the town also confirmed that this summer, in town, a small dog was trapped and killed on the porch of the family home. So too with several house cats. I was unable to verify the persistent rumors of the German Shepherd which did not survive an encounter with a group of Coyotes.

This is not completely new:   Twenty years ago, at my previous home, a mini-farm surrounded by larger farms and thousand acre tracts of preserves, coyotes came into my barn in the spring to kill our nesting turkeys. They were notorious for monitoring cows about to deliver and then taking the calves during or shortly after labor. On a nearby dairy farm, several coyotes have been killed in the barnyard as they closed in on the expectant mothers. In one case they were actually eating the calf during the delivery process itself.  An Angus calf in a back pasture of the neighbor’s farm I was helping to manage was lost when we misjudged the due date of the mother and coyotes took the newborn calf.

Coyotes are natural predators, and are usually wary of humans but increasingly the locals’ stories seem to indicate that they are dancing alongside us in tighter and tighter movements.

Part three: WHAT THE INTERNET SAID

COYDOGS

It has been suggested that one of the factors involved in their ability to exploit a human dominated environment is the ability of coyotes to interbreed with domestic dogs.  The most common term used is ‘coydog’ which technically refers to the male coyote (Canis latrans) – female dog (Canis lupus familiaris) offspring. The male dog, female coyote offspring is referred to as a ‘dogote’.  Both hybrids are known to be fertile in controlled breeding experiments and assumed to be so in the wild as well.  The introduction of familiaris genes into the latrans population is thought to influence both the growing size and boldness of the evolving eastern coyote population.

This coydog hybrid hypothesis is not without controversy. Although both species have compatible chromosomal arrangements (78 chromosomes arranged in 39 pairs), their natural breeding cycles and temperaments differ sufficiently so as to make the occurrence of hybrids rare. Coyotes usually go into heat in the winter, delivering springtime, while most domestic dogs come into heat so as to deliver in the winter.  For more and photos of coydog hybrids, click here.

On the internet, several technical papers can be found in which discriminate morphological skull analyses indicate the occurrence of hybridizations, but most seem to conclude that these are not common. See here for a brief synopsis.

Whatever the factors, there are sizeable variations in the local coyote population from  ‘Border Collie’ to ‘German Shephard’ in size and stature,  between 35 to over 50 pounds in weight, and with marked color variation.. The adults that attacked the cows in Steven’s barnyard were about 50 pounds in weight and rangy in stature.  I recall seeing their bodies completely filling the bed of his pick-up truck. These were about the size of the larger coyotes that I sometimes see in the fields and forests near my home, and whose tracks I often find in the winter woods. These eastern coyotes are considerably larger than the ones commonly seen out west.

Intermingled with these larger animals are ones which are noticeably smaller. The one Leslie and I saw in the field, for example, was on the small side. The difference in size is readably apparent when you see them in nature and also easy to see in the size of the tracks.

COYWOLVES

Searching through the internet, following a trail one link at a time is somewhat analogous to tracking natural signs. In following the ‘Eastern Coyote’ links a series of articles appeared that knocked my socks off and gave me the same eerie feeling I had when the coyote tracks appeared in my bootprints.

The first, from Scientific American, is a summary of very recent work done by Dr. Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum in Albany, and his associates. According to his team, genetic analyses of the Eastern Coyote indicates considerable hybridization between coyotes and wolves.  The team concluded that mating between female coyotes and male wolves was abundant, that these coywolves have larger, stronger jaws and bigger skulls overall than the so-called straight western coyotes, and that perhaps most importantly this interspecies hybrid is not only fertile but has adaptive advantages over either the wolf or coyote in the  human-modified environment of the Northeast. Furthermore, they found that it is common for members of the genus, Canis, including coyotes, wolves, and dogs, to “hybridize quite readily.”

More details can be found here, including this photo of a coywolf skull showing its wider width and more powerful jaws.

photo by Roland Kays

Dr. Kays describes the male as being larger than the female, with the hybrid population possessing a wider range in color variations. This hybridization, or exchange of genetic material between species, he points out, is a mechanism which allows for a more rapid adaptation to environmental changes than do mutations.

If those findings knocked my socks off, the following singed my toenails! A few months ago, in Nova Scota, a young woman walking alone along a trail was killed by a pair of coyotes. The attack was witnessed by other hikers who together drove off the coyotes.

A senior wildlife official in the same area described another occasion where he was repeatedly charged by a lone coyote. The wildlife official thwarted the attack by ‘not acting like a prey’ and gave the following advice:   “Coyotes can be found in rural and urban area across Canada. They often shy away from humans, but if one does approach, here’s what to do:

  • Be aggressive yourself: Wave your arms, stomp and yell loudly in a deep voice to deter it from coming closer.
  • Stand your ground: Stay where you are and look it in the eye. Never run away; it is more likely to consider you prey, give chase and seriously harm you.
  • Be prepared: The best defense is a good offence; carry a whistle, flashlight and/or personal alarm. This is especially important for small children who play outside or walk to school in areas where coyotes have been spotted.
  • Stay together: If you are walking in an area that has high coyote activity, never do so without a companion.
  • Don’t lure them with food: Coyotes are scavengers. If you have pets, feed them inside the house rather than leaving food outside, don’t leave meat scraps or products in compost buckets outside your house, keep regular compost in an enclosed area and ensure garbage bins have tight resealable lids to keep out animals.

“In situations like a national park [where] usually there’s no hunting and no trapping allowed, [coyotes] can get used to a human presence and not have much fear of any retribution.”  He also advised hikers to carry a means of personal defense, such as a knife.

Jonathan Way has studied the coyote/human interactions in the Northeast for some time and, although clearly not an alarmist, and very ‘coyote friendly’ has nevertheless issued a similar set of advice, especially for those of us who have pets.”A one sentence summary of [his recommendations] is quite simple: To avoid most negative interactions from occurring with eastern coyotes, leash your dogs, don’t let your cat outside (after all it is a wild animal when outside hunting small animals), and don’t feed them. For much more, see  here.

The New York State Department of Conservation has listed a similar set of recommendations and points out the predator- prey message inherent in 1) humans having garbage accessible to coyotes (thereby associating the scent of humans with free food) and 2) humans acting like prey and retreating at the sight of coyotes.  The result trains coyotes to actively treat and pursue humans as prey. See this and much more here.

This Cornell University study adds an edge to the issue that is both chilling and compelling.”Paul Curtis, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources, recently received funding for a five-year study on coyote ecology and behavior in urban and suburban areas of New York. Coyotes have become increasingly aggressive in recent years in southeastern New York State. Usually coyotes avoid humans, but they have been venturing into suburban neighborhoods and attacking pets. Curtis states, ‘This kind of aggressive behavior is usually the last stage before coyotes actually start attacking humans—such as small children that are perceived by the coyotes as a potential food source.’”

With a degree of timing that is uncanny, a neighbor just today sent me this  link to a local news story  of a woman in a suburb to our south, out for a walk in a local park, who suffered an attack by a coyote on 1/26/10.

Part four; Return to the woods: WHAT THE RAINS REVEALED

A warm and torrential rain in late January quickly melted all of the snow which had accumulated over the previous month and I took this opportunity to return to the area where I had tracked the coyotes which, in turn, were tracking the deer.  In a situation such as this, rapid snow melt has the effect of collapsing time. The record of a month or more of activity can lay exposed as a single layer on the forest floor, largely undisturbed by the accretion of time. This record will come to be churned into chaos by the activity of creatures and growth of vegetation in the warmth of spring making interpretation much more difficult.

Again, I had not gone far into the woods, following the same trails and lay of the land where the coyotes took me a month earlier, when I spotted the first evidence of a deer kill.

These few tufts of deer hair, found far from any road, indicate a deer probably killed by predators rather than an automobile. The tufts were isolated, indicating that this was not the site of the kill, but instead represented a place where a portion of the kill had been carried for consumption. The site of the main kill would be nearby.

Circling the area, I soon found the probable site of the kill.

Large amounts of white hair covered the ground in one spot, indicating where the underbelly was opened. The ground there was also torn up with several small shrubs and the base of Cedar debarked. I could imagine the coyotes each tearing at the deer pulling it asunder, disturbing the surroundings. A sparse trail of hair led towards a stand of spruce and adjoining swamp.

Along the trail a small portion of the skeletal remains were found

and nearby more deer hair from the carcass.

Finally, near the Spruce stand were a few bits of long thin hair from the tail of the deer, part of the prized meaty, haunch section.

Finding more of the dead deer was not completely surprising. When a hunter harvests a deer in the forest it is usually eviscerated then dragged out of the woods. The soft stuff, the pile of guts, stomach, and offal disappears in a few days, often overnight. It is quite amazing how the scavengers, from coyotes, fox and ‘possums to birds such as vultures, crows and smaller songbirds will completely clean up the remains of a kill. Nature, it is said, is a mutual eating society, and in a harmonized ecosystem nothing goes to waste.

But most of the times, in a deer kill such as this, one is able to find the skull and vertebrae of the animal nearby. All the flesh and cartilage, and most of the ribs will have been eaten but the larger bones will remain, often to be consumed by rodents during the next year or so. The fact that no bones were found here suggests that the carnivore was large enough to carry off the larger, heavier pieces.

All of this, it seems to me, is consistent with the hypothesis that the prints I first found and followed were coyote, or coywolf as the newer evidence indicates, and that they were able to kill a young deer and either consume it entirely or drag it off to a cache far from the site of the kill. By inference, this is probably done several times a month in order for these large, fifty pound dogs to survive.

Part five: ECOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

As we all know, the landscape and ecology of the northeast has undergone considerable change over the past fifty to sixty years, the post WWII era. The reasons seem clear.

A large network of highways and superhighways along with the corresponding increase in private automobiles has led to an urbanizing sprawl of development. Urban planners have for decades spoken of the Bos-Wash Corridor as a single megalopolis extending along the Eastern seaboard from Southern Maine to Virginia. Spreading outward from this complex are layers upon layers of suburban and exurban developments. During the last decade this type of expansion has been accelerated by the fearful reactions of a post 9/11 world, the speculative housing bubble caused by a deregulated financial system, and a skewed economic distribution system which has hugely favored the wealthy at the expense of our nation’s working classes.

At the same time a move towards a corporate dominated, integrated and monopolized agribusiness system has led to the collapse of the small family farms which once dominated the rural landscape.

Within a few miles of my home are dozens of hastily constructed, chipboard McMansion developments, their selling prices beginning at $500,000, filled with commuters driving SUV’s to workplaces which lie an hour or more away. On the hilltops overlooking these former corn fields is the former pasture land now owned and posted by an urban elite who visit periodically, usually on weekends.

In the late 1960′s, when I began teaching at Dutchess County  Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY, each of my classes held enough students from farms that a discussion of  concepts such as “10-10-10″,”nitrogen budgets”, “crop rotation”, “wildlife/ erosion buffer zones”, “non point-source pollution”, “food chains”, “predator-prey relationships”, or “carrying capacity”  would flow easily and naturally from their farming backgrounds.  In turn, this discussion would meld seamlessly and easily from the farm based ecology/economy upwards into a treatment of larger socially referenced systems, and downwards into a discussion of the workings of one’s own biological based psychological system.

By the time I retired in 2006 I was lucky if I had a single student in my class who had even visited a farm. For them, food was something their mom or dad picked up, prepackaged and ready to eat from the deli section of the A and P. Their cognitive templates were not based upon biological natural phenomena, but upon man-made digital constructions and the disposable gadgets accompanying this development: computers, games, MP3 files, animation videos, and transient cultural content.  “Reality” it seemed, was something served up in TV shows and by a political base which proclaimed that “reality is whatever we say it is”.

The combined effect of the demographic changes sketched in above has been a major factor in exponential increase of the population of the White-tailed Deer across the northeast. And with this increase in the size of the deer herd, has come the rapid evolution of a new sub-species of coyote, the coywolf.   “Change in one part of a system”, I used to tell my classes, “leads to changes throughout the entire system, most of which are unplanned, often unanticipated, many of which are undesired.”

According to records kept by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, in 1954 there were 39,000 deer harvested by hunters in the state.  By 2008 that number stood at 223,000, approximately a quarter of the size of the estimated 1,000,000 deer in the entire herd.

Nationally, the White-tailed deer population more than doubled during the two decades from 1980 to 2000, standing today at 30,000,000.  Increasingly a larger number of deer are involved in automobile collisions, currently around 1.5 million a year according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

Many of these collisions occur during the rutting season when the males are in hot and constant pursuit of the females. During this sexually charged chase the normal caution of the deer simply dissolves as they run across forest field and highway. They are not being chased by hunters as some ‘animal lovers’ would like us to think. They are being driven by the increase in their natural hormone levels. (This incidentally seems to be common with most, if not all, species. Think of carp or salmon spawning, cardinals or robins competing for nest-mates and territory, the prowl of un-neutered house pets, the well publicized sexual proclivity of politicians, actors, or athletes, or, heaven forbid – and denied in full – by normal folks like you and me.) There are general discussions here and here . For technical details, see here.

Part six: GAME MANAGEMENT

Coyote and Deer, Predators and Prey, Hunters, The Hunted, the Food Chain and the Health of our Ecosystem: all are interrelated.  It was Aldo Leopold recounting the overpopulation of Mule Deer on the Kaibab Plateau who asked us to “think like a mountain”. Just as the deer live in mortal fear of the wolf, he noted, the mountain lives in mortal fear of the deer.   The health and ecology of much of the northeast today is being compromised by the size of our deer population and the pressure they place upon understory plants. Under continuous browse by deer the number and types of herbaceous and woody plants undergo systematic change. The ecosystem becomes degraded, less diverse and more fragile as plant species disappear and with them the birds and other animals which not only depend upon that vegetation for their own survival, but improve the robustness of the ecosystem as a whole. For more, see here.

On a more immediate, personal front, think of the problems you have in trying to garden. I know of no one in my neighborhood who can maintain even a small plot without deer fencing. Our entire property, in fact, is completely fenced off, even the driveways, in an effort to protect the plants around our house.

Leopold followed up with a now-famous corollary:  When the hunter kills the wolf the hunter takes over the wolf’s job.  This simple truth leads to concepts now familiar in game management circles.

With overpopulation, a major tool is to encourage the decline in numbers of breeding females. In deer management, this is usually accomplished by increasing the harvest of antlerless deer. The results can be striking, both with regard to speed and quality of recovery.

In the 1990′s, for example, the state of Pennsylvania was at the top of the list for both the large size and poor health of its deer herd. Beginning in 2002 a new policy of antler restriction was initiated. Immediate changes included a reduction of the size and composition of the herd and a concomitant increase in the size and health of the individual deer harvested. For more, see here.

Within this context the return of the wolf to the northeast  – albeit this time a wolf in coyote clothing -  is a perfectly natural phenomenon, the result of the failure of the hunter to do the job the mountain asks of him or her.  Attempts to extirpate the coywolf conceivably could be initiated, but would be completely counterproductive without a corresponding effort to reduce the size of the deer herd. This is not a place where the tender-hearted plaints of those concerned with protecting  ‘animal rights’ is likely to get much purchase. We are already killing the deer with kindness, and also, it seems, creating conditions perfect for the evolution of a new subspecies able not only to pare away at the excess deer population but also, it seems, poised to move on to new urban exploits.

The deer will be controlled by hunters, automobiles, coywolves or starvation and disease. Take your pick.

In the meantime when I plan to walk alone and quietly in the woods where the coywolf lives, I’ll probably follow the advice given above, and since I prefer to speak softly in the woods, blending into nature as best I can, I shall need to carry a big stick.  How are you fixed for pepper spray?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Y’know, when I started this thing I thought it was just going to be a simple blog post illustrating animal tracks in the snow. I hope to return to that simple task next time.

Coming up soon (I hope): Foxes and Cats, ‘possums and ‘coons.

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40 Comments »

  • John Conrad Said,

    So this is why Susan always wants me to be the one to take the compost out to the bin after sundown.

  • Matt Anderson Said,

    Hey Bill, all this coyote stuff has become talk of the town. It reminds me of several personal and local encounters with coyotes (or coywolves if you prefer). One of my neighbors had a coyote stalking their small dogs 2 years ago, so they hired a friend of mine to trap the coyote. Plus I also heard about a coyote on someone’s porch in our area that either badly hurt or killed their small dog. I haven’t confirmed this encounter, but several different people I know seem to know about it none the less. I also know someone who put out a motion camera next to a den 2 years ago. They documented a pack of coyotes that killed 8 fawns that winter.

    Here’s an interesting encounter one friend of mine had with 2 coyotes. Last year he was walking with his black lab one afternoon near IES where he lives. His dog disappeared over a knoll for a couple minutes not too far away. When she returned moments later she was trailed by 2 coyotes. Both coyotes nearly reached my friend as he was waving and yelling to scare them off. They eventually did, but they got within 20 yards before he got their full attention. He told me that they seemed to be playing with his dog, but I told him something he didn’t really want to hear. Coyotes are dogs, and thus are obviously pack animals. They have been known to initiate play with a domestic dog and then turn on them abruptly to kill them. I haven’t read that anywhere, my sister who does a lot of hiking with her dog told me that. Knowing my sister, she read that somewhere, or some park ranger told her.

    This year during deer season I saw coyotes 8 times! I had one nearly run me over deer hunting this year. I heard a noise coming from behind me as I was still hunting. Realizing that the noise was getting close fairly quickly, I turned around only to come face to face with a coyote no more than 25 yards from me. The day before that encounter I shot a coyote chasing deer around in nearly that exact same spot.

    At both properties that I hunt there is a pack of coyotes that serenade every afternoon just at sundown, daily, almost as accurate as an alarm clock. It’s amazing. You mentioned that you don’t hear them too often near your house, but over in our neck of the woods, near Inisfree, I hear them almost every night. After it snowed late in the gun season this year I saw just as many coyote tracks as deer tracks on one of those properties (one property in Union Vale the other in Washington).

    Last year while I was turkey hunting I was stalked by 4 coyotes. I was trying to shock gobble some birds (toms) at dawn, standing up against a bale of hay at the edge of a field when my buddy says to me, “Hey Matty we got a coyote 40 yards out in front of us…and three more circling us to the right.” He was right, there they all were. We had to bark at them to scare them off.

    I recently took up coyote hunting. I don’t generally condone the killing of an animal unless you intend to eat it, however, both property owners have small animals and they are concerned (chickens, ducks, pigeons, rabbits, cats, etc., and one has 3 small children). One owner has coyote tracks right around his hen house.

    If you think it’s eerie to have a coyote track inside one of your boot tracks, imagine what it feels like to have a pack of coyotes serenade only 200 yards from you, having a coyote challenge howl you, or even have one close enough to growl at you. All have happened to me while I was hunting, and yes it was enough to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

    After talking with you recently and thinking about my own experiences, I began to realize I’ve had more encounters with these critters then I realized. I guess it’s no surprise, I’m out in the woods a lot more than the average person.

    Talk to you later, Matt.

  • susan Said,

    We live amongst several large estates south of the village of Millbrook where coyotes “party” regularly, yelping and howling like wild teenagers, waking us up in the middle of a deep sleep. I have rarely seen the pack though. My encounters have been with a lone coyote over the past two summers. One morning at 9:00am I saw him aprox 30 yards from our house on the perimeter of the woods sniffing the grass, the same spots where my plump little pugs mark their territory. I immediately reported it to a wildlife expert at the DEC who recommended that I leave it alone because lone coyotes are usually ostracized from the pack and if removed, could be replaced by a more aggressive coyote.
    This summer, around 7:00am , I think the same coyote purposefully passed across my front yard 15 ft from the house on his way into the woods.
    In late Sept this year around 5:00pm I had just opened the door to let my pugs in from a semi-monitored run to relieve themselves before dinner and I noticed the coyote laying in the grass. His head was erect and ears curiously cocked but comfortable in the warm grass near the edge of the woods, literally 40FT from the pugs, who had it not been their dinner time would have certainly charged him. When he saw me he turned and retreated into the woods but I fear the next encounter. Now I keep watch when I let the dogs out and imagine him behind every bush waiting for his chance to get them.

  • Mary Ann/qpb Said,

    This was a great post, thanks for the great deal and photos, as well as links. Very informative, and fascinating evolution for this predator.

  • jczeck Said,

    This is one of the most interesting blog posts (and commenter posts) I’ve ever read. Amazing research, thank you!

  • Bill Yule Said,

    Enjoyed the coyote article. I encounter coyote frequently in southern CT and I’ve never had a problem with them but they did eat my chickens. I can’t find any evidence that there’s ever been a human attack in CT and I was very surprised at the Canadian attack and fatality.

    The CT DEP confirms that all the coyote tested in CT have part wolf in their genetic makeup. Paul Rego from the CT DEP gives talks about coyote and speculates that New York and southern New England have been populated by a single family in which the female had bred with a Canadian Gray Wolf before extending their range into this area and that all the coyote are descendants of that founding family. That is something he said during a public presentation and I haven’t been able to find written documentation of that but it’s an interesting idea.

    I like having coyote around. They seem like they belong. Most of the time they mind their own business and are content to live on the edges of the human dominated landscape.

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Blog coyote response

    John, Matt, Susan, and Mary Ann,

    Allow me to welcome all four of you to the blog.

    John, in light of what Matt and Susan describe, it appears as though your wife knows what she is talking about! Maybe you ought to just hold on to your compost ’till next day when you can do a Dagwood Bumpstead and take it to work with you. Watch out for your lunch, though.

    Interestingly, both Matt and Susan report on areas very near to where my images were taken. Of further interest to me, Matt lives just over the hill from where I lived on the ‘Mini-Farm’. I would be tempted to say this coyote ‘problem’ may only be in areas where there are thousand acre plots of oldfields going back to forests, e.g. Innisfree, Taconic-Herford Estates, Cary Arboretum, but I suspect not. Especially given the attack in Westchester County.

    I understand that Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie has just completed a large deer cull, utilizing professional hunters to thin their deer population. I wonder if any of our readers know of coyote issues near there.

    I have also learned that several of the researchers cited in this post will be coming to Ulster Community College in early March to talk about the coywolf phenomena. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

    Bill

  • Susan Scheid Said,

    Terrific, informative post, Bill. I will just add a sighting: late this summer, within a day after I’d “converted” our two cats to an indoor existence (too many deer ticks . . .), a coyote strolled across our front yard in broad daylight, about 15′ from the house. Timing is everything . . .

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi Bill (Yule)

    About the hypothesis that there was a single family of coyote from which all NE ones are descended…

    If true, that would seem to have created quite a genetic bottleneck, a factor which usually works against the health and robustness of the species, wouldn’t it?

    The robustness and adaptability of the species suggests to me a healthy genetic exchange, a factor apparently documented by the mitochondrial analysis.

    Roland Kays alerted me to a paper subsequent to his (published as a letter in rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org on January 26, 2010 by Tyler Wheeldon, Brent Patterson and Bradley White at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensics Centre)which substantiates his findings but suggests the location of hybridizations (plural) to have been in Southern Ontario.
    In this regard, I am struck by the conclusion of the Kays team which found that it is common for members of the genus, Canis, including coyotes, wolves, and dogs, to “hybridize quite readily.”

    I will be out of state when Kays comes to UCCC to speak, but perhaps someone will be able to ask him about this.

    Mary Ann and jczeck, thanks for you compliments. We try.

  • Bill Yule Said,

    Hi Bill B.
    I too was struck with the thought of genetic bottleneck by Paul Rego’s comments about the ancestry of CT Coyotes all being descendants of one coywolf family. These comments were made several years ago. One thinks of Cheetahs and their plight. As far as I know there are NO wolves in CT. even though there are persistent reports of sightings in the NW corner of the State. That would seem to suggest that the hybrid zone (if there is such a place) would be to our north and the new blood in the CT population may have an additional wolf component as unmated males expand southward looking for mates. If that were not the case I’d expect a gradual genetic swamping by coyote genes as the wolf lineage became more dilute? It’s fun to speculate about this.
    I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts to your excellent post. It strikes me that suburban coyotes have quite different lifestyles from rural coyotes. In the suburbs they seem to go about their nightly rounds stealing pet food and raiding garbage cans and compost piles and, while not avoiding humans, mostly ignoring humans. In the woods and abandoned farm fields they seen to avoid humans.
    I’ve never had a bad coyote experience but I have had a very scary encounter in the woods with three feral dogs. They triangulated me and repeatedly charged me from different directions. I shouted and screamed and lunged toward them and slowly backed away. I found out later I’d stumbled into a recent fawn kill and they must have been defending their kill. Very scary though.

  • ruralway Said,

    Bill, you rock.
    I haven’t visited the blog for sometime now and this is a great welcome back.
    Here in Otsego County we hear coyotes on our hill. I will keep a closer watch on the dogs and on my surroundings when I am out walking.

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Gee, Ruralway, Thanks and welcome back:

    But I’ll tell you that a ‘rock’ was what I needed when, like Bill Yule, I also faced a pack of angry dogs. I know Bill to be a Mountain of a Man, a rugged outdoorsman, and, like me, a fly fisher, so I know he will appreciate this echo of the encounter he had with the feral dogs.

    The pack I encountered was not feral, but one that had recently lost their owners.

    It happened a dozen or so years ago. I had travelled several hours to fish a particular section of a trout stream hoping to be present for the evening hatch of Drakes. Fishing for me is a love affair. I had fished this river for decades and came to know every subtle curve of her bank and undulation of her belly. I knew exactly where and how I would fish her at any moment of the day.

    When dusk comes, the place to be is on the inside flat opposite a high bank where the overshot ledges form a shallow cave. Here the gravel-filled inner bend plunges into an eight foot deep run just out of casting range, and I knew that when darkness came to seal shut the sky at around 10:30 that evening, big fish would come from the depths to sip spinners from the gravelly riffle right at my feet.

    Over the years that I have fished this stream a modern superhighway has come to share her flood plain and with it a steady stream of interstate visitors who stop off at the convenient rest areas so that they and their dogs may stretch their legs and pee.

    Sometimes the dogs run off and the family, pressed for whatever reason, finds they must move on down the road. That, I think, is how this pack of three dogs came to kill the deer upon which they were feeding right where I intended to set up my evening watch.

    The top dog was a huge male Rottweiler, aggressive and frightening as hell. Next in line was a German Shepherd mix, probably neutered male, definitely subservient to the black Rottweiler. Finally was a medium sized female with that sheepish, fawning smile on her face of a pet who knows she is doing bad and wants to be forgiven. Her obsequious manner and color suggested some Sheepdog in her parentage.

    I was intent on reading the water when I rounded the bend and in the three to five foot tall grasses of June came suddenly face to face with the pack and their still warm deer. To this day I l don’t know how I avoided their jaws, but by a show of Faux Force – a stern demeanor backed by nothing save a 5 weight fly rod – I was able to stare and command them down. “Go Home” I repeatedly said and pointed in the direction of the road even as they charged me. (Like, what else could I do?)

    The fawning female was the first to obey, beating a retreat with head hung low and tail tucked between her legs. Emboldened I moved a step forwards and waved the flimsy fly rod over my head, false-casting for a prayer, I guess.

    That was enough to pry away the Shepherd mix who retreated to an overlook some twenty yards away. So now, it was just me and the Rottweiler.

    I concentrated my gaze fixing my eyes on his and met every charge and feign with whatever shards of authority I could dredge up from my slight 5’8″ 140 pound body. I think it might have been the apparent visual bulk of me in the waders, with fishing vest, rain jacket, rod and all the rest of the stuff that we fly fishers carry that finally convinced the Rottweiler that I was top dog. We negotiated a deal whereby he grabbed a final piece of deer and left with his prize clenched between his massive jaws..

    Holy shit! I said to myself when all was done. What the hell is goin’ on here? Am I crazy or something?

    Yes. I came to the conclusion that I was crazy: How else to explain a two-hour car ride for a 20 minute chance to catch a fish.

    So, with a body still filled with adrenalin, and in order to forestall a return encounter with the dogs after dark, I dragged the deer into the water and let the river carry it away, used my hat and rain jacket to carry water and wash away the blood and whatever deer-dog scent I could from the grasses, then peed, spit, and rubbed my scent into the middle of every approach to that spot that I could manage.

    When the shaking stopped and the adrenalin level fell to a manageable level, I returned to the river to look for trout, but always and evermore with a furtive and anxious look to the reeds at my back.

    I love that river, but having grown older, and perhaps wiser, have come to fish it less and less often. Now that Leslie has learned of this experience, one the most fearful one I have ever had… well, we will have to wait and see.

    Hey, Bill, ya wanna come? It’s only about 5 or 6 hours from your haunts!

  • ruralway Said,

    After walking with the dogs this morning, I sent them in the house and strapped on my snow shoes and hit out for the state land that lies next to our property. It is full of tracks and I carefully tried to decipher them but the fresh snow was too soft and I could really only note the deer tracks-the others , who knows…you! Not me, even with the Scats and Traks of the Northeast in my hand.
    In the dark corners where the sun had not yet reached, I kept a wary eye. I meet a coyote down at our creek the summer before last and we surprised each other. I froze and he drank a bit more before turning around and running back up the hill into the woods. Aways down our road someone has tossed boxes of animal parts (deer?) over the side of the road and they’ve spilled down the embankment. Lots of critters visit this mess and my dogs get agitated when we get close to the spot. We’ve scared away crows and this morning it smelled of skunk. I wonder if the coyotes are visiting the site as well. Thanks again Bill for a great post.

  • ruralway Said,

    There is a good book I read a few months ago called ‘Where the Wild Things Were’. Its central theme focuses on how humans have pretty much killed off all the large predators in response to our hard-wired survival instinct. Reading your comment above about your encounter with the feral dogs (so sad that their owners would just drive away)reminded me of the book-so I thought to pass the suggestion to read it along.

  • Paul Friberg Said,

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the great Leccinum lecture last night. A few years ago I went out for a early evening run through woods behind my house. The run was uneventful in and of itself. What happened afterwards however was special for me. The sun was starting to set and it was getting a bit dark. I was pretty sweaty from running so I wanted to go for a swim. So I stripped down and jumped into a pond for a swim, and when I surfaced from my dive, the woods around the pond erupted in Coyote howls. It was a very primordial experience and I felt only a little vulnerable. I never felt threatened in the least (but then again, I am very much a “dog” loving person) I really enjoyed the “music” while it lasted. Were they following me or watching me? It is hard to say since I never saw a single animal, but it sounded like there must have been about 4-5 howls in the chorus. It was pretty special. The chorus ended as suddenly as it started (I never said a peep) and the walk home after that was also uneventful.

    I have lived on this wooded property for about 12 years now and have only sighted coyotes (big ones, as in German Shepard size) about 3 times. We have heard them at night often however and love the wild howling chorus (that’s really what I think of it as) coming from the talus field near the cliff where they make their home. In the spring time we have often heard yipping of pups but have never actually seen one (possibly just the mother). This winter my family all went tracking coyotes after a fresh snowfall and saw coyote tracks intermixed with what was probably fox tracks. I was surprised that foxes and coyotes might live in such proximity, but there is plenty of game out there (the squirrel and rabbit populations have gone nuts around here it seems).

    Regards,

    Paul

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi Paul,

    What a magical experience you describe, serenaded mid-swim by the family around the pond. One does wonder what it was about your swim which prompted their singing.

    Was it sheer wonderment on their part, coincidence with the time of day, or some aspect of the predator-prey vocabulary? Here is a somewhat similar situation:

    In October, many years ago, I watched as a large six-point buck bounded across a hay field, cleared two five-foot page-wire fences, and jumped directly into the acre sized pond at the edge of the pasture behind my house. He then swam in a straight line across the pond, emerged from the other side and resumed his path bounding across another pasture and cornfield before I lost sight of him. I thought this was very odd behavior, particularly occurring mid-day and wondered what was going on.

    Moments later I saw the pack of dogs following his scent trail. They were delayed by the fences, but upon arriving at the pond gave voice, with the same type of baying that ‘coon hounds give with a treed animal. They then split up and circled the pond, some going clockwise, some counterclockwise. Within four or five minutes they had sorted it all out and resumed their chase.

    In countless hours watching that pond from the windows of my house, that was the only time I ever saw anything remotely like it.

    …………………………

    I was also interested in your coyote-fox observation. Three genera are involved: Coyote (Canis latrans); Red Fox (Vulpes vulpe); and Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).

    I live near Millbrook NY, center to a large hound and horse fox chase. I remember that when the coyote first arrived in these parts in the 1980′s there was quite a concern that the fox would be killed off by the coyote and the hunt compromised.

    The word was that the coyote would/could kill the red fox in particular as the red usually would run across open fields. The gray fox, by contrast would den up or climb trees to escape both the coyote and hounds. ( See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_hunting for more on the chase)

    Around here, both red and gray fox seem to have survived this coyote influx. The red are much easier to see, roadside, in field and forest. The gray is much more seclusive. In years spent outdoors I have seen them only once or twice, about as frequently as bobcats. Yet when I had a trap-line on the family farm in western Pennsylvania, it was the gray that I usually caught, and a few years ago, in our garden I set a box trap for the ‘coons which came to ravish the corn, and it was a gray fox that I caught. She came to a rolled up ball of cheese pastry which had to be completely infused with human scent. When released she ran directly to the fence gate indicating that she was a frequent visitor.

    The fox tracks in the snow behind my house may well be those of the gray fox as they are small and often climb across logs and fallen trees.

    As to the coyote – fox competition, I came across this which, although from the mid-continent, may also speak to the eastern coyote – fox interaction:

    “Although red foxes have reason to fear coyotes, they frequently may be near coyotes without showing apparent concern, and coyotes encountering foxes may not respond aggressively. The observed communal feeding by a coyote and fox, and the reported instances of coyotes and foxes rearing pups near each other, reveal the high degree of interspecific tolerance that can occur. Nevertheless, it is advantageous for foxes to avoid encounters with coyotes because each encounter includes risk of injury or death. This mixture of coyote aggression and indifference toward red foxes may explain gradual changes in fox populations in the wake of changes in coyote populations (Sargeant, 1982) and the presence of some red foxes among coyotes for years (Sargeant et al., 1987)” http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/mammals/cfoxint/index.htm

    And, as to the question of interbreeding between coyote and fox, which is sure to emerge in this discussion, the answer seems not likely, probably impossible.
    “According to Gray (Mammalian Hybrids, a checklist with bibliography, 1954) all species in the genus Canis [with 78 chromosomes] have been known to hybridize in captivity…. Thus, a dog-coyote hybrid is feasible. As for the foxes, they are out at ~8% sequence divergence, and only have 34 chromosomes, so a dog-fox hybrid [and by extension a coyote-fox hybrid] probably isn’t viable.” http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2001-07/996640360.Ge.r.html

    Thanks for your story, and I am glad you enjoyed the talk on Leccinum.

  • Matt Anderson Said,

    Article in the NY Post this morning about coyotes sightings at Columbia University and Central Park.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/coyotes_roaming_manhattan_yAm8a3Yl2ZdmClz3C28CPN

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Hi again Matt,

    Since you posted the link to the Columbia University Coyotes, several others have sent me private emails with similar information from other news sources.
    This is more confirmation that these animals are becoming more and more adapted to living in an Urban/Suburban environment.

    We have alsojust received details of the conference on Eastern Coyotes to be held at Ulster Community College in Stone Ridge NY on March 4th. Details of this talk are at http://leslieland.com/2010/02/coyote-talk-at-catskill-institute-on-march-4th/

    I will be out of town on that day and will miss the talk. I hope some of you will be able to attend and comment on the talk in this space.

    As Leslie said, Coyotes, who knew?

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Although it is not a Coyote attack, and is not in the Northeast, I have received a few private emails linking to a story of a wolf attack in Alaska. The situation was similar to the Coyote Attack of last winter reported above in that a small pack attacked and killed a woman jogger.

    From the article:
    ” “What the research shows is that in the last 10 or 20 years, as wolves have kind of re-colonized areas where they were extirpated around the turn of the 20th century, and as people have also developed more habits of going out into national parks and wilderness areas, we’ve had more aggressive encounters,” said Mark McNay, a retired Alaskan wildlife biologist who has studied wolf attacks.”

    For the complete report, see
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-wolf-attack13-2010mar13,0,4711796.story

    I understand that the growing aggression of Eastern Coyotes (Coywolves) was addressed at the Stone Ridge conference. If you attended and could send in a brief synopsis it would be welcomed.

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Over the weekend I received a private email of a set of images of a Mountain Lion peering through a large sliding glass door and lounging on the deck of a house purported to be in near-by Sharon Ct. Such an incredible image strains credibility, so I did a bit of internet looking and discovered that a similar set of images, proven to be a hoax, had recently circulated on the web. A number of other unsubstantiated ‘sightings’ have also been described. Since no one else had evidently done so I sent the images, and a number of links to the other ‘sightings’ off to Connecticut Wildlife Investigators.
    I’ll report back with their conclusions. Do any of you know about these sightings?

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Connecticut Mountain Lion sighting images are from Wyoming, not Sharon Ct.

    This morning I received an email from Paul Rego, Wildlife Biologist, Ct. DEP indicating that the images of a Mountain Lion reported from Sharon Ct. are actually from Wyoming. See http://www.cody-wyoming-network.com/2010/01/mountain-lion-roaming-close-to-casper-mountain-homes/ for the earlier post of these images.

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    And then there is this from the Republican American 9/7/08:

    “Claims of mountain lion sightings are so persistent in Connecticut and other East Coast states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year launched a formal review of the status of the mountain lion. Biologist Mark McCollough supervised the investigation from his office in Old Town, Maine. The report, which has just been completed in draft form, confirms what scientists have been saying for years.

    “We wanted to know if there is a population that has escaped detection,” McCollough said. “The answer from the scientific data is no in 21 eastern states studied. There is no evidence of a breeding population, but there is some interesting data about populations spreading eastward from the Midwest as far as Chicago, Ill.”

    A few sightings — fewer than 5 percent — are attributed to big cats released from captivity with enough instinct to thrive. At least 1,000 western and southern cousins of the eastern mountain lion are held in captivity or kept as pets on the East Coast, McCollough said.

    “Scat (feces) found in 1997 and a skull found in 2002 at the Quabbin Reservoir in Berkshire County, Mass. were traced to a mountain lion, but its teeth showed evidence of gnawing on a cage as if it had been captive at one point. It had been shot,” McCollough said.

    Sightings reported throughout the region have lately been near the Massachusetts line.

    In the Massachusetts town of Monterey, just north of Canaan, Georgiana O’Connell reported seeing a big cat in the middle of the road a couple weeks ago, around the same time a logger, Bill Riiska, said he saw one cross the road in Otis, north of Winsted.

    “None of the sightings have been confirmed,” Massachusetts Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Lisa Capone said.

    In Simsbury, landscaper Bo Ottmann founded Cougars of the Valley, a loosely affiliated group with a dozen members which formed last year to document mountain lions and protect them. Ottmann has collected more than 100 sightings so far — 90 percent of them from Litchfield and Hartford counties. He claims all but a few are accurate.

    “The only mammal with a black-tipped long tail is the mountain lion,” said Ottmann, who has never seen one himself. “I get a lot of reports from construction workers on job sites in the morning in the Litchfield area. A farmer in Simsbury said he watched a mountain lion chase off a bear.”

    Ottmann is planning to post signs in Litchfield County offering a $50 reward for a confirmed photograph of a mountain lion in Connecticut.

    Ottmann said roadkill isn’t a valid measurement. “Less than one-tenth of one percent of cougars are killed by motor vehicles in states like California where they are confirmed,” Ottmann said.

    He claims DEP officials are covering up evidence they don’t want to make public because it would involve the expense of a management plan.”

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    June 28, 2010: Coyotes attack a child in Rye NY: http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20100628/UPDATES01/100628019/Coyotes-that-attacked-NY-girl–6–still-on-the-loose

    Matt Anderson sent us the link to this story, which seems to bear out the predictions of the Cornell Researchers who noted that coyotes attacking house pets is usually the precursor to their attack on children. (See the end of Part Three of the original post above.)

    Also,last week I was given pictures of a 58 pound all black coyote killed in Dutchess County a few months ago. It looked pretty much like a wolf. The hunter who shot it has been hunting coyote for over 20 years and says that the size of these animals is getting larger as time goes on. He has kept skins and skulls which he will be sharing with the Albany and Cornell teams.

    This is begining to have the feel of a bad dream. Somebody wake me up!

  • Bill Bakaitis Said,

    Those of you who have read this far may wish to see the Sept. 27 article from the NY Times by Carol Kaesuk Yoon, Mysteries That Howl and Hunt at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/science/28coyotes.html?_r=2&src=dayp

  • MimiR Said,

    I’ve lived in coyote country. They LOVE to eat cats and chickens, as well as small dogs, but they really do leave large dogs alone. In areas where they become very, very used to humans–like a field across from a school that backs up to the mountains–they’ll get aggressive enough to go after medium-sized dogs and will even attack children, especially very small children.

    I would be extraordinarily dubious of stories of coyotes attacking a middle schooler or adult, however, even very unshy coyotes.

    I didn’t mind the coyotes. It was the bears (that would stroll into my backyard), the rattlesnakes, and the occasional young, reckless mountain lion scared me much more, especially for my preschooler! We got two very large dogs, who kept the bears and mountain lions out of the backyard and barked at rattlesnakes.

    Hi Mimi,

    Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences with Coyotes. I do not doubt your first hand experience; neither do I doubt the accuracy of the reports of Coyotes attacking and even killing adults. The difference, it seems, between these two experiences probably has to do with the way we have used the same term “Coyote” to refer to two different breeds of wild dogs.

    I take it from your mention of Mountain Lions and Rattlesnakes that you are from the west. I have seen both Coyote and Wolves in the Idaho/Montana/Colorado area. The Coyotes I frequently saw out there all appeared to be of the ‘pure’ Canis latrans variety, and were much smaller and quite differently colored than the Wolves I saw. The ‘Coyotes’ here in the east appear to be a genetic mixture of the Western Coyote, with the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familiaris). These are much larger, appear in a wide range of color variation, and also have a different set of behavioral patterns than their Western cousins.

    Coyote hunters in my area have sent me photos of some of those which they have killed and they are indeed large animals, up to 70 pounds or more. Many actually look like wolves, large rangy animals with aggressive demeanors. When I show photos of these to visitors, they almost universally say, “That’s not a Coyote; That’s a Wolf!” Yet analysis of the DNA shows that @ 80-85% of their genetic material is Coyote. (@ 10% Wolf, and 5% Domestic Dog.) According to the NY State Biologists who have studied the Genetics, Behavioral Patterns, and Ecology of this Eastern Race of Coyote this unique genetic combination provides them with a very successful set of advantages to both live near humans and to be able to successfully exploit the Eastern White-tailed Deer population.

    Though not as large as your Western Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), the ones here in the east (Odocoileus virginianus) are large formidable animals. The average size of a yearling I harvest weighs in the neighborhood of 125 pounds, gutted, and large males in rut which I have taken weigh in at @ 190 pounds, gutted. Alone I cannot drag one of these out of the woods or lift it into the back of a pick-up truck. A collision of even a middling sized animal will ‘total’ a mid-sized automobile.

    Interestingly, the large pack of Coyotes which moved into our neighborhood to exploit the herd of White-tailed deer at a nearby airport have dissipated following the dramatic reduction in the size of the deer herd caused, in large part, by their predation. Both the deer herd and the Coyotes could be easily seen by aircraft approaching the landing strip, as could their behaviors and subsequent decline of both populations.

    If I understand the biologists correctly, it is after this readily available source of food (Deer) is depleted that the Eastern Coyote will turn to alternative sources. In urban and suburban areas after ransacking garbage cans and such they begin to predate pets. By this time, accustomed to our odor, they may begin to attack humans, particularly when the humans act like prey by screaming and/or running away.

    These attacks are not common but nevertheless do occur and appear to represent a new development in the human/coyote [Coy/Wolf/Dog] relationship.

    Bears: Well we have them also, and in increasingly large numbers. Within the last decade they have became common enough to make annual raids on our bee hives and the horse feed next door, even though the sweet feed was stored next to the pen of a large dog. We now surround our hives with electric fencing (draped with bacon to direct the nose area of the bear to the 4,500 volt zap which would otherwise be unlikely to penetrate their thick hide.) Last year saw the first bear hunt in modern history here in Dutchess County; several were killed. Last week, three were seen just down the road from us. And two or three years ago an infant in its crib, in nearby Sullivan County was killed by a bear which mistook it for food.

    Bill

  • bill bakaitis Said,

    It has been some time since I have visited this post, but thought that those of you who have ventured this far might like to know that a few months ago (October 2012) a large coyote was reported to have attacked a man walking his dog near the intersection of Noxon Road and the Taconic Parkway. The man was injured and rabies was considered a possibility but, so far as I know, the coyote was not found. The attack was confirmed and investigated by Game Warden Deo Reed of the NYS DEC.

    Of interest to me, this attack happened only a few miles from where, a few years ago, I followed that set of coyote tracks which initiated this post.

  • Sarah Said,

    An excellent post. Learned a lot. Coyotes have been sited in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. I live in N Virginia, very close to the district and have never seen one here (see them on Cape Cod) but they certainly are here in nearby suburbs. Interesting to know that our eastern coyotes seem to have a different genetic make-up than those out west.

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