Saturday, 1 October 2011

Coyotes singing in our forest

The coyote Canis latrans is one of the seven representatives of the Canidae family found in Canada. Other members of the family are the wolf, red fox, arctic fox, grey fox, swift fox, and dog. 

fox in Bala- the same family
I was talking to a neighbour the other day, actually an OPP constable, and he told me that he hears coyotes all the time in the early hours of the morning.

I was thinking it was the neighbour's labs, but not another neighbour's wee yappy dogs. I couldn't differentiate between them and the ghostly wolves I've seen on the other side of our gully.
Thank goodness I didn't see them!

I can hear the difference in the sounds, now that I have listened long and hard! This morning I captured them on video, only getting audio, fortunately. It is an eerie sound in the 45 sec. sound byte!

'Butch' stealing bird food
We have so much scat around, and I've been trying to figure out the difference between coyote, fox, wolf, bear, raccoon, deer, porcupine, gopher, muskrat, and beaver scat. Sure there are guides, and yes, I do poke it with a stick to see what I can find. There are clues to the critter in its scat, as some eat berries (herbivores), some are carnivores, and some eat anything (omnivores, e.g., raccoons!).

porcupine roadkill
Coyotes are having a hard time in cities. They'll attack a small child, even adults when habituated, as the news has reported.

In the video below, this dude does all the wrong things!
He talk to it, encourages it, habituating it to humans, until finally trying to scare it away.
They need to know that humans are not their friends and humans have to act like scary humans, making loud noises and appearing aggressive.

Gravenhurst bear
Research is out there, I've never truly encountered one before and never been able to identify them before the wee hours of this morning. They've never been close enough. This is an interesting site: Scat

With raccoons, the MNR inoculates them against rabies, rather than removing them, as new raccoons will move into the abandoned territory. Often, feeding one animal, i.e., birds, ends up attracting the wrong kind of critter, i.e., bears.
The Ministry of Natural Resources tells us not to feed wildlife at all:

  • population density creates risks
  • high density spreads disease 
  • high density of animal populations can destroy natural habitat
  • critters become dependent upon artificial food
  • feeding animals near roads can be dangerous
  • feeding animals near each other can lead to agression
  • wild animals shouldn't be habituated towards people
  • feeding particular animals attracts unwanted ones
  • you can piss off your neighbours.
raccoon here in Lanark- in our backyard
Vancouver, as well as Toronto, have had huge issues with habituated coyotes. There is more in the news about them. Keeping the population down is difficult.

Coyotes exhibit compensatory reproduction. They compensate in feast or famine. If the food source is there (carrion, pets, farm animals) they will reproduce to meet the habitat resources. If wolves are removed from their territory, they will feel more free to roam. Love that balance and cycle of life.

The Baker Timm (PDF) scale is an excellent one. The theory is that once you get to an habituated coyote something must be done. This is the same for bears in Muskoka. Once they are no longer afraid of humans, and get a taste for humans as prey, they are a huge risk to us.

Recognizing Problem Behaviors in Coyotes

There is a predictable sequence of observed changes in coyote behavior that indicates an increasing risk to human safety (Baker and Timm 1998, Timm et al. 2004). We define these changes, in order of their usual pattern of occurrence, as follows:

Baker Timm Scale for Habituated Coyotes 
1) Increased number of sightings on the street and/or in yards at night
2) More incidents of coyotes approaching adults and/or taking pets at night 
3) Early morning and late afternoon daylight observances 
4) Daylight chasing and/or taking of pets 
5) Attacking and taking pets close to owners; chasing adults 
6) Around children's play areas, school grounds, and parks in mid-day 

7) Aggressive toward adults during mid-day...

Coyote facts
  • Coyotes breed from late January to March: gestation is 60-63 days. Each year they produce one litter of one to 12 young. At three to four weeks of age the young will venture outside of their den and begin to explore the world around them. Young stay with their parents until the fall.
  • Coyotes have an average lifespan of six to eight years and weigh between 36-60 lbs., the female being 3/4 the size of the male.
  • Coyotes are active during the day and at night (diurnal & nocturnal). 
  • They do not hibernate, so you will see them all year.
  • Coyotes thrive on a habitat of mixed farm areas, forest, swampland, aspen parkland and mixed-grass on the prairies, and parks. They are more adaptable than wolves.
  • Coyotes will look for secluded locations along stream banks, ravines or sandy ridges to use as a den. They often use old den sites of foxes and groundhogs.
  • Coyotes are very smart and adaptable to their surroundings. They are curious animals who are non-confrontational by nature.
  • Coyotes are not considered high-risk rabies carriers, but are still susceptible to the virus.
  • Coat colours range from blondes to reds to browns.
  • A pack of coyotes is usually made of a group of siblings. 
  • A coyote can run for a long period of time,capable of reaching 64 km per hour, and can cover a range of 10-15 km. 
  • Well-developed senses of hearing and smell that a sudden odour or noise can make it change its course in mid-step.
  • Very strong-smelling urine, which it uses to mark its territory 
  • Adjusts its hunting methods to the prey size and food sources available

Coyotes scavenge domestic livestock, leftover wolf carrion, and often move into territory and prey in the absence of their predators, wolves. Wolves keep coyotes at bay! That said, they are omnivores and will eat the wild berries, insects (e.g., ubiquitous grasshoppers), rabbits, small rodents. They cannot pull down a healthy adult deer, but do prey on fawns.

In winter, if the conditions are right, they can kill large hooved animals ('ungulates'), like deer. During hard winters, when deer populations run out of food, they will take advantage of this food source as deer become weak.

Here is a short video of the quick red fox, a relative of the coyote (Canidae) we spotted this one on a drive near Parry Sound.

And this video of a man in B.C. doing what you should NOT do with a coyote!

For more coyote information from MNR:
For more camera critters(#182!) Camera Critters


Olga said...

We have perfect coyote habitat behind our house in VT and often hear at night. Did you know that you can actually buy that strong smelling urine at a farm store to keep woodchucks out of the veg. garden? I wonder how exactly it is obtained. I mean, I can't imagine handing a coyote a bottle to pee in.

Anonymous said...

I had a coyote calling 30 yards from my bedroom window in Colorado. You would not believe how loud that are.

carol l mckenna said...

Wow! Great photos! Very informative post ~ thanks, namaste, Carol ( A Creative Harbor) linked with Camera Critters ~

George said...

There have been no reported problems with coyotes in our community, although there are coyotes in the area. Coyotes have become a problem in one of the large parks in Nashville, however. Thanks for an interesting and informative post.

Anonymous said...

What great shots. And those coyotes are amazing!

Dina said...

So much good information here. The videos are scary but thanks for your audio clip. I've never heard coyotes before.
I've recorded our many local jackals and posted the clips. The jackals cross my path when I walk in nature or sometimes even in the village here in the Jerusalem Hills. Humans have no trouble from them here.

You take care. Enjoy your many different animals.

Cheryl said...

So much to digest. I thought the sound of the coyote was mournful rather than eerie.

Wonderful photos and great information.

Christine said...

Thanks for all this good information on coyotes and wildlife!

☆Mama Ko☆ said...

wow you have lots of animal collection here. great pictures

Lady Em said...

Love this post! We have a TON of coyote's here in Georgia, and we've had quite the problem with them as well. My grandmother and I would spot them when we would take walks on her farm and we would find them after they had been run over on their dirt road, and she has cattle! We also see a lot of foxes here and now black bears are making their way down from the north Georgia mountains! Thanks so much for posting, very very interesting!


Powell River Books said...

When we lived in Los Angeles, our yard backed up to a hillside that they coyotes frequented. You could hear and see them almost nightly. We lost a few cats before we made ours indoors only. It was always scary to see and hear them so close if a kitty escaped.

I know what you mean about conversations about simple living topics. Not everyone understands. - Margy

Cloudia said...

how interesting and informative, Jenn

Warm Aloha from Waikiki;

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Netty said...

A few years ago, the coyotes became very, VERY numerous after a neighbor got a large amount of sheep. We would observe them sitting in the ditch on the other side of the road watching the sheep. Everyone was afraid to walk alone - we all carried golf clubs when outside or walking our dogs. They even starting killing calves and that was when farmers started taking matters into their own hands. I don't know how many were shot or poisoned and the farmer sold off what was left of his sheep. Problem was solved - or so we thought. This year the numbers are up again. Although they aren't seen often, they are heard often. For some reason, they howl at the trains that pass...

SandyCarlson said...

This is an interesting and informative post. Thank you, my friend.

It seems to me we play with a loaded deck when it comes to critters. When we find them cute, we try to communicate with them. When they respond in kind, we call them a nuisance. Nuisance animals are subject to a whole different set of rules than are the simply wild.

Betty Manousos said...

aww, thanks so much for this delightful and informative post!
loved reading it.
i've always been fascinated by coyotes.

the photos are really amazing!

visiting via CC.

cheryl said...

On a crisp night I can hear them in the marshes along the Tay yipping to their hearts content. Haven't seen any in town yet....

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Very interesting post and good advice.

Regards and best wishes