Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do we really have a vicious coyote problem?

This oddly colored coyote - that  perhaps could even be a rare hybrid -  is very aware of his environment and well blended with dry grasses in Brandon Township. ( Photos by Ronald Lapp, used with permission)

Coyotes, unlike domestic dogs and wolves  always maintain a tail down position.
Hardly a week goes by without coyotes being in the news.  Some coyote tales are exaggerated tall tales, some are editorials or news stories on human-coyote interaction and some are anxious residents sounding off loudly, "Someone needs to take care of the coyote problem!"  And one Rochester Hills resident argued that "packs" of coyotes in wooded areas are "a definite deteriment to real estate value." She even  lamented that these 'vicious meat-eaters" attack "eldery deer and fawns." I can't aruge with the fact coyotes eat deer.  That is what coyotes should do, especially when deer are abundent! But I wonder why she deemed them vicious? If she eats meat - with someone doing her killing - is she now vicious?  And worrying about coyotes dropping your property value? Look to the City of Chicago. Abundent coyotes within their city limits and property prices soar! And Oakland County prices have not diminished because of sizeable rattlesnake population in some  upscale areas.  Real estate near  larger parks and recreation areas - areas with well established coyotes - bring top dollar in SE Michigan.

Fact of the matter is clear: Coyotes cause emotional distress for more than a few residents, however  coyotes do not pose a clear and present danger to well behaved humans going about their buisness in Oakland County.  We seem to suffer from a wide spread perception problem, a foggy understanding as to why coyotes are here (abundent natural food)  and how we should behave around them.  And for those that are fearful they will  be the next victim of a coyote attack, yes, coyotes are wild and they can bite. In all of North America there was only one fatal attack on a human by coyotes in over thirty years. That was last year: A pair of  habituated coyotes attacked and killed a young woman trail hiking in Cape Breton Highlands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia. 

Michigan averages 10 humans a year killed by deer (auto-deer crashes) with hundred injured. We don't fear deer. Domestic dogs kill over one hundred humans every year in the United States, with thousands injured. We still consider dogs our best friends.  West Nile Virus infected mosquitos killed 25 in Michigan not that long ago. We still went outside. I won't even comment on human to human violence and drunk and distracted drivers~! And to take the statistics game further over 30,000 auto deaths a year. We still drive.  

If you want a coyote off your property then you must change your behavior. You be bold~!  Yell. Bang pans. Throw anything at them but food. Never ever let your behavior lead to a food reward or a sense of  "Welcome! Come on over!" for the coyote. And you never back away or turn and run; that behavior shows you are fearful and acting like prey.  Teach your children about them and let them know they should never ever run away. Running can elicit a predatory response.  Accept the fact coyotes are here to stay. Breeding season is not that far off and come spring coyotes will turn to our goose problem. They love geese; for dinner.  And goose eggs too.

Nature's way is  full of surprise and drama and the coyote is an effective and smart player adapting to our human alterted environment faster than we adapt to their ways. And just for the sake of argument lets pretend a local unit of government  foolishly bends to pressures and decides on lethal 'control'.  As our western states learned over the decades, their foolish, fanatical death-dosing  plans of extermination of  this highly adaptable creature failed.  Nature hates a vacuum and we have created perfect habitat where coyotes 'do their thing' taking down injured deer, fawns, geese, rabbits, mice, rabbits and rats. As winter arrives, coyotes turn to hunting mice and rabbits at the edge of  meadows and often visit bird feeders. Not for the seed. Spillage attracts a host of prey species.  Let your cat out at night? Not wise. But no one is screaming "control the cars"  for they may kill  wandering cats or off leash dogs.  I for one enjoy the night yips and howls and walk in the country after dark, alone. You can too. Be smart. Be aware. Be coyote wise.
Note the charecteristic tail down and ears up position even as this coyote trots off to the edge of the woods after an afternoon of resting and mousing in the meadow. The white tipped tail is extremely unusual.


Blogger Karen Workman said...

Excellent post, Jonathan!

I think it's fair to warn residents to be watchful of their small dogs if you don't have a safe, fenced in yard. And for cats, if you make the decision to let them outside, you deal with the consequences — which are more likely to be car-related than coyote-related. Same goes for anyone who believes in letting their dogs "run."

Humans seem to have this philosophy that world belongs to us and it's our right to change it however we want to make it most convenient for us. The truth is, we share this world and just because we have the power to change it however we want doesn't mean we'll be forgiven for not considering the impact the changes we make may have on the creatures we share it with. Killing off a whole species because "we don't like 'em" or "we're scared of 'em" is a part of American history that should stay American history, period.

As for the hybrid thing, that is SCARY. But again, if people were responsible for their pets (dogs), this wouldn't be an issue.

December 1, 2010 at 1:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good information to have Jonathan!

I live in rural Northen Oakland County as well and heard the night yips & howls when I first moved in the area a number of years ago, but have not really heard much beyond that. I have a number of large dogs (4) and my yard is not fenced so I've always assumed the scent of them keeps the coyotes at bay, but have never been certain. Where would you suggest I go to learn more?

Thanks for the post!

December 1, 2010 at 3:17 PM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

Karen---great thoughts you shared. The second paragraph is so true, and sad. Your comments are appreciated. And to "anonymous" There are some good websites on living with coyotes and I will post the links in the near future. Perhaps I'll be able to work out some arrangment for a coyote presentation on aversion conditioning (keeping them wild)with a park agency in Oakland County. I might explore that option. Large dogs are not likely to be attacked--but you don't want them 'hooking up'
When I had an Akbash Dog (he died about five years ago) he would sit in the snow on his side of the barn fence and bark and chat with a coyote that would come close(maybe 100 yards). They seemed to be 'friends'

December 1, 2010 at 3:36 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The coyote presentation might not be a bad idea given the hype the media puts on attacks. Piques my interest.

Had to google what an Akbash Dog looks like. Very handsome breed!

Will do some additional research myself and will keep an eye out for any links you might post.

Thanks for the info Jonathan. Good stuff!

December 1, 2010 at 4:53 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan, I agree. I wish people would stop being such wimps, stop putting your life over the animal's life. Do as Jonathan suggests make noise scare them off, and change your behavior when u see the animal. Stop watching so many silly movie's. They are not warewolves. You do not own the earth.

December 1, 2010 at 8:02 PM 
Blogger Sandman said...

Great Photo's too. I am still trying to get a coyote on film myself. People that leave dog food out for Rover are feeding them too as are the people that let the kitty out to do her thing.

December 2, 2010 at 12:50 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting article and awesome pictures! Do these animals travel in packs?

December 2, 2010 at 11:48 PM 

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