Sunday, May 5, 2013

The coyote stands guard! Who notices?

photo by Jonathan Schechter

This coyote stands motionless in silent vigil at a small creek in a public park in Oakland County. Why? Aversive Conditioning.

Aversive conditioning is the growing science of using non-lethal methods to keep wildlife away from certain locations where their behavior interferes with our wants and needs.   Coyotes are often the targets of aversion conditioning, but in this case the tide has turned.  The coyote is not just standing guard against geese, he is meant to keep beavers from building a small dam that would create flooding across a trail.

Will it work?  Time will tell. Beavers are wary, but they are also wise. Perhaps the thought process of the master dam builder is, "That's a coyote?  Nah, I don't think so! Gimme some aspen limbs to chew!”

Wildlife learns quickly about our ways, as we stumble to discover their ways. But what I found most interesting was the human response: None.

I loitered near the junction of the trail, the creek and the coyote and of the six hikers that passed in a ten minute span only one noticed the coyote - and that was after their leashed dog pulled to the hunched over beast. It seems as if those that trekked the trail had their eyes set dead ahead missing many of the wonders of nature in spring -- and the plastic coyote just a few yards from the trail's edge.


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