Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Coyote – Friend or Foe?

There were no coyotes in Ohio when the land was first settled. Today they live everywhere in the state. A hundred years ago, coyotes were only found west of the Mississippi River. After the first sightings of coyotes in 1919, the coyote moved in and has become a part of Ohio’s wildlife

Coyotes are about as big as a medium-sized dog. Males range from 20 to 50 pounds, and stand between 41 and 53 inches in length. They have a bushy tail with a black tip, carries at a 45 degree angle. Most coyotes are gray; a few can be reddish brown or pale tan. Coyotes are nocturnal, being active at night. They often hunt together, in search of small mammals like mice, shrews, voles and rabbits. The coyote will also eat fruits, grasses, vegetables, or carrion; it is an omnivore and adapts its diet to the available food source. Sheep predation normally occurs in the summer when additional food is needed by the adults feeding pups. The coyote is notorious for killing sheep and other domestic livestock; studies show that livestock make up 14% of the coyote population’s diet.

Today the coyote lives almost everywhere, even in our cities. They survive in towns by living off of the food found in dumpsters or garbage cans. They also catch and eat the more common animals found in cities such as squirrels and rabbits, as well as domestic cats and small dogs. Coyotes sometimes find shelter in drainpipes and old buildings. And since many cities are built around big rivers and lakes, water is usually easy to find. By being nocturnal, coyotes avoid their biggest threat, people.

Coyote pairs mate in late winter and anywhere from 1 to 12 pups are born in April or May. For the first few weeks of their lives they are blind and helpless, depending on their parents for food and shelter. The male hunts for food to support both his mate and the pups for the first few weeks. The female nurses the pups and they grow quickly. As the pups get older, both parents will hunt for food and feed the young. At 8 weeks, the parents begin teaching the pups hunting skills. The family stays together until fall, when the pups begin to leave to establish their own territories.

Because they live near people, coyotes can become a problem for farmers and ranchers. Biologists study Ohio’s coyotes to learn more about the their behavior and movements in the state. Help is provided to farmers and landowners so they can learn how to control individual coyotes that keep causing problems.
The coyote has the remarkable ability to adapt to different habitats and to share space with people, but it remains an almost invisible neighbor. We can admire them for their cunning, or dislike them for the problems they sometimes cause, however, the coyote is here to stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment