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Thursday, August 9, 2018

There's A Coyote In The Woods

     Generally when one thinks of coyotes, one thinks of the western United States, but they are all over. This wily predator has always been present in the state of Ohio and there is at least one living in the woods behind my house.
     They began showing up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They’re everywhere from Alaska to Chicago to Central America. The reason you may not see them frequently is based on the fact that, while curious, they are generally fearful of human beings. 
     The coyote, a canine native to North America, is a prominent character in Native American folklore, mainly in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, usually depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man. As with other trickster figures, the coyote uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions. After the European colonization of the Americas, it was reviled in Anglo-American culture as a cowardly and untrustworthy animal. Even today attitudes towards the coyote remain largely negative. 
They hide in plain sight and are rarely seen

     Humans are the coyote's greatest threat, followed by cougars and gray wolves. In spite of this, coyotes sometimes mate with gray, eastern, or red wolves, producing "coywolf" hybrids. It is smaller than its close relative, the gray wolf, and slightly smaller than the closely related eastern wolf and red wolf. 
     Coyote fur color is predominantly light gray and red or reddish yellow interspersed with black and white. Coyotes live in either in a family unit or in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals. It has a varied diet consisting primarily of animal meat, including deer, rabbits, hares, rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates, though it may also eat fruits and vegetables on occasion. 
     Coyotes do not hunt in packs, a common misconception from people confusing them with wolves. They do travel in families with pups, and family units can be quite large as coyotes give birth to litters of four to seven pups. 
     Its characteristic vocalization is a howl made by solitary individuals and has been described as "the most vocal of all wild North American mammals. Its loudness and range of vocalizations was the cause for its binomial name Canis latrans, meaning "barking dog". A misconception about coyotes is the noise they’re famous for. When a coyote yips, barks or howls, more often than not, it’s a single mammal communicating, not a pack of wild beasts seeking out human victims. 
     At least 11 different vocalizations are known in adult coyotes. These sounds are divided into three categories: agonistic and alarm, greeting, and contact. Vocalizations of the first category include woofs, growls, huffs, barks, bark howls, yelps, and high-frequency whines. 

     Woofs are used as low-intensity threats or alarms, and are usually heard near den sites, prompting the pups to immediately retreat into their burrows.
     Growls are used as threats at short distances, but have also been heard among pups playing and copulating males. 
     Huffs are high-intensity threat vocalizations produced by rapid expiration of air. 
     Barks can be classed as both long-distance threat vocalizations and as alarm calls. Bark howls may serve similar functions. 
     Yelps are emitted as a sign of submission, while high-frequency whines are produced by dominant animals acknowledging the submission of subordinates.
     Greeting vocalizations include low-frequency whines, 'wow-oo-wows', and group yip howls. Low-frequency whines are emitted by submissive animals, and are usually accompanied by tail wagging and muzzle nibbling. The sound known as 'wow-oo-wow' has been described as a "greeting song". 
     The group yip howl is emitted when two or more pack members reunite, and may be the final act of a complex greeting ceremony. Contact calls include lone howls and group howls, as well as the previously mentioned group yip howls.
     The lone howl is the most iconic sound of the coyote, and may serve the purpose of announcing the presence of a lone individual separated from its pack. Group howls are used as both substitute group yip howls and as responses to either lone howls, group howls, or group yip howls. 
     Very rarely does a conflict take place between a human and a coyote, but hat's not to say the can't be dangerous. In the absence of the harassment of coyotes practiced by rural people, urban coyotes are losing their fear of humans, which is further worsened by people intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes. In such situations, some coyotes have begun to act aggressively toward humans, chasing joggers and bicyclists, confronting people walking their dogs, and stalking small children. 
     Non-rabid coyotes in these areas sometimes target small children, mostly under the age of 10, though some adults have been bitten. Coyote attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote, but have been increasingly frequent, especially in California. 
     There have been only two confirmed fatal attacks: one on a three-year-old Glendale, California and another on a nineteen-year-old in Nova Scotia, Canada. In the 30 years leading up to 2006, at least 160 attacks occurred in the United States, mostly in the Los Angeles County area. 
     Although media reports of such attacks generally identify the animals as simply "coyotes", research indicates those involved in attacks in northeast North America, including Pennsylvania, New York, New England, and eastern Canada, may have actually been coywolves, hybrids of wolves and coyotes. 
     A coyote barking at someone or following them at a distance is just letting a person know they are in their territory and may be getting a little too close to their home. 
      In urban areas they are attracted to pet food, bird feeders, loose pets, exposed garbage and threatening behavior to their territory and their young, lead to incidents. Many of the things that attract chipmunks, squirrels, small birds and mice will attract coyotes because they eat small animals. And, their diet is so flexible that they seek out those same foods, too. 
     An average male coyote is about the size of a medium-sized dog, about 37 pounds, with adult females weighing about 32 pounds. Though small, and not overly aggressive, coyotes are still wild animals and should not be approached. Clapping, yelling and waving scares them off. 
     Coyotes in rural areas can be controlled through legal hunting and trapping methods. Prior to the mid-19th century, coyote fur was considered worthless. This changed with the decrease in the number of beavers and by 1860, the hunting of coyotes for their fur became a great source of income or wolfers in the Great Plains. Coyote pelts were of significant economic importance during the early 1950s, ranging in price from $5 to $25 per pelt. 
     Coyote's fur is not durable enough to make rugs, but can be used for coats and jackets, scarves, or muffs. The majority of pelts are used for making trimmings, such as coat collars and sleeves for women's clothing. Coyote fur is sometimes dyed black as imitation silver fox. 
     Coyotes were occasionally eaten by trappers and mountain men during the western expansion and were sometimes featured in the feasts of the Plains Indians, and coyote pups were eaten by the indigenous people of San Gabriel, California. The taste of coyote meat has been likened to that of the wolf, and is more tender than pork when boiled. Coyote fat, when taken in the fall, has been used on occasion to grease leather or eaten as a spread. 
     There's no coyote-specific hunting season in Ohio, Emmert said. People can hunt coyotes all year, with no bag limit, but individual governments have restrictions on trapping and hunting.

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