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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Coyotes are here to stay

In Aztec lore, the coyote was known as “God’s Dog” because of its mysterious ways and intelligence. The Navajo believed that the coyote would be the last creature on earth because of its cleverness and ability to adapt to changing conditions.
Some people have other names or labels for the coyote, many of which cannot be printed in a family publication. Coyotes do create a lot of strong feelings and many people despise them while others like them. Of course we know that some people like to stick their hands into snake infested waters and blindly “noodle” for catfish, some like to hunt wild boar and kill them by stabbing them with a big knife and some other people even like to drink warm beer.
Personally I hate coyotes. There, I’ve said it and gotten that out of the way. My personal reasons will be evident later.
Coyotes are often referred to as “coy-dogs” or “brush wolves.” The coy-dog label came about when they first appeared in the 1960s in significant numbers and people attributed their larger size to the possibility of interbreeding with dogs. Although they can, and have sometimes in the past, that is very rare today. They usually have different breeding cycles and coyotes certainly have no problem finding mates these days. They are much more likely to kill the dogs rather than mate with them.
The term brush wolf comes from their larger size than the western coyotes. This is actually due to interbreeding with wolves as they migrated east. Scientists have determined that the genetic makeup of the eastern coyote contains genetic similarity with the red wolf and this has created a distinct subspecies with larger size and some distinct behavior patterns.
Eastern coyotes usually weigh about 30–40 pounds but many larger males have been taken. Their big bushy tail makes them seem even larger. When some people see this large member of the canid family in the fields or their backyard they often wonder if they are seeing a timber wolf. Timber wolves are considerably larger, usually weighing 90–100 pounds, have shorter rounded ears and a blunter muzzle.
Coyotes usually live in pairs rather than packs as wolves do. However, the young of the year and other unmated females may form packs for hunting in fall and winter. Coyotes make a variety of calls and their howls and other sounds can often be heard on a late summer or autumn night.
The female coyote gives birth to the pups in spring and typically has three to five pups, although they sometimes give birth to as many as 10 or 12. The young are raised in a den, hollow log or under a ledge and stay in that area for three or four months until they are old enough to travel and hunt with the adults.
Coyotes eat a wide variety of things ranging from fruits to large mammals. Because they are predatory in nature, most of their diet consists of mice, small rodents, woodchucks, rabbits, beaver, birds, turkey and deer. One farmer told me how coyotes in the area would hear his tractor mowing hay and after he had made about three or four passes around the field the female and the pups would appear and spend an hour pouncing on the now vulnerable field mice in the freshly mown hay.
Coyotes are also a major predator on turkey and wildlife biologists know that they take a toll on hen turkeys while they are nesting. I have had coyotes come in to the sound of my calling or the tom turkey gobbling and mess up several of my hunts.
Once I had a coyote sneak in towards my decoys while I was calling and when it saw my movement in the shadows, it turned and bounded straight for me. I grabbed my shotgun and yelled but before I could get off a shot, the coyote realized its mistake and spun and dodged behind some trees as it sped away.
Another time I was goose hunting and heard something on the opposite side of a stonewall. As I rose up to take a look I came face-to-face with a coyote at a distance of three feet. That time we both jumped back in total surprise. Some hunters have not been so lucky and have been pounced on from behind and bitten while turkey hunting. The coyotes usually got away when they realized their mistake but the hunters had to undergo the shots for rabies vaccine.
Coyotes take a fairly heavy toll of fawns. One ESF study confirmed this but their conclusion was that the effect was minimal “since most predation occurs in spring.” Duh! That is when fawns are born! That is like saying most injuries from snowball fights occur in winter.
In some areas coyotes kill a substantial number of adult deer in winter. This is usually in areas of deep snow like the Adirondacks. Deer cannot travel fast in the deep snow and the packs of coyotes travel on top of the snow and soon surround and pull down the deer.
Coyotes also make a habit of attacking beagles while they are hunting rabbits. The sound of a baying hound brings the coyotes in to attack and kill the beagle. Some dismiss this as the instinctive behavior of coyotes to not tolerate other canids during the period when they have young. However, this practice of coyotes is year-around, not just when they have young (which is after rabbit hunting season).
This year I have had three friends call me about coyotes in their backyard asking if it was a coyote or wolf and ask if it were dangerous. Yes, they are coyotes. No, they are not normally dangerous to humans (unless they mistake you for the game while you are hunting). Seeing them in broad daylight in your yard does not mean that they are rabid, although you should never take chances. It does mean that they have been accustomed to humans and are becoming bolder.
Since coyotes are well-entrenched in suburban, or even urban areas, they have quickly learned that cats and small dogs are easier prey than rabbits or woodchucks which can escape into their dens. In some areas where the coyotes are particularly bold, people have armed themselves with stout walking sticks or even cattle prods when out walking their small lap dogs.
Coyotes are definitely intelligent and adaptable. Most of the time we do not see them although we will see the signs in our neighborhoods if we are observant enough. The danger, especially to small pets or possibly small children, comes when coyotes become habituated to humans and become especially bold.
During the open season (usually October 1 through March 31) coyotes can be trapped or hunted. Hunting is usually done with hounds or by calling them in with calls of a dying rabbit or other prey.
It takes intensive hunting to significantly reduce coyote numbers in a given area. But you can reduce the actual number slightly and make the survivors more cautious and wary of humans. Coyotes are here to stay so the best we can do is to learn how to live with them and possibly take advantage of the sport they may offer.
Youth Goose Hunt
The Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and ECOs are again teaming up to offer a special youth goose hunt to youngsters who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go goose hunting. Youngsters must have completed their hunter safety course beforehand.
There will be a meeting with parents, ECOs and hunter mentors; target practice and other preparation for the next day’s hunt. This year’s hunt will take place on the weekend of September 19 and 20. Youngsters will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for goose hunting and then actually experience it with the guidance of an ECO or hunter mentor in the field.
The program is open to youths ages 12–17. A small game license and an HIP number is necessary for all youngsters. Youths ages 16-17 will also need a federal wildfowl stamp. Interested participants should contact Scott Faulkner (225-0192), ECO Steve Lakeman (734-0648) or ECO Ric Grisolini (240-6966) for an application for this program. Space in the program is limited so be sure to register early.


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May 20, 2016 at 8:33 PM 

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