CONCERNS ARE NOT GOING AWAY
November 27, 2011
occur naturally in all western and midwestern states. But under the
section on coyotes in my 1980 copy of the Peterson Field Guide on mammals,
a giant question mark covers most southeastern states including all
of Alabama, the Carolinas, and Virginia. The question was whether they
occurred in the Southeast. But that was over 30 years ago, and regional
biodiversity has changed considerably since then. Coyotes have clearly
invaded the Southeast and are now ubiquitous throughout most of the
country. Here are a few questions I have received from people about
have moved into the woods near our suburban neighborhood in South Carolina.
Should we be concerned when our grandchildren come to visit? They also
bring their dog, and we have an inside-outside cat.
I have encountered seem shy around adult humans, so, in general I would
not be concerned about the safety of young children as long as a grownup
is with them. I would be far more wary of the presence of some people
than of most coyotes. Although I am unaware of one attacking a human,
I suppose the exceptional case may be out there somewhere, possibly
involving a rabid coyote. A certainty is that countless more injuries
to people are caused by pet dogs each year than by coyotes, for which
the number may be zero. Coyotes will definitely attack cats or dogs
on occasion, so letting your pets roam free when coyotes are known to
be in the neighborhood could leave you looking for a new pet.
Q. We live
in the "country" and at night can hear coyotes howling (especially
if there is a full moon). I've heard that they do this only when they're
killing or mating. We have a dog, and my husband and I are convinced
it hears them before we do. Any information would be appreciated.
is indeed something coyotes do, but I'm not aware of its being restricted
to certain activities or phases of the moon; more likely, coyotes howl
as a territorial statement to other coyotes. Or maybe some do it simply
because it is fun. A dog can hear frequencies we cannot. So the dog
may well hear the coyotes howling before you do. Dogs also have a remarkably
keen sense of smell and may become aware of a coyote in the neighborhood
through olfactory cues before any noises are made.
Q. I have
heard that some state wildlife departments have programs to eliminate
coyotes when they begin to kill deer thus reducing the size of herds
on government lands where hunting is allowed. But hunters have been
encouraged to hunt on these same lands in order to "keep the deer
population under control." This does not make sense to me. If the
purpose is to reduce the number of deer, why not let the coyotes help?
question is a legitimate one that I been asked before, which I have
in turn asked wildlife biologists who work with deer. So far, I have
not received a convincing answer for why we should not let coyotes operate
as predators as part of a natural system that keeps a prey species in
point about coyotes is that those in healthy populations can be beautiful
animals. The species has clearly been wrongly caricatured in cartoons
and by wildlife stories about being relentless marauders of livestock.
This is not to say they do not kill a few chickens and small farm animals,
but they also probably do much good environmentally by keeping a lot
of rodent (and deer?) populations under control.
will think that having a large, predatory mammal roaming our wild natural
areas and even encroaching on places where people live is a good idea.
But when I spot a coyote in the woods or hear the call and response
of coyotes howling, I feel a thrill of pleasure at the idea that these
animals are part of our natural environment.
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