TO CORRECT COYOTE COMMENTS
January 8, 2012
weeks ago I wrote a column answering questions about coyotes and their
relatively recent appearance as an integral part of the southeastern
fauna. Most of what I reported was accurate but, alas, I made some errors
that need to be corrected. After talking with several wildlife biologists
who work with deer and coyotes, I am setting the record straight on
a few points.
us agree that coyotes historically occurred naturally throughout most
of the western United States but were absent or at least not an influential
part of native wildlife in the Southeast. Coyotes arrived in the area
by various means; which of those means was most significant is debatable
(and a topic for another column). That they are now widespread, with
a notable presence in most eastern states, is incontestable. How do
they affect other wildlife, pets, and people in their new home?
earlier column I said I was unaware of records of coyotes attacking
humans. That is still true for most areas, but not in Southern California.
A publication titled "Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem"
by Robert M. Timm of the University of California (Hopland) provides
some eye-catching statistics about what can happen in suburbs adjacent
to wild habitat where coyotes live. Without question, situations can
develop in which being concerned about the safety of pet dogs and cats
as well as young children would be practical. In addition, the Southern
California records include more than 50 coyote attacks on adults who
were jogging, walking pets, bicycling, or even in their own yards.
that many more Californians are bitten and hospitalized by domestic
dogs each year than by coyotes does not lessen the level of concern
residents in some areas should have about the wild canines. The study
provided a stepwise accounting of coyote incidents that preceded attacks
on people in Southern California. Could these "increasingly bold"
behaviors be guides to what could be expected in other regions? Sightings
of coyotes at night and nighttime attacks on pets were followed by observations
of coyotes during daylight hours. Then they began to attack free-roaming
pets during the day, followed by attacks on pets on leashes and in people's
yards. Soon coyotes were chasing people down the street and could be
seen in the middle of the day "in and around children's play areas."
By this point, a community should be aware that it has a problem.
to unravel an explanation for the Southern California situation, the
researchers found that the coyotes had lost their fear of humans and
become dependent on people for food. Coyotes living in the wildlands
surrounding suburbia supplemented their diet by feeding on garbage and
outdoor pet food. Plus, some residents intentionally fed them! An additional
complication for wildlife managers in certain areas was that public
sentiment was against predator control programs, which would have eliminated
coyotes that became habituated to being around humans. Clearly, coyotes,
like any wild, predatory animal, can become a problem for a community;
the red flags to watch for are pretty obvious.
management programs must also address how coyotes entering a new habitat
can affect prey populations, which in the Southeast would include whitetail
deer. John C. Kilgo of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station
wrote an excellent commentary titled "Can Coyotes Affect Deer Populations
in Southeastern North America?" that was published in the Journal
of Wildlife Management. He suggests that coyotes may be having an impact
on the popular game species. The research by him and his colleagues
found that when coyotes become prevalent they prey heavily on deer fawns
and at the same time deer populations decline. Deer hunting is a major
source of revenue and recreation in many parts of the Southeast and
could be severely affected by a new source of predation. Additional
research on the interactions between coyotes and deer as well as other
wildlife is definitely needed and should be encouraged by state and
don't feed any coyotes in your neighborhood.
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