Tag Archives: Coyote

THE WHITE-FOOTED MOUSE THAT RAN UP MY DRESS -By Kim Smith

Well hello there little mouse! My husband Tom was releasing a mouse that was caught in his have-a-heart trap. He first opened opened the front door of the trap, with no sign of movement within, and then the back door. After a few minutes passed, out ran the little mouse, but then he froze in his tracks, only several feet from where I was standing. As I was motionless taking his photo, I think he must have thought I was a tree. He suddenly ran up my leg, up under my dress, and poked his head out from beneath my coat. It’s too bad I was holding the camera and not my husband!

Thinking about hantavirus, and just to be on the safe side, I changed my clothes and washed immediately.

Off towards the woods he ran.

Studies show how the increasing Eastern Coyote population has impacted White-footed Mice, Red Fox, and the explosion of Lyme disease. In areas where the Eastern Coyote has outcompeted the Red Fox for habitat, Lyme disease has increased. Coyotes not only kill Red Fox, they simply aren’t as interested in eating mice as are the fox.

 

 

Answer: Both the White-footed and Deer Mouse carry hantavirus, not the House Mouse. To be on the  safe side, if you find rodent droppings in your home or office, do not vacuum because that will disperse the virus throughout the air. Instead, wipe up with a dampened paper towel and discard.

 

Read more about the White-footed Mouse and Lyme disease here: The Mighty White-footed Mouse

Coyote Presentation Feb 26th and Feb 27th

If you can’t make the coyote presentation on Monday February 26th, we added another presentation on February 27th! Dr. Jonathan Way will present an additional seminar on Tuesday, February 27th at 10am at the Senior Center.

These talks will discuss Eastern Coyote behavior based on Dr. Jonathan’s Way research and experience. We hope this will help us to learn about coyote behavior and how we can live with our coyote neighbors and avoid conflicts.

I hope to see you there!

Alicia Pensarosa

Coyote Presentation_Feb26 & Feb 27 Poster

 

 

 

GloucesterCast 264 with Jim and Pat Dalpiaz, Nichole Schrafft, Erinn Whitmore, Kim Smith, Host Joey Ciaramitaro Taped 1/28/18

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GloucesterCast 264 with Jim and Pat Dalpiaz, Nichole Schrafft, Erinn Whitmore, Kim Smith, Host Joey Ciaramitaro Taped 1/28/18

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When you subscribe you need to verify your email address so they know we’re not sending you spam and that you want to receive the podcast. So once you subscribe check your email for that verification. If you don’t see it, check your spam folder in your email acct so you can verify that you’d like to get the GloucesterCast Podcast sent to you for listening at your convenience..

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Topics Include:

Free Tickets To Cape Ann Community Cinema – Share this post on Facebook for a chance to win two free tickets to Cape Ann Community Cinema, The Cinema Listings are always stickied in the GMG Calendar at the top of the blog or you can click here to go directly to the website

Meat Hoodie Gift From Rick Doucette

YMCA TEEN LEADERS CANS/NON-PERISHABLE FOOD DRIVE IS CLOSING IN ON THEIR GOAL!

Nichole’s Picks- February School Vacation Ideas: Providence Bruins, Dave and Busters, Nestlenook Farm Jackson NH, Patriot Place Hall of Fame, Ice Skating, Bass Pro Shops, Bodaborg, Escape This Live, The Escape Room, Tubing At Nashoba Valley, Amesbury Sports Park, Stray Boots, Geocaching.

Erinn Whitmore- www.growlinc.org 
Coyote Meeting At The  Cultural Center at Rocky Neck on February 26th at 7pm
Cape Ann Art Haven Buoy Auction
The Female Snowy Owl On The Back Shore
Warren Waugh auctioned off Patriots Tickets With The Proceeds Going To Alzheimer Association
Mile Marker and noticed they have Family Night every Tuesday 5-8 PM : swimming and fun for the whole family.  Kids pay their age and no one pays more than $10 at the Aqua Room.

They also have an upcoming Wine Dinner Feb 22: https://capeannmarina.com/event/winter-wine-dinner/      and other special events.

The Bridge Cape Ann ran a great benefit last night and we learned Left-Right-Center!  We’ll be on the lookout for other events they run  https://www.bridgecapeann.com/

Sandpiper Bakery comes through with twice baked almond croissants (Pat and Jimmy Placed An order
https://www.sandpiperbakery.com/

GMG PODCAST #264 Copyright Kim Smith.JPG

Only a complete psycho eats a croissant like this-

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Coyote Ecology & Behavior Presentation

Hi All,

The Animal Advisory Committee is hosting a coyote awareness program at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck on February 26th at 7pm. Dr. Jonathan Way will be giving a presentation based on his eastern coyote research. We hope the presentation will be educational on how we can peacefully coexist with coyotes. We anticipate this will be a packed event and hope to do more of these events in the future.

Hope to see you there!

You can follow the Animal Advisory Committee on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GloucesterAAC/

Alicia P.

Coyote Presentation_Feb26 Poster

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

CAPE ANN WILDLIFE: A YEAR IN PICTURES 2017

By Kim Smith

Cape Ann provides welcome habitat for a menagerie of creatures beautiful, from the tiniest winged wonder to our region’s top predator, the Eastern Coyote. Last year I posted a Cape Ann Wildlife Year in Pictures 2016 and I hope you will find the wildlife stories of 2017 equally as beautiful. Click on the image to find the name of each species.

WINTER

The only partially frozen ponds at the start of winter allowed for dabblers and divers such as Mallards, Mergansers, and Buffleheads to forage at the freshwater. Mr. Swan had his usual entourage of quwackers and daily heads to the other side of the pond to get away for his morning stretches. Sightings of Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors abounded. Although photographed in Newburyport, the owl photos are included because these species are found readily on Cape Ann. An Eastern Screech Owl (red-morph) was seen daily perched above a playground and Barred Owl sightings too were reported throughout the winter. Raptors live on Cape Ann all year round but are much easier to see in winter when the trees are bare of foliage.

The beautiful aqua green eyes of the juvenile Double-crested Cormorants were seen wintering at both Niles Pond and Rockport Harbor. And during a warm February day on a snowless marsh a turkey bromance shindig commenced.

SPRING

In early spring, a male and female American Wigeon arrived on the scene making local ponds their home for several weeks. In the right light the male’s electric green feathers at the top of his head shine brightly and both the male and female have baby blue bills.

Meadow and marsh, dune and treetop were graced with the heralding harbingers of spring with photos of a Red-winged Blackbird, a pair of Cedar Waxwings, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, and Grackle included here.

The Great Swan Escape story made headlines in Boston as Mr. Swan eluded captors for hours. He had re-injured his foot and someone took it upon themselves to call the animal rescuers, which would have surely meant death for our beloved 27-year old swan if he had been wrangled into captivity.

M is clearly for Migration through Massachusetts and the month-long arrivals and departures did not abate. Short-billed Dowitchers, winsome Willets, Yellow Legs, Brandt Geese, and Ruddy Turnstones are just some of the migrating birds spied on Cape Ann beaches and marshes. The best news in May was the return of the Piping Plovers. Of the five or six that camped at Good Harbor Beach to investigate potential nesting sites, one pair bonded and built their nest mere yards from the nesting pair of last year. Could it be the same pair? The nesting Piping Plover story took up much of the spring and by early summer four little Piping Plover chicks hatched over Fiesta weekend. Hundreds of photos and hours of film footage are in the process of being organized with a children’s book and documentary in progress.

Piping Plover Courtship Dance

Piping Plover Nest

SUMMER

OctoPop

The survival of one Piping Plover chick was made possible by a wholesale community effort, with volunteers covering all hours of daylight, along with Mayor Sefatia and her team, Ken Whittaker from the conservation office, Chief McCarthy, and animal control officer Diane Corliss all lending a hand.

Sadly, several Northern Gannets came ashore to die on our Cape Ann beaches, struck by the same mysterious and deadly disease that is afflicting Northern Gannets in other coastal regions. During the summer season they are typically at their North American breeding grounds, which are six well-established colonies, three in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, and three in the North Atlantic, off the coast of Newfoundland.

An orphaned swan was introduced to Niles Pond, much to the dismay of Mr. Swan. Eastern Point residents Skip and Lyn kept watch over the two while they reluctantly became acquainted.

By mid-July many of us were seeing Monarchs in much greater numbers than recent years. Nearly every region within the continental United States experienced a fantastic Painted Lady irruption and butterflies of every stripe and polka dot were seen flitting about our meadows, fields, and gardens.

The tadpoles and froglets of American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs made for good eating for several families of resident otters, who are making their homes in abandoned beaver lodges. Little Blue Herons too, find plentiful frogs at our local ponds.

Tree Swallows Massing

In early August we see the Tree Swallows begin to mass for their return migration. They find an abundance of fruits and insects in the dunes, headlands, and beaches. The Cedar Waxwings and Ruddy Trunstones were observed back again foraging on their southward journey, along with myriad species of songbirds, shorebirds, divers, and dabblers.

FALL

The Late Great Monarch Migration continued into fall as we were treated to a wonderfully warm autumn. Waves and waves of Monarchs came ashore and more butterflies arrived on the scene including new batches of Painted Ladies, Clouded Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes (nothing common about these beauties!).

A pair of Northern Pintails called Cape Ann ponds and coves home for nearly a month while we seem to be seeing more and more raptors such as Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons. Juvenile herons of every species that breeds on Cape Ann lingered long into the fall—Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and Green Herons.

Just as Mr. Swan and the Young Swan appeared to be warming to each other, the Young Swan, who has yet to learn to fly, became trapped in the ice at Niles Pond. He was rescued by caretakers Lyn and Dan and is now spending the winter at a cozy sanctuary built by Lyn and friends.

 

Heart Wings Monarch Butterfly

Thank you to all our readers for your kind comments of appreciation throughout the year for the beautiful wild creatures with which we share this gorgeous peninsula called Cape Ann. If you’d like to read more about a particular animal, type the name of the animal in the search box and the original post should come up

With its expansive marshes and dunes, bodies of fresh, clear water, saltwater coves and inlets, and geographic location within the Atlantic Flyway, 2017 has been a banner year for Cape Ann’s wild and wonderful creatures. I can’t wait to see what awaits in 2018!

Snowy Owl “Hedwig” January 2018 Backshore Gloucester

If your deck chairs are missing…and you want to see a coyote

We found them at Good Harbor Beach, July 4 2017. The striped cushions are the right color! The pair were upended and cushions scattered along with various party remnants between the pedestrian bridge and the piping plover enclosure. We righted them and set them up for Piper Plover viewing.  Some folks vandalized the endangered species signs and littered, and others were picking up trash and repairing.  The coyote and birds were on the move.

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There was a great crow ruckus in the trees across from Blue Shutters Beachside Inn and out popped the coyote. Hung around the creek and then off down the road past http://www.blueshuttersbeachside.com/ 

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Patti Amaral July 4, 2017

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Peggy and Patty July 4, 2017– Peggy spotted the plover family of 5 this morning, Day 12. All are ok after an eventful Day 11 — see Kim Smith’s glorious photojournalism update 

 

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Piping plover 3rd shift brought a hammer

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BREAKING: COYOTE ALERT

The coyote was trotting down Bass Ave in the direction of Good Harbor Beach. It paused briefly at the garden at the corner of Bass Ave and Brightside and then proceeded to jaunt up Brightside before ducking into a yard.

Coyote bopping along Bass and Brightside Avenues Friday 7:30am, school bus pick up time.

A post shared by Kim Smith (@kimsmithdesigns) on

Opens today: Andrew Manning solo exhibition at The Hive includes this coyote painting

The opening reception for Andrew Manning’s solo exhibition is today from 2-4pm at The Hive, 11 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, MA. The show features 22 (mostly) recent paintings –like that arresting coyote painting on the exhibition poster– and intaglios. The show will continue through May 6th. Andrew teaches at Art Haven, too.

The Hive 
presents

ANDREW MANNING
INHABITATIONS|Negotiating the dynamic tensions between spaces

Opening Reception:
Saturday. April 29th. 2-4PM
Falcon’s Nest gallery at The Hive
11 Pleasant Street. Gloucester MA
April 29 – May 6, 2017

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COYOTE ATTACKS DOGS

Note to Readers: Coyotes are guarding their dens at this time of year. Please keep dogs on leash at all times.

Photo credit: Sherman “Pat” Morss, Jr.

 

From the Concord Patch

By Lisa Redmond

CONCORD, MA – Chief Joseph O’Connor and the Concord Police Department would like to advise residents to be vigilant while at the Estabrook Road trail after several dogs were attacked by coyotes this week.

From April 18-20, Concord Police received multiple reports of coyote attacks on dogs in the area of Estabrook Woods.

Three separate incidents occurred where people, who had their dogs off-leash, encountered a coyote near the beginning of the trail on Estabrook Road.

Approximately 600 yards in and on the left hand side, reporting parties noted that their dogs approached what is believed to be a coyote den containing pups.

The dogs flushed the adult coyote, which then bit each of the dogs in their behinds and tracked the canines until they left the area.

The coyote is described as medium to large in size, approximately 60 to 80 pounds.

Concord’s Animal Control Officer has consulted with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, which stated the coyote is in its own habitat and people should stay away from the area.

The Concord Police Department advises that dog walkers avoid that section of Eastbrook Woods.

Late April through May is weaning season for coyote pups, which means protective adults will be on the alert.

To prevent coyote attacks in areas like Estabrook Road and at home, Concord Police recommend that residents follow safety tips from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife:

  • Leash pets at all times if outdoors. Small cats and dogs are seen as prey and larger dogs, competition.
  • Do not approach, feed, pet, or try to interact with coyotes.
  • Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten coyotes with loud noises or bright lights.

At home:

  • Cut back brushy edges, as these areas provide cover for coyotes and their prey.
  • Secure your garbage. Coyotes raid open trash materials and compost piles. Secure your garbage in tough plastic containers with tight-fitting lids and keep them in secure buildings when possible. Take out trash when the morning pick up is scheduled, not the previous night. Keep compost in secure, vented containers, and keep barbecue grills clean to reduce attractive odors.
  • Keep bird feeder areas clean. Use feeders designed to keep seed off the ground, as the seed attracts many small mammals coyotes prey upon. Remove feeders if coyotes are regularly seen around your yard.

GLOUCESTER’S COYOTE ORDINANCE AMENDED

COYOTE raiding garbage can left outside house. Rocky Mountains. (Canis latrans).

Photo courtesy google image search

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Board member Jen Holmgren shares the following:

Last night, in a unanimous vote, the City Council approved an important animal-related measure initiated by Councilors Valerie Gilman and Scott Memhard. The Animal Ordinance GCO Section 4-2 has now been updated to reflect the prohibition of the feeding of coyotes as well as gulls and pigeons.

This type of thing may only seem to be common sense, but without an ordinance in place, the police or other authorities, and even neighbors, don’t have a legal leg to stand on. This is a solid, much-needed step in the right direction.

Thanks, and have a good day!Eastern Coyote Canis latrans massachusetts Kim Smith

Wildlife biologist and coyote expert Jonathan Way to speak at Salem State Tuesday, February 28

WHAT:                Jonathan Way, PhD will be on campus to describe his work investigating the behavior and social ecology of coyotes and to discuss public policy regarding predators. The talk is part of the Wellness U Experiencing Wildlife Series, which is organized by the Human Dimensions of Wildlife Unit of the Bates Center for Public Affairs. This free event is open to media and the public.

WHEN:                Tuesday, February 28, 2017 from 11 am to 12 pm

WHERE:               Salem State University

                              352 Lafayette Street | Salem, MA  01970

                              MLK Room, Ellison Campus Center

WHO:                  Dr. Way is the author of two books related to the study of coyotes, one of which, Suburban Howls, details his experiences studying eastern coyotes in Massachusetts. Dr. Way details and runs the Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research organization where he is continuing his goal of long-term ecological and behavioral research on coywolves. Dr. Way’s second book details his experience at Yellowstone National Park, where he takes regular trips to study coyotes. 

 

Here is Jon Way’s website- http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com/

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LAST NIGHT’S COYOTE MEETING RECAP

img_4109Pat Huckery 

The informational meeting was conducted by Pat Huckery, the northeast district manager for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and was nearly identical to the meeting given last year at this time.

Pat presented the life history of the coyote as well as a number of methods for lessening human encounters with coyotes, most notably to cut off their food supply. Humans providing food to the coyotes directly and indirectly is the number one reason the coyote population has exploded on Cape Ann, and at the top of the list states Pat is bird feeders. She recommends that if you do have a bird feeder, at the very least, clean up the mess left daily underneath the feeders. Spilled bird food attracts rodents and small mammals, which in turn attracts coyotes.

Unsecured garbage as well as pet food left outdoors are also strong coyote attractants.

From my own observation its easy to see why Cape Ann’s coyote population is mushrooming. Our shoreline, marshes, and wooded habitats provide a wealth of food, both hunted and scavenged. I am curious to know if our readers see dead fish and birds washed ashore any longer. In the past I have seen quite a bit more on daily walks and think today the coyotes are providing a service by eating the carcasses.

At the meeting it was suggested that coyotes eat rats. That information seems surprising as rats are highly intelligent and not easily hunted. Additionally, if coyotes are doing such a terrific job eating small mammals and rodents, then why do we have an exploding population of rabbits, chipmunks, and mice? Regrettably conjecture is often presented as fact and unfortunately there is no hard data available. We learned at the meeting that tagging and tracking coyotes is not allowed in Massachusetts under the same provision that does not allow for poisoning and trapping with snares.

Hunting as an approved option for reducing the coyote population was discussed. Local licensed hunter Sam Holmes was in attendance and he can be reached at 978-491-8746. Communities such as Middleton, Rhode Island, have an expanded hunting season to manage the population of specifically coyotes that have lost their fear of humans.

Pat’s Top Recommendations for Lessening Contact with Coyotes

  1. Put away bird feeders, or clean up daily beneath the feeder.
  2. Supervise pets outdoors at all times.
  3. Secure garbage in tight fitting bins and put out the morning of trash collection
  4. Seal up any areas of your home and outbuilding’s foundation that might provide a coyote with a place to hide.
  5. Secure chickens.
  6. Compost in bins.
  7. Under no circumstances, feed coyotes.

Note to the folks who are feeding the coyotes: By feeding the coyote, you are habituating it to people. You may thing you are helping the coyote but you may potentially hasten its demise. Habituated coyotes are considered a serious threat.

If you do come face to face with a coyote, be be big, bold, and brave. Waving and flailing your arms will make you look bigger and scarier, and yelling will startle them.

Coyotes typically do not want to interact with people. Each of the three times I have come face to face with a coyote it was because I was unwittingly between it and potential food. The big, bold, and brave technique is effective although during my most recent coyote encounter, I thought the coyote had departed. He had however instead stealthily circled around to the dead fish on the beach he so determinedly wanted to eat. Eastern Coyote massachusetts beach Canis latrans Kim Smith

Eastern Coyote

REMINDER: COYOTE FORUM TONIGHT AT CITY HALL

Tonight at 7pm the coyote forum will be held at Kyrouz Auditorium. The program sounds similar to the one presented last year at this time. If you plan to go, leave early because last year the auditorium was packed.

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Eastern Coyote, Loblolly Cove
Coyote scat ©Kim Smith 2016Coyote scat, Eastern Point
Coyote lair ©Kim Smith 2016Coyote lair, Brace Cove

COYOTE raiding garbage can left outside house. Rocky Mountains. (Canis latrans).

COYOTE raiding garbage can left outside house.
Rocky Mountains. (Canis latrans).

Coyote eating trash courtesy Google image search

COYOTE FORUM SCHEDULED FOR FEBRUARY 2nd FROM 7 TO 9PM

eastern-coyote-canis-latrans-massachusetts-kim-smithFROM THE MAYOR:

COYOTE FORUM SCHEDULED FOR FEBRUARY 2nd FROM 7 TO 9PM

Our city continues to discuss coyote conflicts with state partners, including Mass Environmental Police, Mass Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, and the Governor’s office, with direct conversations with the Lieutenant Governor. In addition to the on-going research by ad-hoc groups, our newly formed Animal Advisory Board will provide new insights (we need new members on this board, so please consider applying). Lastly, we are setting up a meeting tentative for Thursday, Feb 2nd from 7PM to 9PM at City Hall to host another informal coyote forum with information from state environmental partners, animal control, and time for questions and answers, too. We will continue to press our state leaders for safe and swift solutions and additional police and animal patrols remain on alert across Gloucester. Please see the link from Mass.gov on helpful tips and resolving conflicts (which includes law stating, “Coyotes taking pets are not considered an immediate threat to human safety, therefore ACO’s and municipal police departments are not authorized to remove these wild animals.”) We will provide more updates as they develop. Thank you.

 

 

YES, EASTERN COYOTES ARE HYBRIDS, BUT THE ‘COYWOLF’ IS NOT A THING

Talk of “coywolves” – a blend of coyote and wolf – is everywhere. There is a PBS special called “Meet the Coywolf,” a recent article in the Economist, and it is now trending on Facebook. The media really love this new animal name.

There is no doubt that there is a hybrid canid living in the eastern US, and that it is the result of an amazing evolution story unfolding right underneath our noses.

However, this is not a new species – at least not yet – and I don’t think we should start calling it a “coywolf.”

Genetic swapping

What creature are we talking about? In the last century, a predator – I prefer the name “eastern coyote” – has colonized the forests of eastern North America, from Florida to Labrador.

New genetic tests show that all eastern coyotes are actually a mix of three species: coyote, wolf and dog. The percentages vary, dependent upon exactly which test is applied and the geographic location of the canine.

Coyotes in the Northeast are mostly (60%-84%) coyote, with lesser amounts of wolf (8%-25%) and dog (8%-11%). Start moving south or east and this mixture slowly changes. Virginia animals average more dog than wolf (85%:2%:13% coyote:wolf:dog) while coyotes from the Deep South had just a dash of wolf and dog genes mixed in (91%:4%:5% coyote:wolf:dog). Tests show that there are no animals that are just coyote and wolf (that is, a coywolf), and some eastern coyotes that have almost no wolf at all.

In other words, there is no single new genetic entity that should be considered a unique species. Instead, we are finding a large intermixing population of coyotes across the continent, with a smattering of noncoyote DNA mixed in to varying degrees along the eastern edge. The coywolf is not a thing.

All eastern coyotes show some evidence of past hybridization, but there is no sign that they are still actively mating with dogs or wolves. The coyote, wolf and dog are three separate species that would very much prefer not to breed with each other. However, biologically speaking, they are similar enough that interbreeding is possible.

This genetic swapping has happened more than once in their history; one study showed that the gene for black coat color found in North American wolves and coyotes today (but not in Old World wolves) originated in dogs brought to the continent by the earliest Native Americans. Some prehistoric hybridization event transferred the dog gene into wild wolves and coyotes.

The eastern coyote is born

We can estimate the date of the most recent hybridization events that created eastern coyotes by analyzing their genetic structure. Their DNA show that about 100 years ago, coyotes mated with wolves, and about 50 years ago with dogs. A century ago, wolf populations in the Great Lakes were at their nadir, living at such low density that some reproductive animals probably couldn’t find another wolf mate, and had to settle with a coyote.

The more recent date for the dog hybridization likely results from a cross-species breeding event at the very leading edge of the wave of colonizing coyotes in the east, possibly after a few females first spanned the St Lawrence seaway into upstate New York, where they would have encountered abundant feral dogs, but no other coyotes.

Nowadays, eastern coyotes have no problem finding a coyote mate. Their populations continue to grow throughout their new forested range, and they seem more likely to kill a dog than breed with it. Wolf populations in the Great Lakes have also recovered, and the wolf is once again the worst enemy of the coyote, rather than its last-chance prom date.

Coyotes have also expanded north into Alaska, although there is no sign of hybridization in that range extension. In Central America, they have expanded out of Mexico’s deserts, working their way south past the Panama Canal in the last decade, apparently bound for South America.

No genetic studies have looked at Central American coyotes, but photographs of doglike animals suggest that coyotes might be mixing it up across species lines along the leading edge of this southward expansion as well.

Coywolfdog evolution

Hybridization across species is a natural evolutionary phenomenon. The old notion that an inability to breed should define what a species is has been abandoned by zoologists (with a resounding “I told you so” from botanists). Even modern humans are hybrids, with traces of Neanderthal and Denisovan genes mixed into our genome.

The first requirement for evolution is variation, and mixing genes from two species creates all sorts of new variations for evolution to act on. Most of these probably die, being a compromise between two longstanding species that were already well-adapted to their own niches.

However, in today’s rapidly changing world, new variations might actually do better than the old types. Some of these genetic mixes will survive better than others – this is natural selection.

The coyote with a bit of wolf genes to make it slightly larger was probably better able to handle deer, which are overabundant in eastern forests, but still wily enough to live in a landscape full of people. These animals thrived, dispersed east and thrived again, becoming the eastern coyote.

Exactly which dog and wolf genes are surviving natural selection in today’s eastern coyote is an area of active research.

Coyotes with odd coat colors or hair types are probably the most conspicuous sign of dog genes in action, while their slightly larger size might come from wolf genes. Some of these genes will help an animal survive and breed; others will make them less fit. Natural selection is still sorting this out, and we are witnessing the evolution of a new type of coyote right under our noses, one that is very good at living there.

Western coyotes adapt locally to their environments, with limited gene flow between populations (called “ecotypes”) living in different habitats, presumably reflecting local specialization.

Will eastern coyotes specialize locally as well? How will dog and wolf genes sort out across cities and wildernesses of the east?

Expect some really cool science in the next few years as researchers use modern genetic tools to sniff out the details of this story.

Evolution still in progress

There are many examples of bad animal names that cause a lot of confusion.

The fisher is a large type of weasel that does not eat fish (it prefers porcupines). The mountain beaver of the Pacific Northwest is not a beaver and does not live in the mountains. And then there’s the sperm whale…

We don’t get many opportunities to name new animals in the 21st century. We shouldn’t let the media mess up this one by declaring it a new species called the coywolf. Yes, there are wolf genes in some populations, but there are also eastern coyotes with almost no wolf genes, and others that have as much dog mixed in as they do wolf. “Coywolf” is an inaccurate name that causes confusion.

The coyote has not evolved into a new species over the last century. Hybridization and expansion have created a host of new coyote variations in the east, and evolution is still sorting these out. Gene flow continues in all directions, keeping things mixed up, and leading to continual variation over their range, with no discrete boundaries.

Could evolution eventually lead to a coyote so specialized for eastern forests that they would be considered a unique species? Yes, but for this to happen, they would have to cut off gene flow with nonhybrid animals, leading to distinct types of coyotes that (almost) never interbreed. I think we are a long way from this possibility.

For now, we have the eastern coyote, an exciting new type of coyote in the midst of an amazing evolutionary transition. Call it a distinct “subspecies,” call it an “ecomorph,” or call it by its scientific name Canis latrans var. But don’t call it a new species, and please, don’t call it the coywolf.

Disclosure statement:

Roland Kays does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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Following images and video courtesy google image search

Garbage, bird seed, and fallen fruit attract coyotes to your backyard.

COYOTE raiding garbage can left outside house. Rocky Mountains. (Canis latrans).

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Coyotes: My Take 1/17/17

Here’s the thing. Back when I photographed my first interaction with local coyotes in the early days of the blog my stance was that coyotes are horrible and we might want to think about eradicating them (as if that’s even a possibility). Now 9 years later and living in East Gloucester where we routinely see them and hear them howling nightly. I’ve crossed paths with many coyotes since that time. They want nothing to do with us. You yell, they run. You wave your arms in the air, they really run. “Seven coyote bites recorded ever. This compares to the 4.7 million dog bites annually.” Source thelocalne.ws My stance officially changed when thinking about how much we would hear about coyote bites or deaths in the news because my line of thinking was that it would get seven day a week above the fold coverage if a person was killed by a coyote, and it just hasn’t happened. So my stance has completely changed in the past four years after realizing that while living in the heart of coyote territory in between the golf course and the seine fields that these creatures really want nothing to do with us humans unless we leave food out for them in the form of small pets. I’m sorry for the poor family that lost its pet.

The time when I nearly shit my pants coming face to face with a coyote on the Good harbor Foot Bridge-

Coyote at Good Harbor Beach 4:55AM 7/5/08

I was fumbling with my camera as I figured the coyote would take off and there would be very little time to take the picture. He did take off, and circled back to the footbridge where I snapped a lousy shot with the terrible light and the coyote moving around. Heart racing a bit making it difficult to hold the camera steady for the long exposure shot. I did my best though and this is what I came up with-

Face To Face With The Coyote On The Footbridge At Good Harbor

I nearly shit when I turned the corner on the footbridge and came face to face with the coyote.  Forgive my blurry, out of focus picture but my heart was beating a mile a minute and I wasn’t going to stick around to see what it was going to do next.  You can click the picture and select “all sizes” to see a bigger version of the shot.

Face To Face With The Coyote On The Footbridge At Good Harbor, originally uploaded by captjoe06.

Gloucester At Dawn Poor Dead Coyote On Moorland Road 4:50AM 5/22/10

This poor coyote must have gotten hit by a vehicle within the past few hours as the blood was still vibrant red.

RIP Mr Coyote.  Hope your life on the island was a good one.

There must have been quite an impact to make his eye bug out like that on one side of his head.

Coyote back to school Gloucester

Before loping through the parking lot and shifting right at the ‘parked bus game trail‘ and straight on to Cherry Street, our wildlife neighbor lingered in the skate park with us.

We were mostly still as..church mice. Did I think that? I slipped in front of three kids which is ridiculous because the kids are my size or bigger . And it was just passing by. Still, it did seem a long time before its distinctive gait resumed.

The photo is Blow Up style– from the point where we were standing comfortable enough to grab a phone shot of the coyote heading out rather than to the Ralph B O’Maley Innovation Middle School in Gloucester .

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COYOTE ON THE BEACH!

Eastern Coyote Canis latrans massachusetts Kim SmithFace to face

When out filming for projects, I’d often thought about what my reaction would be if ever again I came eye to eye with a coyote. Many have crossed my path, but too quickly and too unexpectedly to capture. I don’t bring my dog with me any longer because one brazen one had a go at her two winters ago and it’s just not a good idea to tempt fate. I hoped that calmness would prevail, allowing for a non-blurry photo, or two.

Well, I didn’t panic and got some great footage, and when the coyote was too far out of range for my movie camera, took a few snapshots.

Eastern Coyote massachusetts beach Canis latrans Kim Smith

This one appears smaller than what I have typically encountered, perhaps it is only a year or two old, or possibly coyotes are not as plump after the winter months. He/she was very intent upon scavenging in a bed of seaweed that had washed ashore and think it must have been quite hungry to allow me to get so close. He reluctantly left his meal as I moved toward him and then watched me for some time from under cover of beach grass. His shining eyes were easily seen in the fading low light. Mistakenly, I thought that was the end of our meeting and went back to filming B-roll.Eastern Coyote massachusetts Kim Smith

Beach grass provides excellent camouflage

I was losing the light and decided to call it a day. Packing up cameras and turning to go, there he was, a hundred yards away, staring at me. Deftly traveling through the tall reeds he had circled around. I don’t think he had me in mind for his next meal, but I was halfway between him and the scavanged dinner from which he had so rudely been interrupted. Plans on how to weaponize my tripod and camera bag quickly came to mind. He trotted leisurely towards me, changed his mind, and then trotted in the opposite direction. A car came down the road and he again turned toward my direction, making his way along the beach until slipping back into the grass.

If ever you have a close encounter with a coyote, be sure to remind yourself of this story and know that they may indeed still be very close by.

WHY THE EASTERN COYOTE IS NOT A COYWOLF AND CAPE ANN TV COYOTE MEETING COVERAGE

For additional reading, the following is a link to an interesting article that explains clearly why coyotes are thought to be the canid soup that they are, from Earth Sky: “Eastern Coyote is a Hybrid, But Coywolf is Not a Thing”

This map shows the movement of coyotes across North America and Mexico. It is now in Panama and will undoubtedly make its way south and across the canal. The animal is so adaptable I imagine it won’t be long before it colonizes Colombia as well.

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Link to Cape Ann TV coverage of the coyote meeting:

http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01896&video=261352

 

COYOTE PHOTOS FROM EAST GLOUCESTER AND COYOTE MEETING RECAP

FullSizeRender (13)Councilor Steven LeBlanc ©Kim Smith 2016

City Councilor Steven LeBlanc

On Monday night at City Hall a packed audience attended the “Living with Wildlife” coyote meeting. Recognizing the exploding population of coyotes on Cape Ann, City Councilor Steven LeBlanc had requested the forum. Approximately 250 people were in attendance, which is an unusually large number for a meeting of this nature and speaks to the general concern by Cape Ann residents to the growing number of coyotes now living amongst us.

pat Huckery ©Kim Smith 2016Pat Huckery 

The informational meeting was conducted by Pat Huckery, the northeast district manager for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and she is herself a wildlife biologist. Pat presented the life history of the coyote as well as a number of methods for lessening human encounters with coyotes, most notably to cut off their food supply. Humans providing food to the coyotes directly and indirectly is the number one culprit and at the top of the list states Pat is bird feeders. She recommends that if you do have a bird feeder, at the very least, clean up the daily mess underneath the feeders. Spilled bird food attracts rodents and small mammals, which in turn attracts coyotes. Unsecured garbage as well as pet food left outdoors are also strong coyote attractants.

The very specific and unique ecology of Cape Ann, in relation to the coyote, was not discussed. Cape Ann’s coyote population has mushroomed in part due to the wealth of food that can be scavenged along our shoreline, marshes, and wooded habitats. One East Gloucester resident attending the meeting reported that she lives with a pack of twenty in her backyard. Hunting as an approved option for reducing the coyote population was discussed and is also believed to help create a healthy fear of humans on the part of the coyote. Local licensed hunter Sam Holmes was in attendance and he can be reached at 978-491-8746. Communities such as Middleton, Rhode Island, have an expanded hunting season to manage the population of specifically coyotes that have lost their fear of humans. Pat also debunked the highly romanticized term coywolf, and disputes the concept that by hunting coyotes, the reverse occurs and the overall population increases.

IMG_0273These photos were taken by Pat Halverson and submitted by Peggy Matlow, our new Good Morning Gloucester FOB . Peggy and her family will soon be permanently relocating to Gloucester, from the Berkshires, and these photos were taken from their new home in East Gloucester.

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