Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Coyote in Situ:


Coyotes are surviving well within and outside our suburbs here in New York State. They are like those other creatures that have 'learned' to exist amongst us intolerant humans and sustain themselves: the raccoon, crow, pigeon, sparrows and (of course) insects. But, none of those creatures are as misaligned as the coyote (except, perhaps, the crows in Auburn, New York) so as so to spark a return to the killing contests of old.

In our nation's past, there was not a whole lot of tolerance for animals we determined pests. For example in our area a century or so ago, there were killing contests for black squirrels, which ravaged the houses built from the trees the squirrels called home. We had taken their tree homes and so they went to our homes. In an effort to stop this nuisance (and entertain a lot of people who liked to shoot creatures) barrels of black squirrels were acquired in killing contest. These ‘contests’ were so effective that only now are their numbers returning to this area.

I don't know what the repercussions were of these mass extinction events, though I suspect there were at least subtle ones. Creatures do not exist in an environmental vacuum. In the natural world, you are either predator or prey and often both in a three dimensional arena of cause and effect that extends far beyond boundaries we humans recognize. So, it is quite possible that many other creatures were profoundly affected by the sudden (and inexplicable disappearance, from their perspective) of the black squirrel.

Even so, the Eastern Coyote is a creature not as readily observable as a squirrel. Indeed, these creatures are so secretive that relatively few of us have seen one (I, myself, have not), though there are between 20,000 and 30,000 in New York State. Secretive can be good if you are a species on the decline and wish to avoid human detection. But, coyotes have that bad luck to be just secretive enough to create a sinister mystery in folks, enough so that an agenda of fear and hatred seems plausible to those who want to justify their rampages.

They say coyotes are spreading diseases like distemper and rabies. They say coyotes are killing off our deer and domestic sheep in such large numbers as to be threatening their existence. They say our pets and children are in constant danger from these cagey marauders. But, the facts are more subtle and important: Check these sources below for specifics, keeping in mind that even at the state conservation level, the Department of Environmental Conservation, there has been little research on the Eastern Coyote and how it actually survives in situ—that is, in our wooded areas of New York State.

Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue, Inc --- Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue is a Wildlife Rehabilitation facility, Education Center and Sanctuary located in East Concord, NY.

Living With the Wiley Coyote - E-Files - Sierra Club The Navajo call the coyote "God's dog" and, in some ways, this member of the dog family does seem to enjoy divine benefaction. While virtually every other North American predator has seen its numbers decline, the coyote has managed to increase both its range and numbers during the past century -- despite a long history of trapping, poisoning, and hunting by humans.

The Coyote in New York State - From the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry... The coyote has been present in New York state for about 85 years. As with its western cousin, the eastern coyote has been the object of much controversy as well as curiosity.

The Coyote in New York The Eastern Coyote - at a glance Description: The Eastern coyote looks like a medium-sized German shepherd dog, with long thick fur. The tail is full and bushy, usually carried pointing down. Ears are erect and pointed. Length:4 to 5 feet (including tail) Weight: 35 to 45 pounds (males usually larger than females.) Color: Variable, from blonde or reddish blonde to dark tan washed with black. Legs, ears and cheeks usually reddish.

The Humane Society of the United States The human-animal bond is as old as human history. We cherish our animal companions for their unconditional affection and acceptance. We feel a thrill when we glimpse wild creatures in their natural habitat or in our own backyard. Unfortunately, the human-animal bond has at times been weakened. Humans have exploited some animal species to the point of extinction.



Perhaps the greatest problem for the coyote is the lack of a body of objective research to properly place their role, and consequently how we treat them, in the proper context. That, for my money, is the key to understanding the role of the coyote. While I am ethically against coyote killing contests, I think there is a more compelling practical and environmental argument for having a healthy population of coyotes in our state. They, as the top predator (if you don't rank loose dog packs, a few bears or mountain lions not yet exterminated) keep disease and pest numbers in check. We often gauge our attempts at environmental control on how each pertains to us. That is, deer become a nuisance based on how often they careen off our vehicle or the property they damage. Not on their role in our environment. But that is not a wise attitude towards our environment, of which coyotes are a part.

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