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Monday, August 23, 2010

NATURE & WILDLIFE - Coyotes


by Karri Moser
Coyotes are animals to be respected and admired in their natural habitat. It is also best to admire them from afar. As human sprawl continues to invade more and more remote areas of Baja and Central America, coyote sightings are, and will continue to be, more frequent. We are simply encroaching on their territory and venturing into lands they have always wandered through.

It is important to understand the behavior of coyotes and to familiarize yourself with their habits if you are going to be venturing into the desert, grasslands or mountains of Baja and the southwestern states of the U.S. Coyotes are members of the canine family and closely resemble small wolves. They can be a mix of colors such as white, gray, brown or rust-colored. Some have a white tip at the end of their bushy tails, and their tails will appear straight out if they are trying to show aggression. The males outweigh the female coyotes. On average, desert coyotes weigh about 20 pounds and mountain coyotes can weigh up to 50 pounds. It is important to know that while there are places they are more likely to inhabit, coyotes can live anywhere.

Coyotes are significantly more active at night, dusk and dawn rather than during full daylight hours,and since they have few predators, they remain at the top of the food chain in most habitats. They primarily live on a diet of small mammals, fruits and some plant life, but they prefer to eat rodents, rabbits, squirrels, ringtails, kit foxes, bobcats, armadillos, opossums, skunks and lizards. Coyotes tend to hunt and live in packs, and they have advanced pack hunting strategies. Livestock is an easy target for coyotes, and two adult coyotes can carry out a deadly attack on a large deer. However, if they are after relatively small prey, they will hunt alone.

Coyotes are also very intelligent and adaptable animals which is exactly why they are becoming a more frequent sight in suburban and developed areas. They have the ability to change their breeding habits, social structure and diet to survive almost anywhere and under almost any amount of stress. They are stealth-like in movement and can dodge out of sight quickly. They also communicate with each other. Their nighttime howl is meant to pinpoint locals between packs. They will yelp loudly as a form of playful interaction. If they bark, this is meant as a threat or a way of protecting a fresh kill from other hungry animals.

If you frequently hear or see coyotes, it is important to know how to deter them from getting closer to you, your property, and your animals. Animal water dishes and swimming pools may lure them to your property. They also have a very keen sense of smell and are attracted to the scent and presence of fallen fruit. Avocados, berries and grapes laying around will attract them. Birdseed left out will also attract them. You can easily keep them at bay with a fence measuring six feet high. Automated lights and recorded voices can also scare them away at night. Moth balls scattered around the perimeter of your land is also an easy way to keep coyotes away.

If you find yourself in the sights of a coyote, it is vital that you do not turn your back. You must appear and sound aggressive. Make as much noise as possible and throw rocks and sticks to frighten them before they can get any closer. You also need to pay close attention to your pets. Keep them within sight or on a short leash if there have been coyotes in the area.

With a few common sense tips and staying alert to the activity of coyotes in your area, both humans and coyotes can peacefully coexist. Just as with most wild animals, they want to avoid us as much as we want to avoid them.