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Coyotes in the USA

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The United States Government, ranchers and stockmen view coyotes Canis latrans as a scourge and blight upon the land. Since the 1920s the US Department of Agriculture's Animal Control Branch (ADC) has waged a war against the coyote, by using hunting, trapping, poisoning and other extermination methods. In 1989, government hunters killed 86,502 coyotes. These figures have since increased on average by 10% yearly. They did not act alone. Most state governments allow ranchers and stockmen to shoot coyotes on sight. Animal lovers shouldn't despair, though. Despite the mega-dollars spent every year on this (some would say) insane predator control programme, there are more coyotes than ever roving the land.

Range Expanding

In addition to keeping their numbers up in western North America, their original range, the animals have now expanded across all of North America and from the outlying rural areas into actual populated areas. This Researcher, who lives close to Chicago, has seen three in recent times.

Wildlife researchers have begun to study these amazing critters. Some of the early findings indicate the war waged by the ADC has transformed a clever animal into a more adaptable, more prolific and possibly even indestructible species. Whole populations of coyotes now reproduce earlier each year with the females bearing larger litters than ever before. Some coyotes have changed their traditional hunting habits. Instead of focusing on small animals, from voles to roadrunners to jackrabbits - all diminishing species because of ranch stock grazing in their historical habitat - they are now preying on domestic calves and especially lambs in order to feed the larger litters. In short, the ADC made a minor problem far worse by disrupting the entire social system of the animal. What we have today is not the clever song dog of Native American folklore; instead we now have what could quite feasibly be called a super dog.

Mate for Life

Coyotes aren't large animals. Average males measure between four and five feet from nose to tail tip and they stand about two feet at the shoulder. Average weight is about 30lbs; the largest ever recorded was 70lbs. Females are almost always smaller and weigh slightly less.

Coyotes mate for life. Mating season runs from late January to early March. Gestation of the pups takes about two months and an average litter is five or six, though a record of 17 pups has been recorded. The maximum known age of a wild coyote, tagged as a pup, so far is just over 12 years. However, the current average from birth (due to hunting, trapping, poisoning, etc...) is only two to three years. The father assists the mother in the raising of the young and does most of the hunting. The young will remain near the den for several months, before striking out to find territory of their own.

Complex Howl

The coyotes howl is one of the most complex aspects of the animal. They howl for various reasons. Some of the more obvious are:

  • To mark the location of a kill as their own and warn others away.

  • To mark the location of a kill and invite members of the immediate family group to the feast.

  • As a warning to the family group of danger.

At other times they seem to howl for no reason whatsoever. Of all the facets of this remarkable animal, howling is the most readily apparent, yet the least understood.

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