Society

The wily coyote rules the western range

They stand as silhouettes against the evening sky, and with quiet grace slip silently into the brush. Later, they will call to each other with a low, mournful howl, or bark in short, high-pitched yips. The coyote, intelligent and opportunistic, has adapted easily to the presence of humans, who have unwittingly expanded the animals' range across the entire United States, and into urban and suburban areas.

Killing of wolves left a void the coyote filled with vigor. While they normally eat rabbits, rodents, carrion, and berries, they have found that living in suburban areas makes for better living, with easy access to garbage cans, rodents living around humans, and, most frustrating of all, pets.

The coyote, whose name comes from the Mexican Nahuatl Indian word coyotl, has keen hearing, sight, and smell. Their cruising speed is 25 to 30 mph, getting up to 40 mph for short distances. They easily leap 14 feet over high fences.

They can change their diet, breeding, and social habits to survive just about anywhere. One example is the change in how they hunt. Essentially diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day; coyotes have learned to hunt during the night due to the presence of humans.

About the same size as a German Shepherd, coyotes are quick and cunning and have adapted to the presence of human beings. Though attacks on humans are rare, they can be scared away by making a loud noise. About the same size as a German Shepherd, coyotes are quick and cunning and have adapted to the presence of human beings. Though attacks on humans are rare, they can be scared away by making a loud noise. Coyotes are about the same size as a German Shepherd, and weigh between 25 to 40 pounds. They have long legs, bushy, black-tipped tails, and erect, oversized ears.

If you see one running from a distance, you can tell it's a coyote if it runs with its tail down. Dogs run with their tails up. Foxes run with their tails horizontal. If you see one coyote, at least one other is waiting in the wings, as they hunt in pairs. Their pack, usually around six related adults and young, may also be near.

Coyotes will remain with the same mate for several years. Breeding season is from mid-January to early March. A litter of five to seven pups is born after 65 days, usually in a borrowed badger den, or natural hole. While the pups are young, father coyote brings food, although mother coyote won't allow him inside the den.

The dens themselves are easy to locate because of the trails. Don't think the one hole is the only opening, however. Coyotes will excavate multiple escape tunnels.

When hunting, the coyote will travel on average two and half miles a night. They stalk small animals, and pounce like a cat. However, when hunting larger prey, the coyote team will either pursue and bait the animal to exhaustion, or one will drive it towards the other, who remains hidden. Patience is one of their virtues, as they have been known to pursue one animal for over 20 hours.

Their successful move into suburbia has lead to increased conflicts with humans. As the metro areas expand further into their range, the problems will only grow. The best solution is to learn to live with them, as it is impractical to eradicate them from populated areas. Also, a benefit to having a few around is control over the resident rodent population.

Some things you can do to minimize coyote problems include keeping pet food and water inside, securing garbage cans, keeping shrub and tree cover away from buildings to minimize attracting rodents, who attract coyotes. If you see the coyote, don't be afraid to be aggressive. Coyote attacks against people are rare, so scare it with a loud noise and bang on something.

Coyotes are the main predator of livestock. In Texas a hunting license is not required to hunt coyotes if they are attacking, are about to attack, or recently attacked livestock, domestic animals, or fowl.

walton.shawn@gmail.com


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2009-08-27 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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