Coyotes Conquered North America. Now They’re Heading South.
Most landowners and wildlife managers think that killing coyotes is a good practice. They are mistaken – to put it mildly – that coyote ‘control’ is even possible. The more coyotes we kill, the faster coyotes breed. Biologists say we would need to kill 75% of all coyotes every year for 50-years to achieve even a momentary regional population reduction. Stated differently, so-called coyote eradication turns out to be coyote expansion. After 100-years, there are more coyotes alive today than when eradication began. Today, coyotes are found everywhere on the continent – including our cities – whereas before government-funded wolf and predator eradication, coyotes were only in our deserts.
But the bigger issue is the whole bundle of practices that we follow in wildlife ‘management’. It is incorrect that coyote ‘control’ helps wildlife and habitat. Coyotes are beneficial in many ways, including to quail. Landowners should look into holistic management and be very skeptical of most wildlife ‘management’ practices because so many waste money and harm wildlife over long terms.
NOTE: this article below is from NYTimes.com. It was written by JoAnna Klein and published May 24, 2018
New maps seek to update the historical range of our continent’s toughest canids, which have thrived as other predators experienced decline.
Coyotes are excellent colonizers.
They breed fast, eat almost anything and live just about anywhere. You can find them in fields, forests, backyards, parks and even parking decks. They’re living in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. They’ve even made it to the Florida Keys and Long Island. In 2010, they crossed the Panama Canal. Now, the only thing keeping them from entering Colombia is a dense patch of forest called the Darien Gap. And camera traps have caught them heading that way.
“I don’t think anyone’s betting against the coyote getting to South America eventually,” said Roland Kays, an ecologist at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “They have to be one of the most adaptable animals on the planet.”
To understand how these wily wanderers roamed so far, Dr. Kays and James Hody, a graduate student, sifted through thousands of museum specimens, fossil records, peer-reviewed reports and records from wildlife agencies and traced the animals’ paths back 10,000 years. Their resulting maps, published Tuesday in ZooKeys, show how wrong we’ve been about the historical range of our continent’s toughest canids. The maps also provide a foundation for scientists to start asking questions about what happens when new predators enter a habitat, and how hybridization influenced coyote evolution.
From at least 10,000 years ago, coyotes lived in grasslands, prairies and deserts, as far east as the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and as far west as California. But after 1900, coyotes started moving out, in all directions, into forested habitats. By the 1920s, they had made their way into Alaska, and by the 1990s, to the East Coast. Even with wildlife managers working to get rid of coyotes, the animals have managed to expand their range since 1950 by at least twice that of any other North American carnivore during the same time.
They thrived, in part, because of increasing forest fragmentation and agricultural lands along with the annihilation of predators like wolves, cougars and jaguars. And because some coyotes once mated with wolves or dogs, resulting hybrids developed traits to help them adapt in new environments. Dr. Kays thinks wolf genes that made some coyotes bigger (but not a separate, “fear-mongering hype” species some call a coywolf, he points out) likely allowed them to expand more rapidly into the Northeast. It’s unclear what the dog genes have done for coyotes — other than making some look more German shepherd-like.
There are other mysteries. For example — how did coyotes expand so rapidly into Alaska and the Northwest, where forests are still relatively intact and full of wolves and mountain lions?
Coyotes are not the only ones positioned to swap continents. South America’s crab-eating fox is now in Panama too and headed north. If coyotes make it to South America, this will be the first time the continents have exchanged predators in three million years. There’s no telling what will happen.
Still another question remains.
“Is this something we should view as a natural expansion, that’s a good thing, or that we should view as an invasive species, that’s a bad thing?” asks Dr. Kays. “In some ways that’s a philosophical question, because in the end, there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Coywolves are here now, known on the East coast in some areas (there was a news report on them a year or 2 ago)& they breed with dogs (our old neighbor that had a mutt that apparently bred with one, they were discovered in an open area of their field which is highly unusual for a coyote (or dog)& the pups appeared to have most of the markings of the male.
Coyotes (as well as wolves & some others, in my opinion) follow the food. They want easy food & if their enemies are dwindling, then that means they can expand into new territories. I don’t think any wildlife has ever been limited to the USA……as they’ve started to do (& it’ll change)need to know the ancient past to understand the future…where they originated.
The packs that we lived around, they generally would lure out unfixed dogs & kill them (our neighbors lost several this way), whether they were males or females. If their main food source (rabbits(jacks, cotton tail,etc) was shrinking, they seemed to limit their number or litters (& this was backed up by the ranchers out in the area that kept track as well as fish & game).
Most ranchers (at least in my area) don’t all have several thousands of acres or thousands of heads of cattle to sacrifice to the wild predators, especially not the Canadian wolves that have killed around here for sport. So, they do want to find ways to control their numbers.
I have been thankful that my neighbors lost calves or cows, instead of me losing any goats or piglets or my cow or horses. We recently killed a coyote she had no fear in humans (& I still have a young child that’s easy prey) & have come after my livestock.
I don’t mind sharing all of the rodents & snakes around here with them, but no cats, kids, dogs, or livestock. Get rid of 1 coyote 3 more come in & no guarantee they’ll leave pets alone.
My dogs scared off 2 that were about to attack the neighbor’s older cripple dog recently,there’s always a reason to get rid of coyotes, if they don’t respect boundaries.
It’s interesting to see how they’ve traveled so far North & south though. Wonder if the change in the poles have anything to do with it?
These questions and many others are addressed in Dan Flores’ book on coyotes. I reviewed it and suggest that anyone who is interested in coyotes – and wolves – read it:
Thanks for commenting.
Coyotes have been ‘neighbors’ of mine for decades. As well as bobcats, the occasional cougar, badger, owls, hawks, corvids, and many others I’ve missed during the dark hours of the night. Limiting how we label each to ‘predator’ allows limiting how we think about them and how we might adapt our own living/working behaviors/strategies on our shared living-working-survival spaces.
It seems to me that if we want to live/work on land as we do – with our houses, livestock, pets, roads, tractors, fences (it’s a long list), we all might do better to embrace/adopt more creative living strategies: be attentive to the needs of our animals and children, but equally attentive to the habits, behaviors, needs of the animals that are here also. I’m in my 60’s, and because I do want to continue living in rural New Mexico, an essential part of my daily work is to stay aware to the animals that also need to live-breed-eat here. Then adapt. The coyotes are much, much more than ‘just’ predators — predator is too small a word to describe them. They’ve adapted to my presence. I owe them the same courtesy. Dan Flores’ book is an excellent reference, and a very enjoyable read.
Thank you for this thoughtful comment. Speaking of how words form attitudes and shape actions, how about that most predators on your list are also called ‘varmints’?
I’ve first hand encounters with my human neighbors doing just that; a ray of hope is New Mexico legislature ( in session now) will be (yet again) considering banning coyote-hunting contests.
A side note: I am really interested in learning more about your prairie dog poulations. Gunnison’s seem to find places to live ‘here and there’, including in the Galisteo Basin preserve (Dan Flores’ lives just south; me – a bit north —),though kept secret to protect them…a few (2-4) moved on to my place and I haven’t told anyone—-apparently it is Gospel Truth that “prairie dogs carry and spread plague”, —- Anyway: I am interested to learn if you have experience – successful or not – with treating dens/or the prairie dogs for fleas. I will look through your newsletter archive to see if you have already discussed this. Studies I’ve been finding show complicated results, difficulty in application methods, etc. Thanks for your time – (and, yes, I do respect your time – will
keep future commits concise, infrequent!)
Regarding coyotes, the legislatures do not get far ahead of public opinion. We must change minds on so many things.
We have six prairie dog towns at Circle Ranch. We leave ours alone; they are great to watch. I do not know about plague problems. As I have read, “Many animals (over 200 species) can get plague. The bacteria is maintained in nature by wild rodents, such as prairie dogs, chipmunks, woodrats, ground squirrels, deermice and voles. Cats can easily get plague. Other species include rabbits, wild carnivores (e.g., coyotes, bobcats), goats, camels, and sheep.”
Not to mention humans.
Is plague a threat these days? Shall we wipe all these species out? Is that even possible? What damage are we doing to nature in trying? It’s one thing to eliminate rats etc. in and around our homes, another to declare war on wildlife and plants. Let us find other ways to address the “threat” of plague.
I really appreciate your comment(s).