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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better"-----Albert Einstein................Blog Readers, I believe the following article is one of the best I have read describing how the appearance of the Coyote (Songdog) in Maryland, D.C and Delaware has awakened the senses of people in this sector of the USA...............Dulled to wild nature outside of the ubiquitous squirrels, rabbits, mice, skunks and Opossums that have shared Eastern and midwestern urban and suburban haunts with us for the past 200 years, the appearance of the Coyote has stirred excitement, astonishment, wonderment, anxiety and hate in equal measure across the human population ................Regardless of all of these varied sentiments toward Coyotes, this resourceful and highly adaptable mesocarnivore can be our teacher, opening our eyes to the fact that the natural world is supposed to be a rich mosaic of species, not just a place where the animals and plants that we humans deem appropriate get to reside..............More than a teacher, the resilient Coyote is the perfect fellow animal to help us push past our impatience with things that we do not easily understand and are not quickly digested by most of us....................The Coyote, like a determined high school tutor, will go over natures lesson plan with us until we finally see the light in the beauty of optimum biodiversity-------We pass this test when the "light turns on" and it dawns on us-that our world is better when it is wild with possibility rather than tame with tedium and sameness............We get to "move on to the next grade" when we realize hat we humans can become a stronger, more creative, more tolerant and a more productive and empathetic species by sharing the planet with other creatures who are outside our control-----------------Even if initially counterintuitive to many of us, the lesson utlimately learned, internalized and celebrated is that encouraging natures design rather than stunting it results in a "win/win for all of creation, with us recognizing our fullest humanity in the process

Do Coyotes Adapt To Us or We To Them?
By Mary Battiata
WASHINGTON, DC–As Coyotes settle into the Washington suburbs, they provoke awe, anxiety and a fundamental question: Do they have to adapt to us, or we to them?

In the meticulously planned community of Fallsgrove, there are six homeowners associations to gavel through disputes over fence heights and the proper color for window shutters. A property management company oversees most of the raking and mowing. Nature has been trimmed and shaped into a tidy border for narrow streets of tall townhouses and cluster homes. Most days, the only sign of wildlife is the squirrels that race around the community pool.

So it was with some astonishment that Cheryl Hays looked out her kitchen window at about 8 one morning last fall and saw what looked to be a large dog in the yard, about 5 ft. from the back door. For a moment, still groggy with sleep, she thought: “Why is that dog in my back yard?” Then she remembered. Three weeks earlier, at about 6 a.m., she’d heard barking and looked out her bedroom window to see a pair of Coyotes trotting purposefully down the middle of Long Trail Terrace, toward Jersey Lane.

Eastern Coyote in New England

“They were walking up people’s driveways, sniffing around the houses!” Hays said. She heard a third Coyote barking from a grove of trees on the other side of the house, and when she ran to look there, she saw not one but three Coyotes. That meant there were at least three, and possibly five, Coyotes sniffing around her house that morning. “They were in driveways, front yards and brazenly on the street!” she e-mailed a neighbor.

As most of Fallsgrove already knew, Coyotes were afoot in Rockville, MD. A trapper hired by the Fallsgrove property management company had already caught and killed at least 12, and possibly 14, around the 252-acre subdivision before a lawsuit by the Humane Society of Montgomery County temporarily shut him down. Two more Coyotes had been hit by cars nearby.

And, although Coyotes had not attacked anyone, their mere presence had provoked volleys of alarmed e-mail among community residents. Coyotes had circled one prominent Fallsgrove homeowner, J. Thomas Manger, the county’s chief of police, and his kids on a walking path. (Since confirming the incident, the chief has declined further public comment about it.) One of Hays’s neighbors phoned her to report that she, too, had been followed by Coyotes, while walking her toddler and two border collies
Hays, a real estate agent with a determined air, petitioned her homeowners association to raise the fence height limit from four to six feet, arguing that the extra two feet might make it harder for the Coyotes to move around. She called the trapper to ask if he planned to return. (He didn’t.) And she called the Rockville city manager to request that the city encircle an eight-acre green space in the middle of the development known as the Preserve with something even higher — an eight-foot cast-iron fence.

Neither the city nor the homeowners association thought drastic fencing measures were needed. “The homeowners association seems to think that I am the only concerned person in the neighborhood,” she e-mailed a neighbor. “It is appalling to me that the homeowners association and the city refuse to acknowledge the public safety issue to family and pets.” Instead, Hays complained, local officialdom seemed set on a wait-and-see approach.

Hays, 34, stood in her tiny side yard on a recent evening and peered out into the dark corridor of grass between her house and the one next door. “They come through here and head to the shopping center dumpster,” she said of the Coyotes. “It’s just like they’re commuting!” Eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child, Hays wondered out loud how she was supposed to share her world with wild Coyotes. “It’s crazy! These are the most expensive homes in Rockville, and we’re like hostages! We bought here for the walking paths. Well, how am I going to deal with a coyote on the path when I’m out there with an infant in a stroller, a toddler and a dog on a leash?”
Hays shook her head. “I don’t think people should kill them–I’m an animal lover. But it’s just frightening.”

Eastern Coyote in the Northeast

A few blocks away, one of Hays’s neighbors was having similar misgivings, but from the opposite point of view. Aubrey Bursch, a 27-year-old accountant and multimedia specialist, a newlywed who spends her spare time volunteering at a wildlife hospital, was less worried about the Coyotes than about her neighbors’ reaction to them. Things already seemed so charged–trapping, the lawsuit and more than a dozen dead Coyotes. And the Coyotes hadn’t even attacked anyone. Eyewitness reports of Coyote encounters were sketchy and adrenaline-tinged. The fact was that no one in Fallsgrove, none of her neighbors, and not Bursch herself, knew very much about Coyotes. The trapper had retreated angrily to his house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and wasn’t talking publicly.

Bursch had joined the Humane Society lawsuit that put a temporary stop to the trapping. To her, the trapping seemed something of a rush to judgment. Everyone knew that Fallsgrove, only a few years old, had been built on the old Thomas Farm, a rare large parcel of agricultural land in the lower county. It was not far from two parks. Which made Bursch and others wonder: Wasn’t it possible that Fallsgrove, not the Coyotes, was the intruder? Wasn’t it possible that Fallsgrove owed the Coyotes some degree of accommodation? Or at least a thorough investigation of the problem before eradication began?

And what about the rats? Everyone in Fallsgrove knew there was a rat problem in some sections of the development. People stepped over them getting out of their cars. Wasn’t it possible that this rat buffet had something to do with the proliferation of Coyotes at Fallsgrove? And, if so, didn’t it make sense to clean up the rat problem before wholesale killing of Coyotes began?

There was a paradox in all this. Over the past 20 years, residents of suburban Washington had become accustomed to living amid ever-growing herds of azalea-stripping deer, flocks of lawn-fouling and territorial Canada Geese, as well as Raccoon and squirrel populations far more dense than they would be in rural areas. But Coyotes were something different: medium-size predators, with a wolf-like appearance and a reputation for wiliness, who seemed to stir a primal fear of wolves that came to this continent with European settlement.

Hays said the Coyotes of Fallsgrove could be heard at night singing along with the ambulances that arrived at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, just across the road. The sound they made, high-pitched yips and barks that culminated in long yodels, wasn’t exactly a wolf howl. It was shorter, less haunting maybe. But it was thrilling and beautiful all the same. It was also anxiety-making, Hays said. It sounded like a whole lot of Coyotes. What was going on out there in the dark? Whose subdivision was it, anyway?

Actually, the Coyotes at fallsgrove were almost overdue. Washington is the last major metropolitan area in the country to be colonized by Coyotes. They arrived in Maryland and Virginia about 20 years ago, after expanding their range into every part of the continental United States except the southernmost tip of Florida. (They showed up there about five years ago.) By 2004, when Coyotes first were sighted in Rock Creek Park, large populations already were ensconced in suburban Westchester County, outside New York City, as well as Boston, Nashville, Phoenix, Houston and elsewhere.

Eastern Coyote in New England

Last month, a Coyote on the loose in Central Park, at the latitude of 66th Street, made headlines — “Beep! Beep! Wily Coyote Captured.” It was the second Coyote to show up in Manhattan in recent years. In downtown Chicago, Coyotes have been spotted trotting back and forth across Michigan Avenue. Outside Boston, the presence of Coyotes has provoked a fierce debate in the state legislature about reintroducing leg-hold traps, currently banned as cruel and unnecessary. In California, Coyotes have been a fact of urban life for decades. On the beaches of Santa Barbara, when bathers go into the water, Coyotes come out of the brush to sniff beach towels.

The Coyote–biological cousin of the wolf, fox and dog — has roamed the Plains states for at least 15,000 years. The Coyotes’ outward migration began about a century ago. They moved east and west, filling the ecological vacuum left by human efforts to eradicate wolves from the lower 48 states. Coyotes expanded west first, toward California. Eastward expansion began a few decades later, along two routes, one due east and southeast, through the Gulf States, and the other northeast, into Canada, and eventually down into New England and along the East Coast. Wildlife biologists believe that the Coyotes now showing up in the Washington area may be part of both eastward migrations: the smaller, Western Coyotes–20 to 35 pounds–of the due-east migration; and larger Coyotes from the Canadian migration. Coyotes in this second group weigh 35 to 50 pounds, because of interbreeding with Canadian wolves.

Wildlife trappers in Washington’s outermost suburbs–Virginia’s Fauquier County and Maryland’s Washington County–say Coyote numbers have grown slowly but steadily. Coyote density in Western Maryland is now estimated to be about that of the American West.

Trappers have a saying about Coyotes, said Fauquier County trapper Sam Poles. “The only thing that will survive a nuclear war is cockroaches and Coyotes. Best thing I can tell you about Coyotes is: Learn their habits, and be prepared to live with them. ‘Cause once you get them in the suburbs, you’re not getting rid of them.”

 Coyote in Maryland

But living with them may be easier said than done. “Coyotes are canids, and people have always had a love-hate relationship with canids,” said Stan Gehrt, a wildlife biologist and director of the Cook County Coyote Project in suburban Chicago. “A lot of our wolf control was done more out of fear more than any damage they did. Wolves just made us uncomfortable.”

Coyotes seem to have a similar effect. Around the country, the presence of Coyotes seems to divide the human population into two groups: pro-Coyote people, who advocate benign co-existence, and those who think even one Coyote around is one too many. “Usually, for people to consider an animal to be a nuisance, that animal has to cause damage or cause inconvenience,” Gehrt said. “But Coyotes are the one species that can be considered a nuisance simply by being fleetingly seen. The question is: Can we adjust our level of tolerance to them as we find out more about them?”
Coyotes have been seen in the District–crossing Massachusetts Avenue in Rock Creek Park, running along Arizona Avenue, as well as on suburban lawns in Silver Spring and at Dulles International Airport. For all that, however, it isn’t easy to conjure up a Coyote on demand here– not yet, anyway. But there is another city, clear across the continent, where a sighting of an urban Coyote is almost guaranteed. That is Vancouver.

Vancouver is 10 years ahead of Washington on the Coyote curve, biologists say. In 1995, Coyote sightings in Vancouver were a novelty, as they are here today. But within five years, Coyotes had become a public safety issue. In 2001, there were at least six reported Coyote attacks on small children. The city’s tabloid newspaper took enthusiastic note of each one. “Coyote Savages Baby Girl in City,” screamed one headline. “Vicious Coyote Sunk Its Teeth Into Baby’s Cheek,” blared another. “Baby Ruth’s Beastly Bite.”

Public reaction was polarized. “The best way to get rid of Coyotes is to shoot them,” said one letter to the editor. Others held the opposite view. “Before our emotions get the best of us, and we go ahead with a Coyote cull, we might consider the dire consequences,” said another. “We’ll be up to our ears in cats and rats.” Others pointed out that dog bites, an average of 250 a year within the city, far exceeded Coyote bites, and no one was calling for the mass eradication of dogs.

 Coyote in Maryland

Before mass poisoning or any other measures could be proposed, however, a local wildlife biologist came up with a plan that quickly reduced the number of Coyote bites to zero, where it has remained since. The plan, known as “Co-Existing With Coyotes” and run out of a small, one-man office on the grounds of Vancouver’s huge Stanley Park, has been so successful that city managers from across North America phone regularly for advice and information.
Looking out over an audience of wriggling school kids at the General Brock Elementary School on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, Robert Boelens asked, “Okay, who knows how to tell a dog from a Coyote?”

As Vancouver’s point man for Coyote management, Boelens has seen hundreds of urban Coyotes, and chased many on foot with the only weapons he has found to be necessary: his voice and a homemade noisemaker, an old cookie tin filled with nails. Boelens, 35, is a self-taught naturalist and former television reporter who is sometimes referred to by school principals as the Coyote Man, a nickname he dislikes. Six-foot-two, with wire-rimmed glasses and light brown hair, he has the patient, quiet manner of a man who spent his post-college years caring for injured wolves and other animals at a wildlife hospital. Because small children are more likely to attract the attention of a Coyote, at least half his time is spent visiting schools to talk about Coyote habits. The balance is taken up investigating reports of nuisance Coyotes and answering calls from homeowners to the city’s Coyote hotline.

“First,” Boelens told the children, “Coyotes have really big ears, and they always point up. They’re two big triangles, and they never flop or lay back.” Next, the eyes: never blue. Then, the tail: A Coyote’s is always down, even when the Coyote is running. Finally, Boelens said, the Coyote has a rim of white fur around its mouth. “So it looks like it’s smiling,” he said. That helped give the Coyote its reputation among Native Americans as a trickster and clown.

Vancouver’s Coyote management program is based on three principles, all related to the one fact that all the local Coyote attacks had in common: The Coyotes had been fed by humans. All six Coyotes trapped and killed after those incidents had human food in their stomachs: beef stew, perfectly cubed potatoes, dry dog food. The feedings–some deliberate handouts, others inadvertent (i.e., trash)–had undermined the Coyotes’ natural fear of humans and taught them that people were a source of food. So it was clear that an effective Coyote management program would have to include management of human behavior, too. Large posters went up in city parks and at golf courses with messages that included: “Do not feed Coyotes. A fed Coyote puts your community at risk.”
Now, in the school auditorium, Boelens went further. “If you feed a Coyote,” he said, “you are signing its death warrant.”

Boelens ran down a list of the Coyote’s remarkable athletic skills: Coyotes can jump over a six-foot fence, using their paws to vault themselves over the top. They can run 40 mph. They can swim. And leap 15 feet to pounce on prey. They eat mice, snakes, grasshoppers, birds and rats, as well as woodchucks, squirrels and, in spring, small fawns. They move about by day or night, depending on when food is most plentiful and they feel most safe. They don’t live in dens, except in spring, when they are raising young. Most of the year, they rest under trees or in any sheltered, out-of-the way place. While they may meet to groom and socialize in family groups as large as eight or nine (including that year’s litter of pups), Coyotes rarely move around in groups larger than a pair. Their prey is small enough that no pack effort is needed to bring it down.

Coyote in Maryland

Then Boelens came to perhaps the most important part of his presentation. He raised his voice and slowed his speech: “One thing you should never, ever do when you see a Coyote is run. What you need to do is make yourself ‘big, mean and loud.’ Be as big, mean and loud as you can.” He raised his hands over his head. “This is what we do when we see a Coyote,” he said, putting on a fierce face and lunging toward a group of teachers. “Go away, Coyote!” he roared.
“I’m teaching the Coyote not to come around,” Boelens told the children. “If all of us behave like that, we’ll have no problems.”

After the presentation, Boelens got into his battered Honda Civic and drove to a well-to-do neighborhood of large Tudor-trimmed houses, tall trees and manicured lawns. Recently, homeowners there had reported Coyotes crisscrossing the neighborhood’s winding streets in broad daylight. They had snatched outdoor cats and even a small dog from behind fenced yards. (A Coyote can sail over a four-foot fence. To clear a six-foot fence, the Coyote uses the top of the fence to boost itself over; thus the spinning roll bar on a “Coyote fence.”) In this neighborhood, Boelens quickly discovered a typical Coyote hangout: an empty lot, where overgrown blackberry bushes and tall grass were providing ideal cover. In Vancouver, the single most effective Coyote management tool, said Boelens, has been persuading home and business owners to clean up empty lots and be more careful with trash, a change that ultimately required tightening the city bylaws.

In addition to public education and cleanup, there is a third leg of the Co-Existing With Coyotes program. Its peaceable goal and name notwithstanding, the program recognizes that, inevitably, there will be problem Coyotes whose presence cannot be tolerated. These animals–Coyotes that have shown clear signs of aggression toward humans and do not respond to efforts to drive them off–are reported to city animal control, trapped and euthanized. (Because a Coyote that is moved even miles away will often make its way back, in most cases relocation of an aggressive animal is not considered an option.)

But Boelens has almost never had to recommend trapping and euthanasia. In the vast majority of cases, Coyotes that are making themselves too visible in places where they aren’t welcome can be permanently chased away with minimal effort. This is Boelens’s job, too. He does it by acting kind of like an aggressive beat cop who notices unsavory types lurking in the 7-Eleven parking lot. He chases the Coyotes on foot, yelling and waving his arms and shaking the cookie tin filled with nails. After a few chases, the Coyotes invariably get the message and move on, or at least switch to a more nocturnal hunting schedule.“I’ve confronted 100 Coyotes and never had one that didn’t scatter,” Boelens said.

The following afternoon, Boelens took me to Langara public golf course in the city. It was 4 p.m. and getting dark. The sixth fairway was a sea of frosted grass, and the final golfer was walking toward the clubhouse. The start of evening rush hour could be heard on the boulevard just beyond a row of dark fir trees. A sliver of white moon hung in the cobalt sky.

The golf course looked deserted, but, as Boelens and I walked on a paved path past the low skirts of a red cedar tree, there was a rustle of boughs and a gray shadow bolted out from underneath, toward a knoll 30 yards to the right. An adult Coyote stood there, in the characteristic Coyote stance–its body facing away, in case quick escape was needed, but its head twisted back, watching us. Within moments, a second Coyote materialized and stood beside the first. They were the size of adult German shepherds, but skinnier, with stick-like legs, long narrow muzzles and large, pointed ears. Their winter coats were thick and healthy-looking. Each time we stepped toward them, the Coyotes took an equal step back, maintaining a constant distance. They looked wary and alert, but not afraid.
“That look they are giving us now means: Who are you? What are you going to do?” Boelens said.

Coyote in Maryland

This pair of Coyotes had become comfortable with golf course life. Generally they were seen only at dawn and dusk, although last spring a female and her litter of rambunctious pups had kept the course’s maintenance crew entertained for weeks.

Just beyond the golf course, however, there were garden apartments from which outdoor pet cats routinely went missing, some assumed to have been snatched by Coyotes. “It isn’t much fun to come out in the morning and find half of your cat on the front lawn,” Boelens said. Coyotes had taken small dogs, too, even dogs walking at the end of a 20-ft. flexi-leash. Sometimes the Coyote’s pounce snapped the leash, and the dogs came right out of their collars, leaving behind nothing but a frayed length of nylon and an empty collar ring.

Failing to show dominance toward a Coyote is always a mistake, Boelens said. It undermines the Coyotes’ fear of humans and, with that, the urban Coyote’s best chance for peaceful coexistence with us. So now it was time for Boelens to go to work, to remind these Coyotes that hanging around and staring at humans, even out of curiosity, was unacceptable behavior.

He turned and looked directly at them. He raised his arms, widened his eyes. Then he ran toward them, arms over his head. Before he’d taken three steps, the Coyotes hopped in place, and then took off, so silently and fluidly that they seemed to float over the open ground. Within seconds, they were gone.

Scientific certainties about Coyotes, urban and otherwise, are few and far between. Coyotes are famously difficult to trap. Too smart to be tricked into box traps and fast-learning enough to step around all but the most cannily set leg-hold traps and snares, they have eluded wildlife biologists for decades. But as Coyotes establish themselves in cities and suburbs, they are drawing renewed attention from a younger generation of scientists armed with new tools, such as DNA analysis, GPS tracking and radio telemetry. New and confounding facts about Coyote behavior are emerging, and they highlight the vital ecological function that Coyotes serve.

Coyote in Maryland

At Quantico Marine Corps Base, an hour south of Washington, one such study is well underway. Like many military bases around the country, Quantico functions as a de facto wildlife preserve. Its 60,205 acres are managed by an ecologist, and the land is home to several rare and endangered species of plants and birds. The base is more than 70 percent forested, but it also has miles of open field. These so-called edge habitats, where field and forest meet, are ideal terrain for Coyotes. The past 200 years of land use in the eastern United States — clear-cutting of forests for farming, followed by gradual reforestation — has created plenty of it.

Five years ago, a wildlife biology graduate student at George Mason University named Kristi Robinson heard that deer hunters who use the base during hunting season were reporting the presence of Coyotes for the first time. The hunters saw the Coyotes as potential competition — a threat to the base’s large deer herd. Coyotes are considered nuisance animals in Virginia, as they are in most states, and can be shot at will by a property owner. What did the base intend to do about the Coyotes, the hunters wanted to know.

Robinson suspected, based on the limited scientific data available about Coyote diet, that the only adult deer Coyotes ate were roadkill. She decided to find out for sure. She began traveling the base’s 460 miles of paths and streams (on foot, mountain bike and kayak) collecting Coyote scat, part of a five-year study that would eventually become her master’s thesis.

She discovered that, for much of the year, Coyotes at Quantico eat a diet that is more than 50 percent non-game, including berries, fruit and copious amounts of grasshoppers. The balance of the diet consists of mice, voles and other small rodents. Analysis of scat shows that deer meat accounts for less than 7 percent of the diet and tends to show up in the Coyote droppings in the fall, coinciding with hunting season.

Coyotes do take spring fawns, however, which, once Coyotes are established here, could help stabilize the size of the local deer population, which in the absence of predators, is now wildly out of balance. But mainly, Robinson said, her study shows that Coyotes favor much smaller fare. “There’s such a huge abundance of small mammals available here year-round,” Robinson said. “There’d be no reason for a Coyote, which is 35 to 40 pounds, to hunt a 100-pound animal twice its size with real sharp hooves.”

Robinson’s findings agree with a larger study of urban Coyote behavior underway in suburban Chicago. The Cook County Coyote Project, led by wildlife biologist Gehrt, has tracked urban Coyotes in a 700-square-mile area that includes 128 cities and towns and O’Hare International Airport. Gehrt, an assistant professor in the school of environment and natural resources at Ohio State University, and a team of graduate students have fitted 220 Coyotes with ear tags and radio collars and set them loose. The information shows Coyotes’ remarkable adaptability to urban life. One of the study’s animals regularly traveled more than 22 miles a night, across five cities and the runways at O’Hare. Coyotes particularly like the easements between interstates and malls and subdivisions. “They use the interstates like we do, to cover large areas quickly. I’ve seen them sitting by the highway, watching traffic.”

Analysis of 1,500 scat samples has found that less than 1 percent of the Chicago Coyotes’ diet is trash or human food. Instead, mice and voles are the preferred meal. When those populations crash, Coyotes readily shift their attention to rats. “Rats of a size that a cat or a fox might not tackle present no obstacle to an adult Coyote,” Gehrt said.

Coyote in Maryland

The Chicago Coyotes also displayed a keen ability to learn and adapt. Coyotes generally do not hunt deer, and do not hunt in packs. But Gehrt and his research team have found one Coyote group that does. The Coyotes have figured out how to drive an adult deer out onto frozen pond or lake ice, knowing that the deer will slip on the ice and fall.

Perhaps the most crucial question Gehrt hopes to answer with the Cook County study is whether all Coyotes living in close proximity to human settlements are fated to become so-called nuisance animals.

“Coyotes have to be taught that humans are boss,” Gehrt said. “We believe it’s easy to do that with animals that are just starting to test the waters. But with other Coyotes, that have been habituated for decades, we just don’t know. With each generation, they become a little bit more familiar with people and the landscape of people — cars, small patches of land. Where that ends, nobody knows.”

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, the author of The Hidden Life of Dogs , a bestseller, has been watching Coyotes at her home in rural New Hampshire since they first began appearing there in the 1960s. Seeing them interact with her dogs and with one another has made her think about our selective human affections.

“Having Coyotes around could be very educational,” for the people in Fallsgrove, Thomas said. Coyote behavior offers a valuable lesson about nature and our own place in it. Like most wild animals, Coyotes observe strict rules of engagement and complicated protocols that determine who belongs where. Around her house, Thomas said, “the Coyotes have the woods, and the dogs have the lawn and field.” Sometimes the Coyotes will trespass, and then the dogs bark. “All the members of the dog family–domestic dogs, wolves, Coyotes, dingoes–are very aware of territory. A group must control its own territory–you can’t have others taking it from you, because then you won’t have enough food.”

The Coyotes singing along with the ambulances in Fallsgrove, she said, pose no threat. Instead, she said, they most likely are simply trying to “answer” the sirens and maintain order in their new world. “They may be trying to learn what the siren is saying. Does it say, ‘Here is a large Coyote?’ In that case the Coyotes may be answering, ‘Don’t come over, because we are already here.’”

The prodigious expansion of the Coyotes’ range in the past 100 years is the result of our own refusal, since the earliest days of European settlement, to tolerate the presence of wolves. With wolves out of the picture, new swaths of rabbit- and rodent-rich territory beckoned, and Coyotes were free to move in.

Humans are uneasy with the idea of predators in their midst. But predation is in fact part of nature’s design, a finely tuned and highly beneficial system by which sick or unwary animals are culled from the population, leaving more food for the remaining animals and increasing their chances for survival. Rancher and celebrated memoirist Dayton O. Hyde, a Coyote defender, has described Coyotes as vital partners in on his 6,000-acre east Oregon ranch, keeping the ecosystem in balance by checking mouse, grasshopper and squirrel populations. Biologists consider wolves and Coyotes to be “nature’s veterinarians,” carefully selecting the weakest or least wary among the animals they hunt, leaving more food and terrain for the healthy animals that remain.

The federal government, through the Department of Agriculture, has been killing tens of thousands of Coyotes annually on public and private lands for decades. But the control effort has had little effect on Coyote populations.

“You can lower the population temporarily, but they will be back,” Gehrt said. “Coyotes are made to deal with the adversity we thrust upon them. They can adjust very quickly.” This is because of a highly intriguing and anomalous Coyote behavior. Unlike deer or Canada Geese, Coyotes self-regulate their population size. When Coyote numbers are falling, Coyotes have bigger litters to compensate. When numbers are high, straining the food supply, litters get smaller. Scientists do not precisely understand the control mechanism, which may be hormonal, but they have replicated the effect in captivity by varying the proximity of caged Coyotes to one another. This means that Coyotes will never become as ubiquitous as White-tailed Deer. But they are he

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