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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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Monday, July 2, 2018

The 2018 Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Coyote Population Report reinforces that Coyotes do not destroy deer herds---Harsh Winter Weather and the quality of deer yards are determining factors of deer population rise and fall------"Being habitat generalists, the some 7,500 Vermont Coyotes capitalize on a variety of prey species including deer"..................."Many studies around the country have documented that coyotes, black bears and bobcats all kill fawns in the spring"..............."Coyotes and bobcats also kill deer during the winter months"............."However, researchers have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the observed mortality rates prevent deer population growth"................."Coyotes are also scavengers on carcasses of deer that may die of malnutrition or other causes"................."Signs of coyotes having fed on a deer carcass are not conclusive evidence that coyotes killed the deer"............."Even the complete removal of coyotes from Vermont would not ensure a healthy, abundant deer herd. Winter deer habitat is the “critical” factor that limits and controls total deer numbers in the longer term"................... We are not aware of any scientific evidence from studies done in the Northeast that indicate coyotes either control or limit the numbers of deer in healthy deer populations particularly if coyote predation is a consideration when determining antlerless harvest rates (Robinson 2014)"................."To the contrary, there are numerous scientific studies that suggest coyotes do not regulate deer populations"............."Vermont’s deer herd is healthy although there may always be criticism from some interest groups that deer are not as plentiful as desired"..............."In Vermont, winter severity is perhaps the most significant factor affecting deer population fluctuations and we believe that this largely explains any temporary variability in deer number'"............."It is important to recognize that natural populations of all wild animals fluctuate in numbers through time".............."Coyotes are territorial animals and defend their territories aggressively"................"The frequency of aggressive encounters between coyotes escalate as their population densities increase, resulting in reduced reproduction and pup survival"...................."These behaviors limit the maximum number of territories that can exist in Vermont and limit the maximum number of coyotes that can be sustained across the state."



Submitted to: Vermont Legislature House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife and Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Submitted by: Louis Porter, Commissioner Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department January 15, 2018

Background and History of Coyotes in Vermont Prior to European settlement,

 The coyote was limited to habitats west of the Mississippi River and was not believed to exist in Vermont historically. As European settlers moved west, cleared the land, and eliminated the native wolf, the more adaptable coyote moved east from the western prairies. As they spread eastward, they bred with wolves in southern Canada. As a result, the eastern coyote has a broader skull and is larger and heavier than its western counterpart. It has been speculated that these adaptations allowed coyotes to better hunt deer resulting in a more rapid colonization rate into the Northeast (Kays 2010).

In addition, genetic analysis suggests that Vermont’s current coyote population was established from a very small number of females crossing the St. Lawrence River into the state (Kays 2009). Since first sighted in Vermont in the 1940’s, the coyote has attained population levels that are believed to be saturated.

Biological research on coyotes reveals that they exist in family units that are highly territorial and thereby maintain self-regulated populations across the landscape. Except for regional and seasonal fluctuations due to food and habitat availability, Vermont’s coyote population is unlikely to increase significantly beyond its current level.

Coyotes are highly territorial and exist in family groups that defend a core home range of 4 to 8 mi2 from other coyotes. Coyote productivity and home range size is based on habitat and food availability and therefore the population varies from season to season and year to year.

However, given that Vermont, in general, is excellent habitat for coyotes we estimate that most of the available home ranges are occupied and that there are many years where dispersal is  delayed. Therefore, we have calculated that there is an average of 7500 coyotes in Vermont but that the population may vary from as many as 9,000 in the spring (during pup rearing) to as few as 6,000 in the winter due to the natural cycles of annual mortality (i.e. disease, starvation, intraspecific competition, etc.) and dispersal.

 Such annual fluctuations in the population are largely dependent upon a variety of environmental factors including, among other things, winter conditions, prey availability and competition. Despite this inherent variability, Vermont’s coyote population estimate is not out of line with estimates from other jurisdictions. Richer et al. (2002) found that in the rural landscapes of southeastern Quebec there were an average of 2.7 animals/km2 which would extrapolate to approximately 6,300 animals in an area the size of Vermont. Given the territorial nature of coyotes, their adaptability and their ubiquitous distribution throughout the state, Vermont’s coyote population is unlikely to change significantly beyond its current level outside the bounds of natural seasonal variation.

The current open hunting season dates back to the early years when coyotes were termed “coydogs” and considered vermin newcomers. Today, the Department considers the coyote a permanent and valuable resident of the state, one that provides important ecological functions. Although it has not been here as long as some of our other native predators such as bobcat and the red and gray foxes, the adaptable and persistent coyote is here to stay, in part because it can occupy a variety of habitat niches, even those impacted by humans.

 The Department believes that both predator and prey species are vital components of a healthy ecosystem. Deer and other prey evolved with predators and as such, we neither regard predators as undesirable, nor do we view them as a significant threat to healthy game populations. In fact, it is a widely accepted truth among wildlife professionals that predators often help to maintain prey populations at levels that are in balance with their habitat. In an effort to foster broader public understanding and acceptance of the coyote and other predators, the Department has had a long history of working to dispel old myths surrounding the species and promoting the role and value of coyotes in our landscape

Coyote Influence on Prey Species Also Hunted by Humans:

Being habitat generalists, coyotes capitalize on a variety of prey species including deer and many studies around the country have documented this. Researchers in New Brunswick, Canada radio-collared 78 white-tailed deer fawns. Fifty of those fawns were captured in the spring as neonates and almost half (22) were dead by the end of November. Coyotes predated 9 of them, black bears killed 5, domestic dogs 3, and bobcats 2 (Ballard et al, 1999).

In a Minnesota study, 66 neonates were captured over two winters. The overall survival rate after 12 weeks was 47% 3 with predation accounting for 86% of the mortality. Black bears were responsible for 57% of the mortality in 2001 and 38% in 2002 while bobcats accounted for 50% in 2002 (Carstensen 2009).

A similar study was done in Pennsylvania (Vreeland et al, 2004) where 218 fawns were captured and radio-collared in both forested and agricultural landscapes. After 34 weeks, only 53% of the fawns in the agricultural landscape and 38% in the forested landscape were still alive. Of those that died, 33% were killed by black bear and 37 % by coyote. The remaining 27% died of other natural causes.

Regardless, researchers concluded that there was “no evidence to suggest that the fawn survival rates observed were preventing [deer] population growth.” However, at the northern edge of their range (i.e. Canada) where snow depths are higher, and winters are longer, coyotes may influence deer populations (Messier et al 1986) as they tend to focus more on deer than snow shoe hare in areas with higher winter severity (Patterson et al, 1998). In most parts of Vermont, however, we do not believe that to be the case. Although coyotes take deer in Vermont, research done in the 1980’s (Person, 1988) in the Champlain Valley found that they also ate woodchucks, small mammals, insects, various fruits and berries, and livestock carrion.

Regardless of the scientific consensus surrounding coyote diet and their limited impact on prey populations, there remains a deeply rooted public perception that coyotes compete with hunters for the same species. Although coyotes and people, both predators, do vie for deer and other prey, in almost all cases, study results suggest that coyotes have no long-term negative impact on these populations. Habitat quality and harsh winter conditions appear to be the most important factors influencing deer numbers in Vermont. In addition, the Department considers predation as a factor when developing deer management strategies.

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