Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

From ChicagoBoyz commenter Comatus:

Only a skilled game butcher should mess (term used advisedly) with road kill. If the integuments between the upper and lower body cavity are ruptured–typical in a car encounter–the meat is essentially poison, shot through with fecal bacteria. Despite what you’ve heard, the Dodge Ram is not the hunting weapon of choice.


And a question for all you people more experienced with wildlife than I am: I thought real Coyotes are solitary hunters. The Coyotes around here seem to have more wolf-like facial features, and they hunt in packs. The common wisdom is that they interbred with Canadian or Western US wolves as they migrated East. Anyone know anything about that?

I had one of those things walk right over my patio the other day, eyeing me through the sliding glass door. I'm keeping the rifle handy as winter approaches and I keep hearing them pull down deer closer and closer (within 500 meters) of the house. One was howling so close to my house about 2:00 AM the other day that he turned on my motion sensor light at the edge of the drainspout. They are getting too comfortable with humans for my comfort.


mattw said...

Be careful John, especially if you have small dogs that go outside. Or even if one of your children is outside and the coyotes are around.

In my admittely limited understanding of coyotes, they do hunt in packs. I've heard of them getting too used to humans being around and killing pets.

At my mother-in-law's house last year there was a coyote in the neighborhood that was hanging out under the neighbor's deck at least part of the time and it had mange, which was a danger to itself, other animals and the people around it.

There's a guy in WI that comes by and takes care of the in-law's place when they aren't around and he told me about a time that one of his buddies took him coyote hunting. He said they sat in a tree and would uncover a red light every so often until finally they uncovered it and there were a lot of coyote eyes reflecting back at them. Then he said they just started shooting. The guy likes to tell tales, so who knows.

John the Scientist said...

I assume they are always around, Matt, even if I can't see them. The one I saw walked right past the house at 6:30 AM - not in darkness at all.

They take cats and small dogs regularly in my town, and I scan the woods the whole time the kids are out.

Jim Wright said...

Coyotes are by and large pack hunters. Small groups, six to ten individuals. And they tend to scavenging, vice predation, around human habitation. Predation in the field tends to be small animals (they eat a lot of mice and rodents) and anything larger that they can catch - which in populated areas tends to be small dogs and house pets.

When a pack grows too large (especially too many young males) those animals are driven out - they usual try to join other packs, but for a time may roam alone. They're smart and they learn fast, and they've long learned that human habitation provides easy livin'.

So the answer to your question is - both pack hunting and loner hunting are correct.

I don't know of any actual recorded interbreeding or validated genetic studies showing consistent interbreeding. Most wolves tend to be very picky about breeding, scent and pheromones play a huge role. And females in heat are rarely found outside the pack protection and Alpha male bond. My understanding is that wolves are pretty damned hostile to other canidae species and tend to attack coyotes on sight.

I know an Alaska state biologist, I'll ask him about it (coyotes and wolves are very common here in the matsu - I heard wolves howling in Hatcher's Pass just night before last).

Supposedly there are a large number of coyote subspecies, something like twenty in NA alone. And coyotes are less, uh, discriminating than wolves - and are known to interbreed with domestic dogs upon occasion. I've seen a lot of coyotes, and some do have a very strong resemblance to wolves - but some in the same pack had a stronger vulpine (fox like) resemblance.

Neither species is particularly likely to attack humans, though coyotes are more likely. Wolves are very shy and skittish. Coyotes tend to be less so, and those that are habituated to humans habitation tend to not be easily intimidated. It pays to be cautious, but they're more likely to tear your garbage cans apart or go after your small dog than to attack you. Defense wise - 12ga shotgun vice rifle is a better choice for close range in the backyard. Coyotes are fast. Best loads are mixed combat load, 00 buck alternating with a slug. buck, slug, buck, slug and etc.

John the Scientist said...

Jim, these guys hunt deer, hence my curiosity and caution. I've seen the remains and hear the deer scream. It may lend credence to the wolf or dog interbreeding theory.

One menaced a colleague who lives in my town - wanting to eat the dog he was walking - so they do not fear people at all.

mattw said...

I too have heard of coyotes interbreeding with domesticated dogs and losing some of their fear of humans that way.

What about mace or something similar to carry on you in case you happen to be out walking and you are menaced by one of them? Or my brother and SIL have this little box that creates an ultra high frequency pitch when the button is pressed that makes the animal run off. I know it works on the cat, and I would imagine it works on canines too.

John the Scientist said...

Matt, I don't live in the burbs, i don't go out walking, I hike, or I drive. :D

My backyard is 50% woods, and abuts a 100 acre wood (sadly, no Winnie the Pooh).

The neighbors are farmers, for the most part, and after the last farm is a huge state game preserve.

Carol Elaine said...

There is something to be said for city living - though I love the countryside, I'm very happy to not have to deal with such things.

However, my place of employment is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and bobcats and coyotes have been spotted on the grounds, though rarely when large numbers of humans are about. They're probably hunting the deer who like to make their home here.

MWT said...

I read somewhere a while ago that coyotes gradually become more like wolves when wolves are absent, to fill the vacated ecological niche. They get larger so they can go after the bigger prey that wolves would be going after if they were there. Reintroduce wolves, and the coyotes get smaller. Maybe that's what you're seeing?

Jeri said...

Yeah John! I saw on the NaNo site that you've hit your 50K! Way to go.

The Fifth String said...

Maybe it's the particular subspecies but coyotes in my neck of the woods (NorCal) are solitary hunters exclusively. At least, that's been my experience exclusively, I've never seen more than two together, and that maybe once or twice ever. I've shot a number of them, and known of others that were, but almost always loners.

Even during calving season (and lambing, when we had sheep) and the coyotes start getting more numerous near the herds, they still seem to be exclusively solitary.