Coyote Population Steady in South Carolina

coyoteThe South Carolina Department of Natural Resources reports that coyote populations in the state have leveled off in the last several years, although when he heard the news, its own board chairman said his farm has “about 10,000,” the The Columbia State newspaper and the (Florence) Morning News.

The information was released at a presentation to the natural resources board last week.

The population trend is estimated from the number of coyotes killed in the state each year, the article reports. That number has remained steady for several years. The article notes that the state does not have specific population figures on coyotes.

According to the harvest statistics, coyotes are not spread evenly over the state. Several counties top the others in the total number of coyotes killed and the number of coyotes killed per square mile. Abbeville, Saluda and Cherokee Counties lead the list in coyotes killed per square mile, the Island Packet reports.

The article includes extensive quotes from a university extension agent who refers to the coyotes as “dogs,” which really isn’t helping anyone.

The Columbia State article in the Island Packet, with lots of interactive statistics.
The Morning News article.

Photo: Coyote by Steve Thompson, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

Wolf-Coyote Hybrids

New Mexico Withdraws From Wolf Recovery ProgramWhat is an Eastern coyote? One theory holds that it is a wolf-coyote hybrid formed when Midwestern coyotes crossed through Canada and mated with Eastern wolves.

Recently, scientists from the US Geological Survey, the St. Louis Zoo, the US Department of Agriculture published a paper in PLoS ONE describing their successful attempts to breed Western wolves and Western coyotes.

The research has implications for the management of Eastern coyotes, and may also answer some questions about the taxonomy of North American wolves. The PLoS One paper offers an excellent backgrounder on the questions surrounding Eastern coyote and wolf genetics in its introduction.

Read a press release from the US Geological Survey, here.
Read the PLoS ONE paper here. It is open access.

Photo: A wolf pup. Not a hybrid.

10 Red Wolves Shot

red wolfTen red wolves have been shot on North Carolina’s northeastern coast in the past year, the Times News reports. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recently expanded coyote hunting in the region to include night hunting with spotlights. There is an open season on coyotes in the five counties where 100 or so red wolves are found.

Conservation groups said immediately that the expanded hunting of coyotes would harm the red wolves, which the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to restore in the area. The two species look very much alike.

The Commission recently defended the loosening of the coyote law, and said it would defend itself against a lawsuit brought by conservation organizations to stop the coyote hunting. That case will be heard in February.

Read the Times-News article, here.
Read a Charlotte Observer article on the lawsuit, here.

Photo: Red wolf by John Froschauer PDZA, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

Coyote/Wolf Hybrids in the East

A recent study published in Molecular Ecology, which studied the hybridization between eastern wolves, gray wolves and coyotes in and around Algonquin Provincial Park (APP) in Ontario found that about 36 percent of the animals tested were hybrids of two or three of the three Canis types.

West of the park the genes tested switched sharply from eastern wolf to coyote and hybrids. South and northwest of the park, the genes were a bit more complicated. However, the most remote locations with the most moose also had the animals with greater wolf ancestry.

The eastern coyote is generally larger than its western counterpart, and it appears to behave differently, too. The genetics of the eastern coyote could help inform the management of coyotes in the region, so papers like this are worth noting.

Reading the article in Molecular Ecology requires a subscription or a fee, but you can access it here.

Photo: coyote, by Steve Thompson, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

American Midland Naturalist

Here are some articles of interest in the current issue of American Midland Naturalist. (Fee or subscription required to read the full text.):

The Impact of Exotic Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) on Wetland Bird Abundances. Some wetland bird species do well when loosestrife increases, this study found. It urges land managers to take care when removing loosestrife so as not to harm those species.

Use of Camera Traps to Examine the Mesopredator Release Hypothesis in a Fragmented Midwestern Landscape. Coyotes don’t like deep forests and red foxes don’t like urban landscapes, this study found. The presence of coyotes only scared off other mesopredators a little.

Lots more on invasive species. Including papers on garlic mustard and the types of plants that grow in contaminated roadside soil.


Urban Coyotes Don’t Fool Around

Coyote pairs appear to be faithful to one another. A mated pair will stick together for years, raising their offspring together. But genetic studies of other creatures, particularly birds, has shown that there are some animals that maintain a social pair-bond while occasionally breeding with others.

A paper in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mammalogy shows that the genetics of pair-bonded coyotes in the Chicago area support the coyote pairs’ faithfulness. The offspring of the breeding male and female coyotes that shared a territory were genetically related to both parents.

Because there’s lots of food around and because other coyote territories are nearby, urban coyotes might be more tempted to, um, stray than other coyotes.

This study has implications for coyote management, particularly because a previous study showed that coyote pairs will stick together even one is surgically sterilized.

Read the paper here. (Requires subscription or fee.)

Photo by Steve Thompson, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

Research: Screech Owls, Urban Coyotes and Social Mountain Lions

Forest cover is the best predictor of screech owl presence, and citizen scientists doing call-playback surveys compared well to professionals, says a paper in the March issue of the Northeastern Naturalist. The research was conducted in the metropolitan New York tri-state area.

Read the abstract here. (Fee or subscription required for the full article.)

Teton Cougar Project, which has been studying mountain lions (Puma concolor) in the Jackson Hole region for years, recently documented two adult female mountain lions feeding at the same kill on three different occasions. Once, a male also joined the group. Four years ago the research team documented one female mountain lion adopting another’s kittens.

The observations refute the conventional wisdom that mountain lions are solitary and only spend time together to mate.

Read more details in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.

Researchers in Denver, Colorado will begin radio-collaring up to 60 coyotes in the metro area with the goal of tracking them for the next two years. Stewart Breck, a researcher with USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, will lead the effort.The researchers would like to know how the coyotes are using settled landscapes, and if community-based hazing programs are working.

Read the Colorado Division of Wildlife press release, here.

More States Turning to Night Hunting for Problem Animals

North Carolina, Arizona and Tennessee are among the states that are allowing night hunting for problem species like feral swine, coyotes and mountain lions when existing hunting practices fail to reduce populations, says an article in USA Today.

Night hunting is allowed in 42 states, the article says, quoting data from the Indiana-based National Predator Hunters Association.

In the article, a coyote coexistence advocate is quoted as saying that hunting does little to reduce population levels of the fecund coyote. That’s a sentiment shared by many wildlife managers was well, regarding both coyotes and feral swine.

Read the USA Today article here.
PDF article on feral swine in New Hampshire Fish and Game’s magazine.

Photo: Feral swine piglet. If only they were all this cute. By Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Scent Marking Won’t Keep Coyotes Away

Coyotes are territorial and mark their territories with urine. There are plenty of studies that show predator urine keeps prey away (such as keeping deer away from a garden with coyote urine). And using territorial marking has worked in repelling African wild dogs. But the trick doesn’t appear to work with coyotes.

A study reported in the last issue of The Wildlife Society Bulletin found that using coyote urine to mark off an area to keep other coyotes away, not only didn’t repel them, but only served to have coyotes linger in the area.

Read the article in Wildlife Society Bulletin. (Subscription of fee required, but the abstract pretty much tells you all you need to know.)

A Ph.D. student of that paper’s lead author did a similar study a few years ago, with captive coyotes, and got a similar finding. Read her doctoral thesis, with references to the predator/prey studies and other background info on the general concept — here.

Coyote photo by Steve Thompson, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

To Bring Back Lynx, Bring Back Wolves

A paper in the current issue of the Wildlife Society Bulletin says that when gray wolves are removed from an ecosystem, Canada lynx populations take a double blow. One blow comes when elk and deer populations explode and eat all the shrubs. That leaves the lynx’s prey, the snowshoe hare, with nothing to eat and no where to hide.

The other blow is that without wolves maintaining the “ecology of fear,” coyote populations also increase. And while coyotes will eat anything, they really like to eat rabbits, hares and other creatures of that size. In places where deep snow pack does not keep the coyotes away, lynx can find themselves with little to eat.

Yes, this is yet another example of mesopredator release, but as the pithy Science news article (subscription required) points out, in Canada they have both wolves and lynx. In the U.S. there are places without wolves where lynx have suffered a mysterious decline. It will be interesting to see what happens to lynx populations in places with growing wolf populations.

Read the Oregon State University press release here.

Read an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune here. And here’s a write-up from the East Oregonian.

Photo: Canada lynx, courtesy of Oregon State University