The 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.
What 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.
Ten 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.
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.