Sunday, October 7, 2012

Coyotes extend range and enter urban settings in North America

As human population density increases across North America, many carnivore species' ranges become more restricted. However, the opposite is happening with the coyote. In contrast with the wolf, the coyote is able to adapt even to urban areas.
The Greater Toronto Area is just one urban region where coyotes are becoming relatively common. The Natural Resources Ministry is warning people to be wary of coyotes. In the spring, as the weather warms up, the coyotes have offspring and are looking for food. While coyotes mostly feed on small mammals such as voles and mice and rabbits, they are virtually omnivorous. Out on the range they hunt chickens, lambs, calves, and sheep but in the city your cat or small dog will do in a pinch. They will raid your garbage at night too.
In some areas coyotes are being observed that are much larger and heavier than the average coyote. In many cases these may be hybrids of wolves and coyotes. Coyotes in the northern parts of North America tend to be larger than further south. But there is also an east west varation. In eastern Canada, especially in the Maritime provinces coyotes can weigh around 40 pounds whereas on the western plains the average is only around 20 pounds.
The larger coyotes often adapt the wolf characteristic of hunting in packs. While only two fatal coyote attacks on humans have been verified, one was in Nova Scotia in the Cape Breton Highlands In October 2009, Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer, died from injuries sustained in an attack by a pack of eastern coyotes while she was hiking. The eastern coyotes are, genetically, a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf.
In Richmond Hill, in the northern part of Toronto, the increased number of coyotes has had positive effects by helping to control the beaver population. The busy beavers regularly built damns that would often cause flooding in ponds and creeks.
Many techniques are used to try to rid an area of coyotes. However, reducing the population usually just makes conditions better for the coyote families that survive since there is less competition and the young prosper.
Greater Chicago is thought to be home to approximately 2,000 coyotes according to ecologist Stan Gert. Gert said that estimate was a minimum. Gert has been studying coyotes in Chicago for about 12 years. Researchers found a pack of coyotes just 8 kilometers from O'Hare International Airport, one of the busiest in the world. Even out in western Canada in the smaller city of Calgary there are estimated by some to be about 600 to 700 coyotes. The appended video shows a Chicago coyote visiting Quiznos.
On occasion, coyotes have also been known to mate with dogs especially in the U.S. states such as Texas and Oklahoma. The hybrids are called coydogs. While coyotes usually breed just once a year, coydogs breed all year round and thus can produce more pups.

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