Rob Pavey blogs green issues and the outdoors life

Love them or hate them: no middle ground for coyotes.

Our Sunday outdoors column that mentioned Georgia's new study of coyotes helped underscore an important point. Some people love them and some people hate them. There is no middle ground.

Georgia's Wildlife Resources Department gets plenty of complaints from farmers and hunters alike that the predatory canines are killing livestock and deer. Coyotes also feed heavily on newborn fawns during the spring, but their effect on deer populations is largely unknown.

That's why the state is launching a four-year inquiry designed to get a handle on how many coyotes we have and also gauge whether their numbers are still expanding. They also need to determine the impact of coyotes on our deer herd.

Part of the plan, of course, will involve trapping and killing lots of coyotes in selected areas. The deer herd will then be studied in areas with lots of coyotes, and compared with deer in areas where most coyotes have been removed. That didn't set well with some readers, such as Becky Pomponio, who emailed me from Sarasota, Fla., after reading our story online.

"My concern is that state wildlife agencies too often feel beholden to the desires of those hunters who DO kill coyotes and to livestock producers, instead of to the majority of us who respect wildlife and want to enjoy it for years to come," she wrote. "Most of us don't oppose hunting for meat, but killing coyotes just for the hell of it is unethical and counterproductive. You will see growing concern about it, I predict."

She also pointed out that coyotes and many species of deer have co-existed in Western states for centuries without any real problems. In short, she maintains, coyotes are part of our environment and should not be eradicated.

"Did you know that the howls of coyotes are often the parents calling their young a year or two after their birth, apparently just to see how they're doing?  When a coyote is killed, its mate has been observed in mourning with depressed behavior...its howl silenced for weeks.  These are highly intelligent, beautiful animals that we should NOT treat as vermin."

On the other end of the spectrum are folks like Clyde Gurosik, a South Carolina farmer who has had plenty of interaction with the wily predators.

"I applaud your article in today's chronicle, calling attention to the "Coyote Study," he wrote. "I truly enjoy observing every animal, bird, fish and even reptile and insect that God put on this earth, except the "coyote". There is no other that I despise and equate more with "The Prince of Darkness". I sincerely hope that other true sportsmen, sportswomen and natural wildlife observers can recognize them for the "SATANS" that they are. I sincerely hope that other sportsmen quickly recognize the need for "INTENSIVE COYOTE REMOVAL", and don't condone long-term costly studies, as coyotes decimate study resources. You can study something to death!!"

As for me, I'm not so sure how damaging coyotes are to our environment. One thing people often overlook is the fact that these creatures are native species in Western states, but only appeared in our region in the past few decades. Thus, their impact is still being ironed out in the complex and ever-changing ecosystem we live in.

It might even turn out that coyotes are helping to control whitetail populations, rather than decimating them, as some hunting groups insist. But the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Although Georgia's coyote study is just beginning, other studies-including one at Savannah River Site-have been under way quite some time. The SRS study we reported on last year http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/08/02/pav_542875.shtml suggests their numbers are growing, even in suburban areas. It also concluded, at least from the data gathered so far, that coyotes account for a huge percentage of fawn deaths.

Just for some background on when (and how) we ended up with coyotes here in the first place, I dug out the first story I wrote about them - way back in December 1992:

By Rob Pavey
Staff Writer

Four years ago, a motorist on a rural highway in Aiken County struck and killed what first appeared to be a dog. It wasn't.

The wolflike carcass - too large for a fox - was taken to wildlife experts, who weren't the least bit surprised. ''It was only a matter of time,'' said Jeff Priest of the Ruth Patrick Science Center in Aiken, whose doctoral research focused on the secretive, nocturnal coyotes that are spreading across the South.

Like the European boar, fire ants, starlings and other creatures introduced from afar, the coyote is carving an ever-expanding niche among more traditional species - but not without an impact of its own.

''They've been moving in this direction since the turn of the century,'' said Dr. Priest, adding that the coyote's newfound range in areas like suburban Columbia County has drawn new attention to the species. '

'There's a certain amount of fear that they'll damage populations of rabbit, turkey, even quail,'' he said. ''But I don't find that to be the case. They're pretty much loners, and they don't hunt in packs.''

The cunning, adaptable coyote, native to the West, survived well-organized eradication efforts for centuries, Dr. Priest said. ''So they're here to stay, no matter what we may do.''

Although theories indicate captive coyotes were released in certain areas, scientists generally believe they are the result of an eastward migration from the Mississippi River Basin that began before the 1960s.

Dan Marshall, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist working in Thomson, said local sightings have grown more frequent this year, especially in Columbia County.

 ''It's just in the last couple of years they entered the Augusta area,'' he said. ''They started in isolated areas around Macon, south Georgia and one site up in north Georgia. It's thought they were released there, but nobody takes credit for it. I can tell you the state of Georgia didn't do it.''

They are neither regulated nor protected, Mr. Marshall said, and can be killed as pests any time of the year.

Although there are numerous myths about the impact of coyotes on other species, many are untrue, he said. '

'All animals have a niche, and when a new one comes in, it interferes,'' he said. ''In the case of coyotes, the one most affected is the red fox. They have similar range and food habits and the foxes usually get forced out.''

Sporadic reports filter in about coyotes attacking livestock or deer, he said, but such attacks sometimes are from dogs. ''We did get one report from a farmer who killed a coyote he claimed killed his calf,'' he said.

Eastern coyotes are larger and more powerful than their western counterparts, due mainly to milder winters and more abundant vegetation and food. Adults, especially males, can exceed 40 pounds. But experts like Dr. Priest and Chuck Lydeard of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory - whose graduate studies included a thesis on coyotes - don't foresee an increase in livestock attacks or a depletion of deer.

''Most of the fears are usually exaggerated,'' Dr. Lydeard said. ''They'll eat livestock if they can, but those problems can be resolved by farmers protecting their animals.''

A more-common problem with eastern coyotes is their affinity for vegetables, especially watermelons and cantaloupes.

''We don't get many complaints about foxes, but coyotes sure do like those watermelons,'' said Jim Ozier of Georgia's Non-game Endangered Wildlife Program, who added that coyotes also ravage cucumber patches, too.

Wes Harris of the Burke County, Ga., Extension Service office, agreed. ''I don't know if it's the flavor or what,'' he said. ''But coyotes love watermelons, I can promise you that.''

 

 

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getalife
4
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getalife 01/29/10 - 08:02 am
0
0
Something needs to be done to

Something needs to be done to help control the deer population and just maybe this is the role of the coyotes. I am looking forward to when they come into my section of the country. I have 4 cats at neighbors on both sides of me. They won't stay off my cars, out of my garage, throwing up on my porches, hiding surprises in my flower beds and using my yard as their battleground in the middle of the night. Maybe coyotes will help with my problem, as I understand cats and small dogs are high on their favorite meal list.

scorehouse
196
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scorehouse 01/29/10 - 10:13 am
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i'm from texas. coyotes are
Unpublished

i'm from texas. coyotes are bad news. they used to be rather solitary animals and hunters but have adapted wolf pack habits. these packs can take down much larger game. they reproduce like rabbits and have no fear of suburban or even urban areas. a friend of mine in houston recently had one in his back yard. he has 2 labs that killed the coyote but both required vet care. he said luckily both dogs were together or the results would have been different. see one, shoot one.

AutumnLeaves
10250
Points
AutumnLeaves 01/29/10 - 11:11 am
0
0
I saw one on Doug Barnard

I saw one on Doug Barnard Parkway near Phinizy Swamp a couple of years ago. It was near the median simply looking toward the swamp and waited for me to pass before it crossed the road behind me. I saw another near Clark Hill a few years before that. Since I live in 30906 and don't travel much, I don't see them very often, but at first glance they look like a stray dog, so I could have overlooked one.

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 01/29/10 - 11:22 am
0
0
We live in Evans, and the few

We live in Evans, and the few coyotes I've actually gotten a good look at are impressive. The largest, a roadkill on Hereford Farm Road in front of Evans Middle School, was so big I thought at first it was a Malamute or Alaskan Husky that had been hit. I turned around and went back to get a better look - it was like a miniature timber wolf. I dont think they miss many meals.

Rolling Eyes
247
Points
Rolling Eyes 01/29/10 - 11:54 am
0
0
My parents live in the Tampa

My parents live in the Tampa area and there is a serious coyote problem. The coyotes are wily and out 'fox' the trappers. Last I'd heard, none of them had been captured and dogs chained in yards have been getting killed (and eaten). People walk with golf clubs for protection because some of the coyotes are getting bold and there have been a few cases where they have actually challenged a person. Lets hope that we don't get an overload of them here!

Bacon Grease
334
Points
Bacon Grease 01/29/10 - 12:07 pm
0
0
I have a friend who processes

I have a friend who processes deer in McDuffie County and we put a trail camera on a carcasses pile. It took pictures of coyotes and coy dogs which are more aggressive. A farmer who lets me hunt his land in the same area wants me to kill everyone I see, he has lost calves to them. We often hear them houling at night while sitting on the porch.

gjsw
0
Points
gjsw 01/29/10 - 12:48 pm
0
0
We live on Columbia Rd in

We live on Columbia Rd in Appling and in the last week, had a coyote that came into our yard. He went into our dog pen looking for food. This was not the first time. We took pictures of it from the backdoor and it didn't seem scared at all. It just looked at us and after a few minutes turned and walked back into the woods. Walked, not ran!! We have 2 dogs, that were in the house at the time. One is about the same size as the coyote but one is a little thing and now I'm worried about putting her in the pen. I just hope the coyote finds enough food somewhere else so as to not to come looking for my pet to have as lunch.

gjsw
0
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gjsw 01/29/10 - 12:48 pm
0
0
We live on Columbia Rd in

We live on Columbia Rd in Appling and in the last week, had a coyote that came into our yard. He went into our dog pen looking for food. This was not the first time. We took pictures of it from the backdoor and it didn't seem scared at all. It just looked at us and after a few minutes turned and walked back into the woods. Walked, not ran!! We have 2 dogs, that were in the house at the time. One is about the same size as the coyote but one is a little thing and now I'm worried about putting her in the pen. I just hope the coyote finds enough food somewhere else so as to not to come looking for my pet to have as lunch.

gemini1030
0
Points
gemini1030 01/29/10 - 02:39 pm
0
0
I have seen 3 coyotes in the

I have seen 3 coyotes in the last couple of years. From Doug Bernard around the aiport and out on Hwy 56 just past the Boy Scout camp. They are sneaky and very adaptive. One of the ones I saw on Hwy 56 was walking down in the concrete ditch below the level of the road where he was better camoflaged. They are all around Richmond county.

jiclemens
0
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jiclemens 01/29/10 - 06:36 pm
0
0
I look forward to the results

I look forward to the results of the studies. Coyotes are an important part of the ecosystem. We could benefit from some of the lessons learned in Yellowstone regarding protecting the wolf and some of the issues of protecting domestic livestock. We hunt deer here for pleasure, they hunt it to survive. Their populations are naturally regulated by their food supply. When it runs out, they will attack farm animals, or a few older and weaker predators will attack farm animals. The attitude of some that some species deserve annihilation is arrogant and short-sighted. Those, including hunters, who try to intelligently manage populations are Earth's stewards, not 'tree-huggers.' All creatures deserve respect for the role they play in the ecosystems we share.

KSL
143687
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KSL 01/29/10 - 07:14 pm
0
0
Coyotes have been part of our

Coyotes have been part of our ecosystem here in the CSRA for just a brief period of time and we survived nicely quite a long time without them. They are like kudzu.

corgimom
38356
Points
corgimom 01/29/10 - 08:16 pm
0
0
If you put a dog outside, or

If you put a dog outside, or if you allow a cat outside, yes, sooner or later a coyote will get it. Big dogs aren't exempt, either, a pack can take down a big dog. And if you leave food outside, or uncovered trash (pour ammonia or bleach on your trash to deter them), they WILL come. It's like a coyote version of Golden Corral. Lived with them in California, it's no big deal. Wait until you hear them yipping and howling at night.

corgimom
38356
Points
corgimom 01/29/10 - 08:18 pm
0
0
And make sure your pet has an

And make sure your pet has an updated rabies vaccine.

TheGeorgian
432
Points
TheGeorgian 01/29/10 - 08:44 pm
0
0
AutumnLeaves should be

AutumnLeaves should be advised that 30906 extends south all the way to Burke County. Yes, we have coyote and, yes, they run in packs. They've been around for a while and, no, I am not going to say where they live because we have enough birdbrains running around taking pot shots at deer and endangering area kids. Put mothballs in trash cans/bags....three per bag...and nothing will bother your garbage. When I lived in rural TN in the early 1980s I was told that some fool wrote to DC saying that rabbits were eating the entire state and nothing could be farmed there and that farmers had killed off all the coyotes which kept the man-eating rabbits in check. DC wanted to spend five thousand tax dollars each to bring in western coyotes to 'save the state.' Planned to release them at Land Between the Lakes in western middle TN. Outraged farmers stated that there never had been coyotes in TN and there were no rabbits either. Crops failed due to drought year after year. After a mob threatened to shoot on delivery any coyotes taken to Land Between the Lakes, the coyotes must have been delivered elsewhere..... If you want to keep small animals/livestock safe, buy a donkey and put with them. Meanwhile, enjoy the canine concert when the moon is full. Without the extinct Georgia red wolf the coyotes are here to stay.

dstewartsr
20393
Points
dstewartsr 01/30/10 - 09:04 am
0
0
Nice piece of agitprop. Read

Nice piece of agitprop. Read carefully; everything saying coyotes are okay is "stated", or "said." The view that they're not is "claimed." ''Most of the fears are usually exaggerated,'' Dr. Lydeard said." This about a forty pound pack hunting carnivore. "(I)...don't foresee an increase in livestock attacks or a depletion of deer." And I suspect his results will show precisely those results-- given the obvious bias shown here. This is in the face of the article cited above that showed precisely the opposite. Talk about your tree-hugger outcome based research.

jiclemens
0
Points
jiclemens 01/30/10 - 10:43 am
0
0
actually they've been around

actually they've been around the southeast since we settled the country. If we had left the red wolves alone they wouldn't be here. We would just have a different predator to wage war with.

gargoyle
20774
Points
gargoyle 01/30/10 - 04:45 pm
0
0
There is at least one

There is at least one resident and a few transient coyotes in the 30904 area ... From the looks of them the cat and Yorkie diet is keeping them healthy and fit .... Saw the resident first about 3 years ago not believing what I saw I got a call and darn if it didn't howl back ... Since then every once in a while I'll call and see how many respond .... The first one I saw was in Burk County near Keysville about 10 years ago, I'd heard them howling long before that ...

crackerjack
153
Points
crackerjack 02/01/10 - 01:50 am
0
0
I saw one last week in the

I saw one last week in the City Managers office.

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