Keeping the Wild in Wildlife Series | Coyotes (Canis latrans)

by on March 14, 2014

Wildlife photographers have a number of responsibilities — we already know the drill, but let’s keep photographing, documenting, observing and learning from the amazing animals we come across. We can in turn educate those around us through our own photography. Conservation, appreciation, avoiding human-wildlife conflict, the possibilities of education are endless. It’s a powerful tool … sometimes we all need a little reminding or nudge, myself included. Case in point:

This week an Edmonton woman and her 3 dogs found themselves surrounded by a pack of up to coyotes to no fault of her own, which led to an attack on one of the dogs; thankfully the woman is okay. I’ll let the linked article tell the story, but please read on for more information. I thought this was a really good time to briefly discuss human-coyote conflict, with the hopes someone will be reading with interest.

 

A pregnant coyote pauses whilst looking for food during a mid-winter morning at Elk Island National Park, Alberta wildlife

 

Coyote fast facts from Alberta Environment and Parks (formerly Alberta ESRD):

Habitat

  • The coyote is highly adaptable, and can be found in all terrestrial habitats in Alberta
  • Hares and mice are the most important prey species, but the carrion of livestock and other large mammals is often the most important winter food source in some areas
  • Coyotes seldom hunt in packs but occasionally several may gather at carcasses or other communal feeding sites

Diet

  • Coyotes primarily feed on rabbits, mice and squirrels
  • Blueberries and other fruits are also consumed

Behavioural 

  • Coyotes are highly curious, intelligent and adaptable
  • Coyotes are opportunists
  • Mating season occurs generally February or March

Bottom line — coyotes aren’t going anywhere, folks, and that’s the way it should be. Coyotes are NOT an animal to fear (no animals are). It’s our job and responsibility to learn how to adapt to changing conditions with respect to wildlife. With urban sprawl (or responsible growth, both interpretations up for debate), we continue to encroach into their backyards … their space. I’ve seen more dead coyotes on the road out here in the Stony / Spruce areas along highway 16A, 16 and 60 in the past 5 years than I have in the probably the previous 10 years. The continued, absurd development out by Spruce Grove is proof new developments and expanding city / county lines are not slowing down anytime soon. So what is a wild animal to do when their habitat is rapidly changing beneath their feet? I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. One thing I know we can do is to educate ourselves, our children and those around us on how to best anticipate potential human – wildlife conflict by being proactive rather than reactive.

You and a coyote cross paths. What should you do? Straight again from Alberta Environment and Parks:

  • If you encounter a coyote, make the experience unpleasant for the animal. Make it feel unwelcome in your neighbourhood. Even if you are not concerned about problems with coyotes, they should not feel comfortable around us or our homes.
  • Respond to their presence aggressively by making yourself appear larger. Wave your arms overhead, or thrust long objects like a walking stick toward the coyote.
  • Throw rocks, sticks or other objects toward the animal.
  • Shout in a deep voice and maintain eye contact.
  • If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move toward buildings or human activity if the coyote continues to approach.
  • Do not turn away or run. This will encourage the coyote to chase you.

 

A young coyote (canis latrans) strolls through Elk Island National Park during an early autumn morning, looking for food, Alberta wildlife. Sidney Blake Photography. No. 0324.

 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to observe coyotes in their natural habitat — true wild coyotes lucky enough not to have suffered human interference, potentially altering their behaviour, it’s a truly spectacular sight. The sounds of coyotes speaking to one another is bone-chilling and eerily awesome. Coyotes are very beautiful, interesting, inquisitive creatures and they are absolutely fascinating to watch. They are skilled hunters with ultra sharp hearing and they find their prey in a calculated manner. Nothing happens by accident for the coyote …….that is, until humans step in, where then the consequences for the animal and possibly us, can be brutal, with all too often an animal being euthanized in the name of public safety.

Resources to check out:

Alberta Environment and Parks » Coyote (Canin latrans)

Alberta Environment and Parks » Human-Coyote Conflict

Coyote » by Wyman Meinzer

The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project

Please contact me for more resources if you need them and I’ll do my best to get you information. Please educate yourself and those around you on our coyotes. Not only will you feel better prepared for any potential interactions, but you may end up having a new appreciation for an intelligent, beautiful and extremely interesting wild species. I’ve written up a separate post for general wildlife viewing and I’ll be posting it at some point next month. Stay tuned, y’all.

Stay safe and please think about your impact on our wild world.

 

See you in the field!

 

 


Sidney

Photographer. Wildlife and nature conservation advocate. Health and safety pro. Edmonton Oilers lovah. Fond of all things Johnny Cash.

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