Tamping Down Coyote Sensationalism
I've been reading everything I could get in front of my eyeballs on the eastern coyote for a long time, and although I do not know as much about hunting them as I'd like to know, it would be hard to find anyone other than a wildlife biologist who has read more about the natural history of the eastern coyote than I have. Lately, I've see a lot on the Internet about the eastern coyote, and I've watched the TV shows breathlessly telling the audience that evolution of a new species is happening right under our noses. Some of that has come from reputable organizations such as National Geographic, and the Public Broadcasting Service -- and they're offering some baloney.
Not that there isn't such a thing as the eastern coyote. There is, and yes, they're everywhere. But the "fake news" aspect of their reports is that this species hasn't suddenly appeared, and there's nothing surprising about what has happened. (So "fake news" isn't coming to us just in the political realm.)
Today's newspaper column is "Four Truth Bombs about Coyotes." This won't get the attention that the TV shows and Internet reports get, but I wrote them in hopes of countering some of the sensationalism you may have been reading. The bottom line is that the eastern coyote is an adaptable creature (I've drawn them to my call inside the city of Chicago), and that their normal, natural habit is to expand their range. They are a canine, with the same ability to mate with other canines as your teacup poodle has with my miniature dachshund. So as they expanded their range they mated occasionally with Canadian wolves (the ones that didn't eat them), and sometimes with domestic dogs.
One thing the current crop of stories isn't telling you is that the dog mixes don't survive well because when a female coyote bears the young of a domestic dog sire, the offspring tend to come into heat irregularly (like dogs, any time of the year). That's a problem for survival in the wild. Nature times wild canines to bear young only in spring, when they have the best chances of survival.
To balance the sensational stories you may have seen, read my "Four Truth Bombs about Coyotes" at the Olean Times Herald.
Regarding the photos with this blog post, the top photo is from Ridgway, PA in 1938 (courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission), and the bottom photo is one I took on a trail camera in 2011.