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New 411 on the canine we all love to hate, Wile E. Coyote

Evidently art does not always imitate life. In the classic Looney Tunes cartoons Wile E. Coyote doesn’t live up to his self-proclaimed genius status. The scraggly canine of the desert can’t seem to do anything right and is constantly bested by the Roadrunner who although fleet of foot doesn’t seem to be exactly the sharpest pencil in the box.
The coyote is always hungry and try as he might, he never catches the skinny little bird who doesn’t have a lot of lines to memorize for the show.
In real life the coyote is quite different.
The coyote is a highly intelligent, very adaptable predator that has quickly made his way to the top of the food chain in most of the states east of the Big Muddy river. Coyotes have also become the most vilified form of wildlife, in the eastern US at least, in the past hundred years. Everybody hates the coyote now, deer hunters, turkey hunters, bird and small game hunters, most everyone in the hunting and outdoor arena. Almost any shortage of any type of game or other wildlife is usually blamed on Mr. Coyote. To matters worse (for the coyotes) there is now a contingent of people, most of which are not hunters, who have now joined the ranks of the coyote haters.
It is common now for coyotes to inhabit areas around towns or even large cities and partake of the bounty of people’s small pets, cats and dogs. Trappers and other wildlife experts have known for some time that the coyote has a real sweet tooth when it comes to house cats, they really like them. Maybe they are just the right size and kind of easy to catch. Maybe coyotes just eat anything they can catch anyway, I’m not sure. It also seems that a coyote will not turn down the odd Yorkshire Terrier, Shiatzu, or other small dog as well. Point is the coyote seems to go out of his way to make enemies. Or maybe they are just hungry.
Those of you out there that follow all this, I know what you are thinking. I have not addressed the most prevalent and tenacious fairytale about the coyote and that is how he got here in the east to begin with. I may be able to grimace and get this typed out, but the fable goes that various state Natural Resources agencies hauled coyotes into your state and released them. Secretly, in the dark of night, and didn’t tell anyone, not a soul, that they did this. Coyotes, if you didn’t know, now inhabit every state east that big muddy river I mentioned earlier. From St. Louis to Virginia Beach, from the Canadian border in Maine to the tropics in Florida. So, that many DNR people on this side of North America got all those animals transported and released and no one ever said anything or spilled the beans. This would be the biggest clandestine conspiracy pulled off by the government in the past 100 years.
Boys and girls, it didn’t happen.
Yet there are people out there that believe this with all their heart. I know, I have talked to several of them and they want to convince you of this coyote scenario as much as the guy that claims he was abducted by aliens and they took out his gall bladder or whatever. OK, don’t make me talk about that again for a long time, OK?
The main reason I started this little clambake was to tell you that some serious scientists have done some studies on the coyote and the results are very interesting.
In an article on the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) website, “How much Venison are Coyotes eating?” Dr. Mike Chamberlain and Dr. Joey Hinton outline a study they did on coyotes in North Carolina from 2009 to 2011.
“During 2009-2011, we studied coyotes in northeastern North Carolina, and during that same time other studies on eastern coyotes revealed interesting information about coyote ecology and how coyotes could influence deer populations. The findings of these studies provided the impetus for what we refer to as the Tri-State Coyote Project, which was a cooperative effort across three states and multiple agencies. Funded by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the objective of the Tri-State Project was to study coyote populations at broad spatial scales and learn how coyote populations are structured on the landscape. Moreover, we wanted to assess prey selection of coyotes to determine potential impacts of coyotes on local deer herds. What we found has important implications for deer hunters.”
Up to this point studies on coyotes had been done in much smaller areas. This is important because this study revealed what a lot of wildlife biologists had suspected, some coyotes have a huge range. They also found there is often two different types of coyotes present.
From the QDMA article, “Most coyote research in the eastern United States has occurred on relatively small study areas of 100 to 150 square miles. We learned in North Carolina that coyote populations function at much larger spatial scales in excess of 2,500 square miles, as we still had coyotes disperse from such a large study area and move well away from it.”
“So, for the Tri-State Project we hired professional trappers to capture 190 coyotes across broad sections of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. We fitted each coyote with a GPS collar, which relayed their locations to us every few days. We programmed collars to collect six locations each day so we could describe territory sizes, habitat used, survival and interactions among coyotes. Once collars began sending data, it became clear we had coyotes using large areas of the landscape.”
“We noted there are two types of coyotes – residents and transients. Residents maintain territories that average about 7 square miles, whereas transients move around the landscape looking for open territories, typically using more than 25 square miles. Some of these transients traveled hundreds of miles before either dying or finding a territory. We found that when a resident was shot, trapped, or otherwise killed, a transient quickly filled the void – think days or a few weeks, not months.”
Well, I could tell you more about what the study found out about coyotes, but I went on too long there in the beginning. You will have to go to the QDMA website and read it for yourself, it is pretty fascinating. If you are a hunter and have a dislike for the coyote as most of us do, you need to check it out and read up on this study. If you are a serious deer hunter you should consider joining QDMA anyway.
And don’t call me about that coyote release fable unless you find out that Bigfoot was involved.

Hunter with a coyote taken while turkey hunting.