You can stop the misinformation cycle by doing the following:
The Humane Society of the U.S. and Project Coyote both use the infographic to explain how through indiscriminately hunting or removing any coyotes, coyote family groups are disrupted. This disruption allegedly results in a coyote "mating free for all."
Advocacy groups fail to mention aspects of coyote behavior and biology that contradict their claims. This should cause the average person pause. Are these groups unaware of these well documented facts? Or, are they simply leaving out important information to create confusion among the public and policy makers?
Dr. Eric Gese who currently works at the National Wildlife Research Center in Logan, Utah and is currently a professor at the Department of Wildlands Resources at Utah State University. When asked about the infographic his response was "oversimplified and unproven." Dr. Gese has been working with coyotes and producing studies on their behavior and biology for decades.
Aspects of coyote behavior and biology ignored by the infographic:
Its difficult to have a mating frenzy when coyote females are fertile for a short period of time in March. "Coyotes are monoestrus meaning they only go into heat once a year usually in the first part of March, lasting 10 days." (Kennelly 1976)
The infographic relies on the idea that coyotes primarily live in family groups with only one breeding pair that prevent other coyotes from breeding. While generally true, how coyotes actually live is quite different than portrayed by HSUS. Coyotes live as both transient and resident coyotes. A recent study found out of the 147 coyotes collared, 60 coyotes (40.8%) were residents and 48 (26.5%) were transients for the entire time they were monitored, whereas 39 (26.5%) coyotes exhibited both residency and transiency. (Ward et al. 2018)
The infographic fails to explain how 60 to 90% of female coyotes produce litters annually and 0 to 70% of yearling females produce litters annually (based on food availability).
"The percentage of females that breed in a given year varies with local conditions. Food supply is usually the prime factor, in good years, more females, especially yearlings, breed. Usually, about 60-90% of adult females and 0-70% of female yearlings will produce litters." (Wild Animals of North America; biology, management, and conservation/Feldhamer, Thompson, Chapman pp 46-481)
There is no evidence to show removal of coyotes leads to pack disruption. In "Foraging ecology of coyotes (Canis latrans): the influence of extrinsic factors and a dominance hierarchy" co-authored by Project Coyote Science Advisor Robert Crabtree and Dr. Eric Gese. In the study it was observed when packs were disrupted by vehicle strikes or other unknown occurrences, beta coyotes take the place of alpha coyotes.
There is no evidence to support the idea removing the occasional problem coyote from an urban environment or hunting coyotes over a broad region initiates a coyote mating free for all. The fact coyotes are monoestrus and switch between living as both transient and as part of a family group proves their theory oversimplified if not outright false. It's merely propaganda designed to create opposition to any lethal control of coyotes and coyote hunting.
The idea is that if humans leave coyotes alone, they will self regulate. While coyotes often maintain territories also known as resource partitioning, the self regulation ends there.
Studies indicate coyote populations are generally regulated by food availability.
"Litter size was significantly related to rabbit abundance, while rodent abundance was less of a factor influencing reproductive effort. Accounting for both changes in prey abundance and coyote density, litter size was significantly related to total prey abundance/coyote. With increasing prey and reduced coyote density, mean litter size doubled in the removal area compared to pre-removal levels; females in the non-removal area also increased litter size in response to increased rabbit abundance." (Gese 2005)
Ironically, advocates misquote this study to claim lethal control of coyotes leads to more coyotes, ignoring the fact increased food availability led to increased coyote pup litter size in both the area where coyotes were being removed and the area where they were not being removed.
More on quality of food, From: "The percentage of females that breed in a given year varies with local conditions. Food supply is usually the prime factor, in good years, more females, especially yearlings, breed. Usually, about 60-90% of adult females and 0-70% of female yearlings will produce litters." (Bekoff Gese 2003)
Estimates of coyote population densities throughout the West and Midwest are typically 0.2 to 1.5 coyotes per square mile and occasionally 5 to 10 coyotes per square mile.
Suburban coyotes in Southern California were found to occupy home ranges as small as 0.25 to 0.56 square mile. This suggests that suburban environments are extraordinarily rich in resources for coyotes, leading to high densities. (Timm et al 2004)
With few natural predators throughout most of their range coupled with an omnivorous diet and 60% to 90% of coyote females producing litters of 4 to 6 pups per year; no reasonable person could possibly believe coyotes are capable of self regulating their population.
The implied messages are these: We are building on historic coyote habitat; coyotes were here first; we are encroaching on their habitat; coyotes have a right to be here.
Historically, human encroachment on wildlife habitat and loss of habitat have negatively impacted many wildlife species, but the coyote isn’t one of them. Coyotes have benefited from human alterations to the North American landscape. While historically we’ve displaced coyotes in some places where cities and towns grew, at the same time coyotes have been spreading across the continent, perhaps more successfully than another mammal except humans.
Ironically, in the past 20 years, we’ve witnessed a dramatic reversal of this encroachment process: coyotes are actually encroaching on our habitat, and they are doing so at an unprecedented rate. In metropolitan areas, predominately human habitat, we have created safe, superior habitat for coyotes. They aren’t forced to live among us – they choose to live among us. Therefore, we (i.e., property owners, city administrators, wildlife professionals) should be dictating where and how coyotes live, not vice versa. We shouldn’t have to be held captive in our own homes or backyards simply because coyotes have moved into our neighborhoods.
Current policy should not consider urban pets simply “part of the food chain.” At some point, we need to draw a line on the asphalt and warn coyotes that they are now entering “people country.”
Wildlife management is not about who has rights to be here based on who got here first. Many of those claiming "coyotes were here first" live in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. most of which were settled by Native Americans, centuries before European settlement.
In Los Angeles, the Tongva were living in Southern California 3,500 years ago.
In the Southwest U.S. (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah) the Navajo inhabited these areas in the 1400s.
In Chicago, one of the first major cities to study urban coyotes and advocate coexistence, the Illiniwek Indians and Miami tribe inhabited the land in the 1600's, about 150 years before the area was ceded to the U.S.
Modern wildlife management seeks to maintain and restore appropriate balances between the needs of wildlife and man. Claiming coyotes lived here first is not an argument and seeks to deflect from meaningful discussion regarding how we manage urban wildlife.
Animal advocates often claim domestic dogs, bee stings or errant champagne corks pose a greater threat to safety than coyotes. These argument fail to provide proper context and is a "red herring" used to distract from the need to manage coyotes posing a public safety threat.
Comparing wild coyotes to domesticated dogs is not an apples to apples comparison. This argument fails to consider dogs have been selectively bred for centuries to work for us and be our companions. We spend far more time in much closer proximity to our dogs than coyotes.
Once again, advocacy groups fail to provide proper perspective or context. Their objective is to downplay any threat urban coyotes pose to people and their pets. One study found a predictable behavioral pattern demonstrated by coyotes leading to attacks on pets and people.
"Based on an analysis of coyote attacks previously described, there is a predictable sequence of observed changes in coyote behavior that indicates an increasing risk to human safety (Baker and Timm 1998). We now define these changes, in order of their usual pattern of occurance as follows:
1) An increase in observing coyotes on streets and in yards at night
2) An increase in coyotes approaching adults and/or taking pets at night
3) Early morning and late afternoon daylight observance of coyotes on streets and in parks and yards
4) Daylight observance of coyotes chasing or taking pets
5) Coyotes attacking and taking pets on leash or in close proximity to their owners; coyotes chasing joggers, bicyclists, and other adults
6) Coyotes seen in and around children’s play areas, school grounds, and parks in mid-day
7) Coyotes acting aggressively toward adults during mid-day.
Admittedly, we are seeing human-coyote conflicts in urban settings rise to unprecedented levels, and most are quite recent. To date, coyotes have attacked people in at least 19 states and 4 Canadian provinces (Timm and Baker 2007).
As humans, the idea of coexistence implies we follow the social constructs of mutual respect and understanding regardless of race, gender, religion, socio-economic background, culture etc. We accomplish this through education and social peer pressure determining what is acceptable and unacceptable. When humans behave in a way society deems unacceptable we have laws to address these transgressions. Starting with education and depending on the nature of the offense, imprisonment up to the penalty of death.
The same cannot be said for coyotes. Often, when coyotes attack pets or children, the blame is often placed squarely on humans instead of the offending animal.
Municipalities and animal control agencies often apply a double standard to offending wildlife when compared to domestic dogs. Most agencies would quickly euthanize a domestic dog for attacking and killing another dog. Coyotes are given a pass for the same behavior.
Dogs and coyotes are canines and are both ancestors of wolves. Canids attack for the same reasons; hunger, dominance, territoriality and self defense. We need to apply the same rules to coyotes as we do other domestic animals. Groups like PETA and local Humane Societies often put down thousands of cats and dogs yearly for lack of homes (overpopulation), or they're found unadoptable for behavioral problems.
This hypocrisy should be especially concerning since many consider family pets as part of the family. Its not a surprise to find out that as much as 20% of those who have lost pets to coyotes suffer symptoms of PTSD. STUDY
Coexistence implies we should allow coyotes to expand their range into human habitat, setting a dangerous precedent placing the welfare of coyotes ahead of public safety, pets livestock, and urban wildlife.
Coyotes are highly adaptable, opportunistic, fairly large predators that exploit environments and assert their dominance in order to survive. That’s all they “know to do.” Coyotes explore and exploit whatever niche is available to them until something constrains them.
In Yellowstone National Park, that constraint is the reintroduction of wolves (Canis lupus). Where wolves are now present, coyote densities have dropped. While some wolves have attacked and killed coyotes, most of this change is behavioral: coyote have learned to avoid wolves, but they remain present in good numbers in areas where wolves are scarce. It took relatively few coyote deaths by wolves to condition remaining coyotes to lay low or move out of wolf areas. I hypothesize that coyotes in suburbia don’t behave any differently than coyotes in Yellowstone. "As successive generations of urban coyotes become more habituated to people, they will exploit that environment and assert their dominance until something (or someone) gives them good reason to be wary of humans." (Oleyar 2010)
Much of the behavior we see in urban coyotes today is not really new. Habituated coyotes were observed begging tourists for food in Yellowstone as early as 1947 , and in God’s Dog, author Hope Ryden (1975) describes a Yellowstone coyote jumping into her car and refusing to leave.
Trapping and euthanizing coyotes that demonstrate problmatic behavior as part of an overall management plan that includes education is reasonable and necessary to keep a healthy coyote population in balance. We should condition coyotes to be wary of humans, not the other way around.
Comparing coyotes to urban dogs fails miserably. It is not an apples to apples comparison. The objective seems to focus on downplaying any threat urban coyotes pose to people and their pets or take into consideration the extreme emotional distress often experienced by those who lose a pet to coyotes.
Coyotes and dogs are just not compatible
Advocacy groups ignore the fact coyotes often view dogs like they would any other canid; as competition for territory, food, and mates. Coyotes protect their territory just like many dogs would protect a yard.
While advocates claim coyotes do not view your dogs as prey, what does the science say about how coyotes interact with dogs and other canid (dog-like) species?
"The presence of pets in the diet did not coincide with the increase of pet conflicts... in December and January, supporting the hypothesis that coyote conflict with pets is primarily driven by competition or a threat response" (Poessel et al. 2017).
Interspecific killing (killing occurring among different species) appears to be common in carnivore communities (Peterson 1995) (Palomares and Caro 1999).
Coyotes may not tolerate red foxes in some areas (Voigt and Earle 1983; Major and Sherburne 1987; Sargeant et al 1987: Harrison et al. 1989: Sargent and Allen 1989) but appear to be more tolerant of red foxes when food is abundant (Gese et al. 1996d). Coyotes also will kill many of the small canids, particularly swift, kit, and gray foxes.
On the emotional stress caused by coyote attacks on pets.
"although it is obvious that the loss of a pet would cause distress, the fact that 20% of pet owners report symptoms of PTSD, raises some important management implications surrounding the response or handling of these incidents. Humans now view pets as family members and thereby the loss of the animal (regardless of how small – e.g. Chihuahua) has the significance of a loss of a child to some individuals. As a result, response by agencies should reflect a level of concern for these losses and address the issue with regard appropriate. Despite the difficulty in relating to this condition for all involved, the loss is real for the individual. (Alexander Quinn 2008)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can occur in anyone who experiences or witnesses a life-threatening or violent event. These events include but are not limited to military combat, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, automobile accidents, and personal attacks.
Traumatic experiences have an effect on people. Some have difficulty sleeping other feel detached from everyday life. While others suffer nightmares or flashbacks. Over the course of a few weeks, these symptoms usually go away. When they don't, or when they later re-emerge, a person is said to have PTSD. About one in three people with PTSD develop a long-lasting form of the disorder.
The emotional costs are high; PTSD disrupts daily life. It makes it hard to do your job and complicates relationships with family and friends. It often leads to divorce and parenting problems.
There are also financial costs involved with treating PTSD. "The cost of treating a typical patient with P.T.S.D. averaged $8,300... the first year of treatment with the P.T.S.D.-specific therapy averaged $4,100" (Cushman 2012)
These are serious issues that deserve serious consideration. Coexistence places the burden squarely on people and pets unaccustomed to dealing with wild predatory mammals. Urban coyotes and domestic dogs are simply incompatible. The emotional damage that comes with witnessing these attacks for some should not continue to go unanswered.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) is responsible for managing the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species throughout the state and its waterways. CDFW's jurisdiction and responsibility doesn't just end at city limits.
Currently, the CDFW has been advocating cities coexist with coyotes. This policy not only fails to address the behavioral problems of coyotes and their high reproductive rate, it seems this policy does not align with current department policy.
Policies and Objectives
1801. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state to encourage the preservation, conservation, and maintenance of wildlife resources under the jurisdiction and influence of the state. This policy shall include the following objectives:
(g) To alleviate economic losses or public health or safety problems caused by wildlife to the people of the state either individually or collectively. Such resolution shall be in a manner designed to bring the problem within tolerable limits consistent with economic and public health considerations and the objectives stated in subdivisions (a), (b) and (c).
Coyote coexistence also seems to be inconsistent with how other predatory mammals such as bear and mountain lions are managed.
Mountain lions; Mountain lions that threaten people are immediately killed. Those that prey on pets or livestock can be killed by a property owner after the required permit is secured. (CDFW1)
Black Bears: Section 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code states that landowners may kill a bear encountered in the act of molesting or injuring livestock. In the case of a problem bear, the law provides for the issuance of a depredation permit to landowners or tenants who experience property damage from bears. (CDFW2)
So, with bears and mountain lions, the department will actively manage the species and or allow the landowner to secure a depredation permit while coyotes, on the other hand, we are simply told to "coexist" aka, learn to live with them?
Please urge the Department of Fish & Wildlife to explain these inconsistencies in their policy and explain why the burden of wildlife management is being placed on cities when the CDFW is supposed to be the sole agency in California tasked with managing wildlife throughout the state.
CDFW, Keep Me Wild: California Mountain Lions (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Lion)
CDFW, Black Bear Depredation Policy in California, (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Black-Bear/Depredation)
The idea is that if removed, coyotes magically compensate by having larger litters and breeding more frequently.
Practically every study examining coyote reproduction makes reference to a study conducted by Longhurst and Connelly in 1975. Several articles and studies misquote the Longhurst Connelly study claiming lethal control creates more coyotes when Longhurst and Connelly's model predicts coyote populations can withstand high levels of control, and can recover quickly when control is terminated, the proverbial “rebound effect.” However, there is not a “catapult effect”, as some want to believe. In fact, Connolly himself maintains that those who use the paper to oppose coyote management (i.e.,control) use it inappropriately and out of context. Connelly said “killing coyotes at rates below 75% may merely stimulate reproduction and aggravate the problem,” has “little or no relevance to selective removal of a few problem coyotes, and people who claim otherwise are just damaging their own credibility” from "How Misinformation Fosters Human Coyote Conflict" LINK
In The Effects of Control on Coyote Populations: A Simulation Model LINK Authors Connolly and Longhurst themselves refer to the model as the "if then simulator." In the introduction of the study the authors point out "the model is an abstract representation of a complex biosystem. Like any other model it is a simplification of real phenomena and requires certain assumptions." The authors then point out eight "assumptions" that have to be made in order for the model to function.
One of the most important considerations not accounted for in this study that has been consistently overlooked was quality of habitat. The model does not consider the availability of food and cover between the areas where coyote control was conducted and not It is well documented that food is the primary factor controlling population densities. In a book edited by Project Coyote Science advisor Dr. Mark Bekoff “Coyote Biology, Behavior and Management” Guy E. Connoly points out.“Nearly all animal populations fluctuate irregularly within limits that are extremely restricted compared to what is theoretically possible. Population levels of several species of carnivores have been shown to fluctuate in response to variations in the abundance of their principal prey” “Therefore, it is not surprising that most studies of the factors limiting coyote populations have identified food as the predominant constraint.”
The following is a letter from Dr. Guy Connolly to a concerned citizen regarding the misapplication of the Connolly Longhurst model by animal rights groups to dissuade policy makers from trapping bold urban coyotes.
June 2, 2018
Thanks for your note on May 31st about coyote population dynamics and coyote damage control. I’m sorry that my previous communications weren’t clear. I’ll try to do better this time.
Regarding coyote reproduction increases in response to control, I think I’m getting a bum rap from the people who tell you that coyote numbers will zoom out of sight if any are killed. It’s true that reproduction will increase among the survivors of intensive control programs, but the increase is much less than your critics claim. Plus, you don’t have intensive coyote control in urban situations.
In 1975 I estimated that, compared to a population with no predator control, the number of pups born annually would increase about 10 to 20 percent if 20 to 30 percent of the entire coyote population is killed annually, year after year. Such an increase wouldn’t even be noticeable unless coyote numbers were monitored closely, which they rarely are. And a 20 to 30 percent annual kill is much higher than would ever happen with your urban coyotes.
What I’m saying is that potential increases in coyote births are so low that they’re not relevant in urban coyote damage situations involving a few problem coyotes. The problem individuals are only a small fraction of the coyote population, and their removal can’t reasonably be called intensive population control.
This is why I wrote to Mr. Oleyar that I was surprised to hear my 1975 modeling report being used to argue against killing problem coyotes. The long term population dynamics represented in that model just aren’t relevant to short term management of local damage situations caused by small numbers of problem individuals.
When coyotes are killing pets and threatening children in urban situations, in my opinion the last thing we should do is argue the technicalities of coyote population dynamics. Instead, we should remove the problem coyotes as quickly, efficiently, and humanely as possible. And stop people from feeding the coyotes.
I hope this helps.
Wildlife Research Biologist (Retired)
DON'T TRAP COYOTES, MORE WILL TAKE THEIR PLACE
Advocates attempt to downplay the effectiveness of trapping by claiming trapping is only a temporary solution because other coyotes will quickly come in to fill the void. Well, they're partly right. Trapping once and considering the problem solved is about as silly as getting one haircut and considering that task done.
Successful urban coyote managment plans should include behavior monitoring, education, and trapping when necessary.
Canid biologist Frederick Knowlton who has been studying coyote behavior since 1960, argues that it is necessary to kill coyotes to protect livestock even if the coyotes return. "I've been mowing my grass for 30 years, and it still grows back," he says. "That doesn't mean I'm not doing it right."
Coyotes living in areas without additional irrigation, living off food sources naturally occurring have population densities averaging .4 to 1.3 coyotes per square mile.
Even if every person followed the advice of removing attractants typically found suburban environments there would still be water provided through irrigation. Golf courses, parks, green belts and unimproved areas are practically everywhere in suburbia, providing attractants and cover to rodents, rabbits and other small animals coyotes prey upon.
Even if suburbanites removed the recommended attractants, suburbia would still be an extraordinarily rich environment for coyotes. This ample supply of resources is the major reason coyote populations are on average 8 times higher in cities when compared to their natural environment.
Similarly we are told to bring pets which were traditionally kept outdoors, inside. Pets are made prisoners in their own homes only allowed to go out on supervised bathroom breaks for fear of being attacked by coyotes.
In spite of numerous reports of coyotes attacking pets in backyards included pets being ripped from leashes. Cities like Long Beach California adopted coyote coexistence. Many residents have lived in their communities for decades without any negative interactions with coyotes. Coyote incidents involving people and pets are on the rise. LONG BEACH COYOTE TRACKER
To date, Long Beach leaders refuse to discuss an incident where coyotes likely entered an unsecured residence and removed the remains of Terence Michael Griffin Jr. LINK
Removing attractants is a good policy but does nothing to address coyote population management. Instead it allows coyotes to breed without restraint, placing the burden of coexistence on humans.
Trapping and removing coyotes displaying inappropriate behavior is reasonable and appropriate. Not doing so allows coyotes to increase their population densities to dangerous levels.
Following the lethal attack on a 3-year-old girl in Glendale in August 1981, authorities removed 55 coyotes from within one-half mile (0.8 km) of the attack site over a period of 80 days. LINK .
While generally true, advocates often attempt to humanize coyotes by claiming coyotes as being part of a loving monogamous relationship. Coyotes are considered obligate monogmists, meaning that the success of a litter is dependent on the cooperation of both parents. Canid species reinforce social monogamy with behaviors such as continual proximity of the pair during estrus, displayed mating preferences, absence of unrelated adult conspecifics (member of the same species) in the home range of the breeding pair, and breeding by only 1 pair in the social group .
Extra-pair copulations (EPCs) have been discovered in every canid mating system that has been investigated genetically, regardless that social monogamy was the observed norm. Indeed, some researchers have predicted that EPCs would be discovered in any canid species investigated genetically.
Interestingly in a study co-authored by Project Coyote Science Advisor Robert Crabtree "Foraging ecology of coyotes (Canis latrans): the
influence of extrinsic factors and a dominance hierarchy." LINK The alpha female abandoned the Norris territory for a month and was observed traveling throughout the valley during which time she mated with 3 different males before returning to the territory.
One of the many beneficial claims of coyote advocates is the idea that coyotes control rodents thereby controlling Lyme disease carrying rodents. Well, maybe not.
In an article, Project Coyote Massachusetts representative John Maguranis stated "coyotes are free rodent control" that helps combat Lyme disease. When Phillip J. Baker, Executive Director of The American Lyme Disease Foundation was asked if this rang true, his response was "I know of no data on [coyotes] impact with regard to the spread of Lyme disease,” “I suspect that if there is an impact of coyotes on the spread of Lyme disease, it is likely to be trivial if any.”
Several studies have shown that this premise is not only faulty but coyotes in fact may help increase the instances of Lyme disease by preying on a more efficient predator of mice; fox.
Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease.
Taal Levi, A. Marm Kilpatrick, Marc Mangel and Christopher C. Wilmers
We show that increases in Lyme disease in the northeastern and midwestern United States over the past three decades are frequently uncorrelated with deer abundance and instead coincide with a range-wide decline of a key small-mammal predator, the red fox, likely due to expansion of coyote populations. Further, across four states we find poor spatial correlation between deer abundance and Lyme disease incidence, but coyote abundance and fox rarity effectively predict the spatial distribution of Lyme disease in New York.
Where foxes thrive, Lyme disease doesn't
Dutchess County has consistently ranked among the top counties in the nation for per-capita rates of Lyme disease, caused by the bite of the black-legged tick. Taal Levi, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow from the University of California at Santa Cruz, believes that where the population of foxes declines, Lyme disease increases.
Levi believes that the return in the Northeast of coyotes in the last half-century, which prey on foxes, is leading to fewer foxes in some areas, and a resulting increase in Lyme.
Why anyone continues to feel animal rights groups could be trusted authorities on animal behavior and biology defies logic.
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