Thursday, November 8, 2012


My concern has deepened with the viewing of these shots from the trail camera on what I initially thought was perhaps one of the kits born this spring.  Daytime photos have raised questions and I am concerned it is possibly a coyote.  Within the last 10 years, the coyote population has spiked now calling for controls via hunting.  I have sent a copy of the photo to the "Ask a Natuaralist" at the Museum of Natural History for help in identifying.

Other than quick glimpes of coyote now and then, I don't have the comparison expertise.  What I can see from comparing this canid with the numerous  Gray Fox photos I have gotten, is it lacks the black mask on the muzzel, appears taller and just has a different look about its head.  Its markings are also quite different with a more mottled appearance of the fur.

Looking at the sequence of photos, fox in the area immediately departed upon arrival of this canid.  I will be anxious to hear back from the naturalist.  I would really hate to see a coyote population get established in the area as they have such a negative impact on the native fox population.

I found the below information in a study done by the NC Wildlife Commission.

Source:  NC Wildlife Commission Report - Fox and Coyote Populations Sudy - April 1, 2012

 "Although they are a relatively new arrival to our state, coyotes are now established in all 100 counties across NC........Extensive efforts have been devoted to controlling coyotes across the U.S., but despite these extensive control attempts coyotes have continued to expand their range.

The first reported sighting of a coyote in N.C. was in Gaston County in 1938.  The first confirned coyotes that were collected came from Johnston County (1955) and Wake Country (1970).  Until the late 1980s, coyotes seen in North Carolina were likely due to illegal importation and release.  By 1990, coyotes began to appear in western North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Coyotes in North Carolina are smaller than wolves, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts.  The tails is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down.  Their color is typically dark gray, but can range from blonde to black.  Adjults are about the size of a medium-sized dog and may weith between 20 and 45 pounds.  In N.C., coyotes may be mistaken for dogs or red wolves, and the existence of both dog-coyote bybrids and red wolf-coyote hybrids can make identification difficult.

Coyotes feed on a wide variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain.  Primary foods include fruite, berries, pet food left outside, small mammals (coles, rats and mice), deer, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects.  Coyotes will also prey on livestock and domestic pets.

Coyote home ranges can vary from between 1,000 and 16,000 acres depending on season, habitat and food availability.  Preferred habitats range from agricultural fields to forested regiuons and suburban neighborhoods.  Coyotes usualluy fig their own den, but they will sometimes enlarge an old animal hole or use a natural hole in a rocky ledge as a den.  Dens are usually hidden from view and use by coyotes to birth their young and sleep.

Coyotes mate for life and breeding occurs from January through early March.  Pups are born in March and April and the typical litter size is six to eight pupts.  The family unit usually begins to disperse by late November or Devember.  In many cases, one pup stays behing as a "helper" fo rthe nest year's little.  Coyotes are territorial and actively keep non-family members outside of their home range.  Dispersal rates are high and distances can be extensive; several coyotes in North Carolina have dispersed more than 200 miles in just a few months.  When an individual coyote or family group leaves or is removed, new coyotes will usually move into the vacated terriroty.  These territories frequently overlap with a transient coyote that is searching for a mate or its own territory.  This transient nature of the population makes estimating the number of coyotes in a particular area difficult, which, in trun, makes controlling coyote populations difficult.

Coyotes readily adapt to suburban and urban environments once throught unsuitable and they exhibit great plasticiity in their behaviou and diet.  The  coyote is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent.  They are naturally wary of people and will avoid areas in which thtreats are perceived.  They will also become acclimated to humans in the absence of threats, such as hunting and trapping, and in areas where typically unnatural food, such as pet food, garbage and unsupervisted small pets, are readily available.

(paragraph on hunting regulations excluded)

Coyotes can be useful in keeping prey species such as rodents, and groundhogs in balance with their habitat, and removing feral cars, which negatively impact many wildlife species, especially birds.  However, coyotes are currently a focus of attention in N.C. because they also prey on livestock, other wildlife species, such as deer, that are important to our citizens, and dmoestice pets."

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