Saturday, May 26, 2012

Coyotes in the Northeast...and Ultrarunning


[Image credit Nature]


First, a bit of history from the article in Nature.com:
European colonists took a very different view of the coyote (Canis latrans) and other predators native to North America. The settlers hunted wolves to extinction across most of the southerly 48 states. They devastated cougar and bobcat populations and attacked coyotes. But unlike the other predators, coyotes have thrived in the past 150 years. Once restricted to the western plains, they now occupy most of the continent and have invaded farms and cities, where they have expanded their diet to include squirrels, household pets and discarded fast food.


Then the punch line about adaptability:

Researchers have long known the coyote as a master of adaptation, but studies over the past few years are now revealing how these unimposing relatives of wolves and dogs have managed to succeed where many other creatures have suffered. Coyotes have flourished in part by exploiting the changes that people have made to the environment, and their opportunism goes back thousands of years. In the past two centuries, coyotes have taken over part of the wolf's former ecological niche by preying on deer and even on an endangered group of caribou. Genetic studies reveal that the coyotes of northeastern America — which are bigger than their cousins elsewhere — carry wolf genes that their ancestors picked up through interbreeding. This lupine inheritance has given northeastern coyotes the ability to bring down adult deer — a feat seldom attempted by the smaller coyotes of the west. 

I've only seen a coyote locally on the military base where I worked, on the perimeter road in an overgrown area beside railroad tracks.  It was clearly larger than a fox, although I did not think of it as BIG or any sort of threat.

Perhaps if I were in the backcountry, alone, I might think a tad differently.  But I believe these guys are more critters of the edges rather than of the deep woods, so I'd be more likely to encounter one near my home that on the Appalachian Trail.

In either case I'd count myself lucky to have seen one.

 

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