Coyotes are one animal that is likely to be around for a long time, particularly in the vicinity of man. They can often be found in rural areas near towns, and while they are cautious of man, they are not particularly scared to be around mankind or his dwellings.
The numbers of coyotes can fluctuate widely, dependent to a large degree on the number of prey that is in an area. Being among natures most proficient mouse exterminators, their populations peek when rodent populations reach their maximum in any given area.
Coyotes can be a great benefit to man, and in many areas, the converse has been learned the hard way. For instance, for many years in Southern Oregon, coyote numbers were very large. A bounty was finally initiated to remove the ‘excess’ number of coyotes. Few people except Native Americans in the area gave a thought to the fact that there are built in limitations in the numbers, directly related to food supply.
Within less than a decade, there were indeed fewer coyotes in the area. However, mouse, rat, and muskrat populations exploded to a point never before seen in the region. The number of other mouse eating carnivores such as hawks, eagles, and cougars, did increase, but it wasn’t enough to offset the fewer number of coyotes, and the increase wasn’t as fast as it would have been for coyotes. As put by retired wildlife naturalist Richard Hayden, “People should have known better to begin with. Thankfully, coyote populations can increase quickly, so if there is no bounty, it only takes a few years for the numbers to get back to normal.”
There was still the need to educate many people who thought that coyotes regularly preyed on cats, dogs, sheep, cattle, deer and other big game. Only very gradually did farmers and ranchers begin to understand that while the coyote might eat one of these animals if that animal was already dead, it is exceedingly rare for one to actually attack any of these animals. They will indeed eat the fresh kills of other animals if they have a chance to, though.
The wild population has built back up in Oregon and in many other states, since coyotes are one animal that occurs naturally in virtually every state and most of the Canadian provinces. Once again, the camper traveling into the wilds can be serenaded by the sometimes-plaintive call of a pack of coyotes hunting in the night. At the same time, once again we are no longer overrun by enormous numbers of rodents.
Adding to the spread of the coyote and the increased numbers, as well as a reason that many farmers despise them, coyotes will also eat almost anything that’s edible, in order to survive. This means that if they enter towns, they may go through garbage cans for a few morsels of food, creating a mess as they do so. In rural areas, they have little hesitation when it comes to picking off poultry or eating fruits and vegetables.
It appears that the coyote population is on the rise, as is the range of the animal. Though it was originally limited mostly to the northwestern portion of the US, it can now be found even in deserts and swamps.
Coyotes are creatures that are worthy of keeping around. They are nature’s mousetraps, and their absence is quickly felt. They are also fun to watch, particularly in the winter when they are playing on the ice covering lakes, or in the summer when they are hunting and pouncing on mice in an almost cat-like way. It is likely that they will stick around for a long time to come. Let us at least hope that they will.