Tag: Coyotes

Back to Coyotes!

Hunting, and not for food!

We hate hunting. Period.

It’s sort of alright when the person needs to hunt to stay alive. But in the Western world the incidence of that is pretty remote.

So when author Jim wrote about coyotes and hunting I had to share it with you (and, for the record, both Jean and I are atheists).  Published with Jim’s permission.

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The Incredible Coyote and Western Morality

How killing for fun is not only a Christian Right, but a value

By Jim, August 5th 2018.

Christian vulgarity has reigned it’s bullets down on the North American coyote for over 100 years. The longest standing extermination order in history has killed millions of coyotes and continues its bounty program in most states. Competitive hunts sponsored throughout the nation each year with cash prizes and trophies instill to our kids the right obligation to kill for fun.

“One morning in the late 1930s, the biologist Adolph Murie stood near a game trail in Yellowstone National Park and watched a passing coyote joyously toss a sprig of sagebrush in the air with its mouth, adroitly catch it, and repeat the act every few yards. At the time, Mr. Murie was conducting a federal study intended to prove, definitively, that the coyote was “the archpredator of our time.” But Mr. Murie, whose work ultimately exonerated the animals, was more impressed by that sprig-tossing — proof, he believed, of the joy a wild coyote took in being alive in the world” (1)

The majority of politicians have failed to address this with any passion, and being the good, high moral standard western value Christians that they are, continue the killing spree. A useless torture that drives the coyote without mercy and without effect. “Under persecution, the biologists argued, evolved colonizing mechanisms kicked in for coyotes. They have larger litters. If alpha females die, beta females breed. Pressured, they engage an adaptation called fission-fusion, with packs breaking up and pairs and individuals scattering to the winds and colonizing new areas. In full colonization mode, the scientists found, coyotes could withstand as much as a 70 percent yearly kill rate without suffering any decline in their total population”.

Hunters have their ultimate victim to hunt—one that can outbreed the continued onslaught. How fun is it? While the coyote is hunted for sport, they die in earnest. Leave them to experience their joy, and populations will mitigate in their own necessary way.

Christian values and morals once again are superior delayed in common decency and way off the mark—unless your talking killing for sport.

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I want to add a couple of comments that were left on the post:

Not many christians are bothered by this. Why should they, when you hear them quote from their holy book, that god commanded them to subdue the earth.

It is for this very reason that many christians are nonchalant when we talk about climate change

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The price paid for pointlessly killing predators is a dear one. Moreover, all needless killing of animals is wrong, says the immoral, convinced atheist.

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(to which Jim replied)

Part of the doctrine is to subdue and have dominion. To hell with inferior, soulless life. The ripple effect of what was once naturally flowing is tragic and painful.

Enough said!

Coyote puppies

An obvious follow-on to yesterday’s post.

We all know about how wolves habituated themselves to human all those thousand of years ago but the same is happening to coyotes today.

There was an article on EarthSky on March 28th, 2019 that I want to share with you, and here it is:

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How coyote pups get used to humans

Posted by in | March 28, 2019

Across North America, coyotes are moving into urban environments. While human residents are having to get used to the new animal neighbors, coyotes are also habituating to people.

Seven-week-old coyote pups walk through the research facility in Utah as the mother follows. The first pup carries a bone in its mouth. Image via USDA National Wildlife Research Center/Steve Guymon.

As coyotes are moving into urban environments across North America, many human residents – whether they like it or not – are having to get used to them. Meanwhile, how are coyotes habituating to people?

A new study, published December 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Ecology and Evolution, suggests that coyotes can habituate to humans quickly and that habituated parents pass this fearlessness on to their offspring.

Image via Connar L’Ecuyer via National Park Service/Flickr.

Until the 20th century, coyotes lived mostly in the U.S. Great Plains. But when wolves were hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s, coyotes lost their major predator, and their range began to expand.

With continuing landscape changes, coyotes are now increasingly making their way into suburban and urban environments — including New York City, Los Angeles and cities in the Pacific Northwest — where they live, mainly off rodents and small mammals, without fear of hunters.

The aim of the new study, was to understand how a skittish, rural coyote can sometimes transform into a bold, urban one — a shift that can exacerbate negative interactions among humans and coyotes. University of Washington biologist Christopher Schell is the first author of the study, Schell said in a statement:

Instead of asking, ‘Does this pattern exist?’ we’re now asking, ‘How does this pattern emerge?’.

A key factor, the researchers suggest, might be parental influence. Coyotes pair for life, and both parents contribute equally to raising the offspring. This may be because of the major parental investment required to raise coyote pups, and the evolutionary pressure to guard them from larger carnivores.

The new study observed eight coyote families at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Predator Research Facility in Utah during their first and second breeding seasons. These coyotes are raised in a fairly wild setting, with minimal human contact and food scattered across large enclosures.

Five-week-old coyote pups eat food rations during the experiment. These second-litter pups were born in 2013 to more-experienced parents, and were more likely to approach a human. Image via USDA National Wildlife Research Center/Christopher Schell.

But during the experiment researchers occasionally placed all the food near the entrance of the enclosure and had a human researcher sit just outside, watching any approaching coyotes, from five weeks to 15 weeks after the birth of the litter. Then they documented how soon the coyotes would venture toward the food. Schell said:

For the first season, there were certain individuals that were bolder than others, but on the whole they were pretty wary, and their puppies followed. But when we came back and did the same experiment with the second litter, the adults would immediately eat the food – they wouldn’t even wait for us to leave the pen in some instances.

Parents became way more fearless, and in the second litter, so, too, were the puppies.

In fact, the most cautious pup from the second-year litter ventured out more than the boldest pup from the first-year litter. Schell said:

The discovery that this habituation happens in only two to three years has been corroborated, anecdotally, by evidence from wild sites across the nation. We found that parental effect plays a major role.

He added:

Even if it’s only 0.001 percent of the time, when a coyote threatens or attacks a person or a pet, it’s national news, and wildlife management gets called in. We want to understand the mechanisms that contribute to habituation and fearlessness, to prevent these situations from occurring.

Bottom line: A new study suggests coyotes puppies learn from their parents how to habituate to humans.

Source: Parental habituation to human disturbance over time reduces fear of humans in coyote offspring

Via University of Washington

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I love the fact that coyotes pair for life and take an equal measure of responsibility in bringing up their pups.

Once again, we humans can learn from our natural cousins.

The Song Dog

The North American Coyote

When we let the dogs out last thing on Tuesday evening there was a local pack of coyotes not far from our fence line. Cleo started barking and some of the coyotes responded with their spine-chillingly beautiful howls. The sound really does transport one back thousands of years in a mystical sense.

howling-coyote-picturesI started doing some research as to whether we, as in us humans, had studied what the song of the coyote means. I came across The Natural History of the Urban Coyote website and therein was an article called Translating the Song Dog. It’s a fabulously interesting article and I do hope it’s OK to share with you.

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The scientific name for the coyote is Canis latrans, which translates to “barking dog,” a perfect name for this species which has been called the most vocal of North America’s mammals.

Less formally, the coyote is known as the song dog, and one listen to a group howl by a pack of coyotes makes it clear why. Rather than the simple but soul-haunting sound of a wolf’s howl, the coyote’s howl can be made up of high-pitched howls, barks, and yips that make it clear the coyote has a whole lot of lyrics in a single song. But what exactly do those lyrics say?

The coyote has a range of vocalizations depending on social context and message. In 1978, Philip N. Lehner published his research of coyote communication and what the various vocalizations mean, which has been included in Coyotes: Biology, Behavior, and Management.

“The vocal repertoire of the adult coyote contains eleven vocalizations, several of which are also given by pups. These vocalizations grade into one another such that their separation into eleven types is somewhat arbitrary based on their different sounds, behavior context, and physical characteristics.”

In other words, the coyote language is complex and depends on the social situation, the coyote’s body language in addition to the sounds, the intensity of the vocalization, and other factors. This makes sense considering that when one digs a little into hunting forums, some coyote hunters are convinced they know more than eleven calls for coyotes. Indeed, there are likely more vocalizations when one looks at subtleties.

If you have paid close attention the vocalizations of domestic dogs, especially those more talkative breeds, you’ll likely find it easy to decode coyote sounds. There is a lot of overlap in the sounds dogs, coyotes and other canid species make – from a startled huff to a whine of greeting, from an antagonistic growl to a bark of alarm. But coyotes take the language of canids to another level with their extensive list of sounds, especially the yips, howls, and of course their choral group howls.

Though Lehner notes that it’s a bit arbitrary to categorize coyote sounds, we can at least begin to understand them by breaking them down into the types of sounds they make along with their purpose. So he created the following 11 categories, which can also be considered sign-posts on a gradient of meaning and intensity.

Types of Coyote Vocalizations

1. Growl – This vocalization holds no mystery. A growl is used as a threat, specifically for something within close range.

2. Huff – This is the expulsion of air through the nose and mouth, and is also used as a high-intensity threat in close proximity. Huffs are used, for instance, when there’s bickering over carrion.

3. Woof – This vocalization is made as both a low-intensity threat and as an alarm. It’s a sound made when a coyote is startled and unsure of exactly what is happening, but knows it is not comfortable with whatever it is.

4. Bark – The bark is a long-distance threat or alert of low to medium intensity.

5. Bark-Howl – This is when the coyote gets serious about a threat. The bark-howl is used as a long-distance high-intensity threat or alarm. It starts with a bark and blends into a howl.

What is interesting about the bark and the bark-howl is that research suggests that the varying intensity and frequency of barks could contain different information. More recent research by Brian R. Mitchell has shown that coyotes likely identify individuals by their barks and bark-howls.

“By analyzing spectrograms of howls and barks,” writes Mitchell, “I was able to determine that both of these vocalizations do indeed contain individually specific information.  Because of the tremendous advantage of being able to determine individual identities, I presume that coyotes use the information in barks to identify individuals they are familiar with.”

“Another interesting aspect of coyote barks and howls,” he continues, “is that howls stably convey information for distances of at least one kilometer.  Barks, on the other hand, rapidly attenuated and did not appear suitable for transmitting information.  Barks likely serve other purposes, such as attracting information and providing information that listeners could use to estimate distance to the barking animal.”

Barks and bark-howls, then, can serve in saying, “I’m here, and here’s how I’m feeling” and allow listening coyotes to recognize if those individuals are family or strangers. Mitchell underscores that a coyote recognizing an individual by their howl isn’t about the howling coyote shouting his own name again and again; rather it is akin to how we can recognize a family member or friend by the sound of their voice no matter what they’re saying, because of their unique pitch, timbre, cadence and even accent.

6. Whine – This sound is used to express submission and is usually given by a subordinate coyote to a more dominant coyote.

7. Yelp – The yelp takes the whine up a notch and represents high-intensity submission. However, it can also be a response to being startled. As is the case with several other of these vocalizations, this categorization shows that coyote communication is more of a gradient. Lehner writes, “A yi-e-e-e often precedes or follows the yelp portion and resembles a high-frequency bark [and] appears on a sonogram like a short howl chopped into segments.”

8. Woo-oo-wow – This is the “greeting song” of coyotes, and is used during high-intensity greeting displays. The vocalization modulates in frequency and amplitude as a coyote’s motivation shifts, Lehner notes, and so can fluctuate from a whine to a growl.

9. Lone Howl – The lone howl is just what you probably already know it to be: a howl by a single coyote, which is often started with a series of barks that reseracher R. M. Mengel called “herald barks.” As mentioned above, coyotes can distinguish individuals based on their unique howl, and the purpose of the howl is to announce one’s location to others in their social group. Often, the lone howl gets an answer, and the coyotes can find each other to meet up.

10. Group Howl – A group howl is sent up when two or more coyotes come together after being apart, or it could be given as a response to the howls of distant coyotes. It is, according to Lehner, essentially two or more coyotes giving their own lone howls either successively or simultaneously, as a way of giving out location information to any listeners.

11. Group Yip-Howl – This is what coyotes are really known for. The group yip-howl is sent up when coyotes reunite, or just before they separate to go off hunting individually. As more coyotes join in, the more intense the vocalizations become, increasing in frequency and amplitude. Lehner notes that the group yip-howl includes sounds that researcher H. McCarley called screams, gargles and laughs. In other words, the many variations of coyote vocalizations show up in this chorus.

According to Lehner, the group yip-howl probably strengthens social bonds, may help to synchronize mood, and may also reaffirm social status within the pack. He also notes that the group yip-howl “may be most important in announcing territorial occupancy and preventing visual contact between groups of coyotes.”

The chorus tells any nearby coyote packs about whose turf this is, and thus keeps other coyotes away. It also reveals (or hides) how many coyotes are in the area and may help regulate coyote density through reproductive rate. Research has shown that female coyotes will produce larger litters when there is little competition, and smaller litters when there is a high density of coyotes in the habitat. This is one of the secrets to the coyote’s success at spreading across the continent in the last century.

[Note: This is also why indiscriminate killing of coyotes to decrease their density doesn’t work as a management strategy. Coyotes repopulate an area quickly and easily when competition is eliminated, with the population rebounding or even expanding in a very short time. Perhaps a more effective, cost-cutting and non-lethal strategy for reducing the number of coyotes in an area would be playing recorded group yip-howls to make resident coyotes think there is more competition for resources. This is something several researchers have expressed interest in exploring, specifically in order to reduce conflicts with ranchers. If we can discover more about what specific messages are embedded in certain howls or barks, ranchers could play specific recordings to keep coyotes away from livestock as well as minimize the number of coyotes living in an area.]

Mitchell writes, “Group yip-howls are produced by a mated and territorial pair of ‘alpha’ coyotes, with the male howling while the female intersperses her yips, barks, and short howls. ‘Beta’ coyotes (the children of the alpha pair from previous years) and current year pups may join in if they are nearby, or respond with howls of their own. And once one group of coyotes starts howling, chances are that any other alpha pairs nearby will respond in kind, with chorus after chorus of group yip-howls rippling across the miles.”

In Talking to Coyotes with the Song Dog, a pamphlet about using a coyote caller, Major L. Boddicker, Ph.D. brings up a personal experience with such a chain reaction.  After sending up what he calls a “Joy of Life Call” which is a group yip-howl, “It sounded like every coyote in the USA responded in the musical see-saw coyote chant which went on and on for 3-5 minutes. I later called a friend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado (150 miles away) to check for the time when the coyotes started to sing there. Given the time it took sound to travel and coyotes to react, I very likely started the chorus.” Whether or not the chorus traveled that far, it is indeed possible to start a chain of coyotes sending up group yip-howls.

Boddicker discusses Lehner’s list of vocalizations in his pamphlet, and brings in two more vocalizations that he or experienced coyote callers have heard. He notes that these my fall into the umbrella categories identified by Lehner, but are distinct enough to point out anyway. They are:

Whoop – This sound is used as part of more complex sounds such as the group howl or group yip-howls.

Yodel – This is when a howl tapers up and ends abruptly, rather than tapering down in a typical howl, which gives the howl a sound like the coyote is asking a question. Boddicker notes that this happens when coyotes howl for an unusual reason such as for a lost family member.

How Many Coyotes Are Howling?

“When people hear coyote howls, they often mistakenly assume that they’re hearing a large pack of animals, all raising their voices at once,” writes Mitchell. “But this is an auditory illusion called the ‘beau geste’ effect.”

Coyotes howl both to reunite and to keep trespassers at bay. It may be in their favor that if they howl, they sound like a bigger pack than they really are. They accomplish complicated and confusing howls by a smart strategy of using wavering howls and changing their pitch rapidly. This, combined with the howls bouncing off objects in the environment such as rocks, trees, or the far side of a valley may make it hard for a listener to know if they are hearing one coyote or several howling simultaneously.

When two or three coyotes howl together, they can sound like a pack of six or ten or more, which perhaps makes them seem much more formidable to any nearby competitors or predators.

Coyotes May Have Local Accents

We know that coyotes vary in size and build depending on their location, as the difference between western and eastern coyotes clearly demonstrates. Does their location also mean they have accents? We know that other species with complex communication such as whales have different accents, so it makes sense that coyotes may also have regional accents. And does that affect how they might interpret or respond to strangers?

Sara Waller, associate professor of philosophy at Montana State University in Bozeman, told the Bozman Gazette, “We know that dogs have ‘accents’ just as people do — we can reliably tell the difference between British dog barks and American dog barks. When we have enough recordings to really compare Eastern and Western coyotes, we may find that like dogs, and people, they have regionally based differences in the way they communicate with each other. This would show that coyote vocalizations are impacted by social and environmental factors just as human speech is.”

What Can Coyotes Teach Us About Language?

There is still so much to learn about what coyotes are saying through their complex and varied vocalizations. The more we learn about the way coyotes communicate as social predators, the more we can learn about not just their species, but our own as well.

Coyotes can sense things we humans can’t, and Waller questions, “How does that impact the way they think? They are social, communicative predators, and so are very like humans in many ways. If we could figure out what some of these vocalizations mean, it would give us insight into how our own language works, and how human minds differ from those of other social predators.”

Examples of Coyote Vocalizations

In the video below, two coyotes give barks and bark-howls as an alarm against the person recording the video:

The person who uploaded this video notes that the coyotes had been hanging around a lot and ventured a guess that is because her dog was in heat. However, the date on the video is in late May, which is about the time when coyote pups are emerging from the den and becoming active around the den site. So it is possible that these are the parents and/or helper coyote keeping a watch on the person taking a video and giving alarm, warning them away from a nearby den.

In the video below, coyotes send up a group yip-howl. Note that the howls do not begin with a bark, like the previous video. As Lehner notes, the group yip-howl starts usually with the dominant individual of the pack. That seems to happen here as the coyote in the video joins in after another coyote begins the howl:

The video below is a coyote group yip-howl, likely started with reunion of group members, and includes yips, whines and other vocalizations on the coyote-sounds spectrum as the members interact. There is so much great behavior and body language captured in this video, showing the group dynamics of submissive members with more dominant members of the pack:

Listen to more coyote vocalizations on Soundboard or The Social Predator Vocalization Project.

References:
Coyotes: Biology, Behavior and Management
Talking to Coyotes with the Song Dog
Information Content of Coyote Barks and Howls
Coyotes: Decoding Their Yips, Barks, and Howls

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And that beautiful photograph of the howling coyote at the start of today’s post? That came from this website that also included the following that I will use to close this post.

“when the end comes there will be coyotes and coach roaches left in the world and the coyote will eat the coach roach and that will be that!”   Some say that “Cher” will still be on tour though.