The Northeastern Coyote
Copyright © 2008 Wildlife Technologies

  Range: Eastern Canada and the US Northeast

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Northeastern coyotes are the largest coyotes in North America
Average weight for an adult female: 40 to 55 pounds
Average weight for an adult male: 40 to 80 pounds

N.B. coyotes may be wolf hybrid                                        

      Copyright © 2008 Wildlife Technologies

Wildlife genetics specialist at center of debate over species' origins
By PHILIP LEE -- N.B. Telegraph Journal

Is wolf blood running thick through the forests of New Brunswick?

A New Brunswick wildlife genetics specialist thinks that is indeed the case and he has drawn this province's population of coyotes, which are larger and more wolf-like than their diminutive western cousins, into the heart of a raging scientific debate over the evolutionary origin of Canadian wolves.

The debate has revolved around a population of about 200 wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park, north of Toronto. For many years, the Algonquin wolf was considered to be a mutt, a hybrid of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) and coyote (Canis latrans).

However, recent genetic testing on Algonquin wolves has led scientists to suggest that the Algonquin wolves are in fact surviving members of the eastern Canadian wolf species (Canis lycaon), a cousin of the red wolf, which is on the endangered species list in the United States.

Paul Wilson, a 31-year-old New Brunswick man who runs the Wildlife and Forensic DNA Laboratory at Trent University, has become a central figure in this debate.

The evolutionary model that Mr. Wilson's laboratory has proposed suggests that the New Brunswick coyote, which began appearing here in large numbers in the 1970s, is not a pure coyote at all, but in fact a hybrid of the eastern Canadian wolf and western coyote.

When the animals first arrived in New Brunswick, there was a great deal of speculation about what kind of dog-like creatures they were because they were so much larger than western coyotes. One of the most popular theories of the day was that they were hybrids of coyotes and domestic dogs.

"Our genetic data suggests that they are hybrid coyote-wolves," Mr. Wilson said. "So the eastern coyote, by definition, according to our genetic data, has wolf genetic material moved into it."

Algonquin wolves grow to be 60 to 90 pounds and have a unique salt-and-pepper colouring with red markings behind the ears. New Brunswick coyotes average between 30 and 80 pounds, and some have shown distinctive red markings. New Brunswick coyotes can live on a diet that is 80 per cent deer, while its western cousins, which grow to be about 15 to 30 pounds, eat only small mammals.

"The New Brunswick coyote is actually filling a fairly functional role as a top-end predator, similar to a pure eastern wolf," Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Wilson's wolf research began with a request for some simple genetics testing from Dr. John Théberge, a University of Waterloo ecology professor, who with his wife Mary has been studying Algonquin wolves for more than a decade. They were convinced the Algonquin animal was a grey wolf-and-coyote hybrid.

"The genetic evidence started to point to the fact that that Algonquin animal was a very different wolf and was very closely related to the red wolf," Mr. Wilson said. "So we put forth a model that suggests this wolf actually evolved differently from the big grey wolf that you might see in the northern reaches of Canada."

His model proposes that one to two million years ago there was a common wolf ancestor in North America. Some of these wolves travelled to Europe over the land bridge and evolved there into the grey wolf. Others remained in North America and evolved into the red wolf or eastern Canadian wolf, which about 300,000 years ago spawned the coyote, which moved west. Also, about 300,000 years ago, the grey wolf returned to North America over the ice.

"Our wolf is more closely related to the coyote than it would be to the grey wolf, which would be one or two million years distinct from it," Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Wilson is now collecting several crucial historical samples to test his theory.

Last week, he obtained a cutting from a 1949 coyote hide in the New Brunswick Museum's collection. This animal predates the arrival of coyotes in New Brunswick by at least a couple of decades and may be a remnant eastern Canadian wolf or one of the first arrivals of coyote-and-wolf hybrids. Wolves were extirpated from New Brunswick in the 1800s.

Mr. Wilson has also collected a sample of a wolf-like animal from Maine killed in the 1860s that is now in the Harvard University collection. He has obtained another sample from the 1890s in New York, which would have predated the arrival of coyotes there.

Mr. Wilson has found coyote-like genetic material in the Algonquin wolves that is not found in pure coyotes. The DNA strongly suggests these animals shared a common ancestor about 300,000 years ago. Now he wants to confirm these genetic characteristics in samples that predate the arrival of coyotes.

If he can find the coyote-like genetic markers in these historical samples, this will confirm that there was a wolf that evolved in North America that is closely related to coyotes. Because these samples predate the arrival of coyotes, he will know that this genetic material is present because of a common evolution, not as a result of interbreeding.

"Looking at these historical samples is a direct test of whether this model is accurate," Mr. Wilson said.

He is also attempting to obtain DNA markers from Manitoba wolf teeth that date back 5,000 years. The western border for the eastern wolf may have extended into Manitoba and this ancient DNA, if it is not degraded, could provide a crucial piece of the puzzle.

His lab has collected a data bank of about 4,000 wolves and coyotes, including a couple of hundred samples from New Brunswick.

The wolf genetics work is an interesting academic exercise, but it is also important for the protection of these animals. If it is proven that the Algonquin wolf is a species distinct from the grey wolf, it needs to be protected.

Mr. Wilson believes eastern Canadian wolves survive better in a human disturbed ecosystem than do grey wolves. If these eastern wolves encounter human disturbance, they are less likely to disappear and instead begin to interbreed with coyotes.

"Once you get that coyote-and-wolf hybrid, it is a very adaptable animal," Mr. Wilson said. "That's why it's doing so well here in New Brunswick."

The Laurentide wolves, which live two hours north of Quebec and are geographically isolated, represent one of the few remaining eastern timber wolf populations that have not hybridized with coyotes.


Trent lab tracking wildlife through DNA

A number of Trent undergraduate and graduate students have recently undertaken research using DNA profiles of a range of species in these laboratories. This research has led to the identification of a new species of wolf in Canada. Genetic studies on the wolves located in Algonquin Provincial Park have shown a close affinity to the red wolf of the US and not the gray wolf as it was originally assumed. It has now been proposed that this eastern Canadian wolf be given the separate species designation of Canis lycaon. The eastern coyotes or "Tweed wolves" found in the region have been shown to be hybrids between the western coyotes that reached the area earlier last century and the eastern Canadian wolf.


"This call is truly wild"
Authored by Dennis Aprill. Published by the Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.

At 2 a. m.  on Wednesday, Aug. 15, it started as a burst of high-pitched yelps, yaps and screeching intermixed with barks and growls and, on the rare occasion, a sustained howl. It all sounded like something being tortured just outside my bedroom window.

I awoke immediately,  the screened window letting in the noisy chaos that actually was taking place in a nearby clearing. I knew, from past experience, the sounds were from coyotes, a routine that happens every August.

Coyotes, like red and gray wolves, bear their young in the spring, and, by late summer, these youngsters are old enough to travel with the family unit. In the case of coyotes, the unit howls seemingly for bonding, whereas wolves do so to communicate with their young. While some grown wolves hunt, the younger ones are left near an open area like a field or bog so they call back and forth with the adults.

A week earlier, 75 miles to the north, a group of college students and I heard another variation of howling in the Papineau-Labelle Wildlife Reserve in southern Quebec. Those howls were more sustained, but at times as high-pitched as the coyotes I heard a week later. These were the howls of red wolves, a species extirpated from the southern United States, but fairly common in southern Ontario and Quebec. Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin wolves, once thought of as gray wolves, have been genetically linked to red wolves.

Red wolves are smaller than grays, and their northern range follows the northern extent of white-tailed deer.

The best description of the howls we heard in Papineau-LaBelle come from naturalist writer Edward Hoagland in his book "Red Wolves and Black Bears." Hoagland, a Vermont resident, writes: "Red wolves howl in a higher, less emotive pitch than gray wolves and don’t blend with each other quite as stylishly, though they do employ more nuances and personality than a coyote family’s gabble." Hoagland, who researched some of the last known red wolves in the southern United States, also compared their calls to those of coyotes. He writes, "A coyote’s howl sounds hysterical, amateurish by comparison, chopped and frantic, almost like barnyard cackling." But the coyotes Hoagland was describing in his 1972 book were the small, western variety. Since then, geneticists have found that eastern coyotes have varying degrees of red-wolf genes, thus accounting for their increased size and, at times, almost wolflike traits of killing deer and beaver and traveling in larger packs than western coyotes. Some of these wolf-coyote mixtures,  the result of extensive interbreeding in southeastern Canada, are hard to classify.

"So, what should a hybrid sound like?" Bob Chambers asked me once. Chambers,  professor emeritus at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and an eastern-coyote expert, said, "In all my years of tracking and studying eastern coyotes in the Newcomb area, there were a couple of times when I wasn’t sure exactly what I was hearing — a coyote, , a wolf or a hybrid." Ray Masters, a wildlife technician at SUNY ESF, Newcomb, who has worked extensively with Chambers in the past,  joined me on a southern Quebec wolf calling trip in 2000, and we luckily got to hear a couple of packs howl.

The next morning, Masters joined the other participants on the porch of the chalet where we had spent the night and announced, "I’ve heard that same howling before — near Newcomb." Masters is not one to exaggerate, so that leads to the question: What is actually out there in northern New York?  Judging from the latest research done at the University of Trent in Ontario by geneticists Drs. Bradley White and Paul Wilson, the clear differences once thought to separate red and gray wolves and eastern coyotes don’t exist anymore in a portion of southern Canada and the northeastern United States.

In fact, though there are still core areas that are predominately red wolf (called eastern Canadian wolf by the researchers), in peripheral areas there is extensive interbreeding with coyotes going on in southern Ontario and Quebec,  and we in northern New York may be getting some of the second or third generation offspring of those unions, so maybe some of the howls I heard in early August weren’t pure coyotes exercising their vocal cords, but members of a wild canid species that is still evolving.


MNR boss says there is a desire to see wolves protected
by Debbi Christinck, Staff Writer
Eganville Leader Wednesday, March 14, 2001

(Pembroke) -- Ontario is one of three jurisdictions in the world without a season for hunting wolves.

Ray Bonenberg, district manager of the Pembroke District of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), told Renfrew County Council last week Russia and one country in the Balkans are the only other jurisdictions where people can hunt wolves whenever they like. In Ontario a very limited ban exists seasonally on wolves. It exists in three townships surrounding Algonquin Park, and they are all in Renfrew County. This seasonal ban is in effect in Hagarty, Richards and Burns townships.

Mr. Bonenberg was on his annual visit to County Council. He reported what was happening at the MNR on a local level and then opened the floor for questions.

Reeve Bill Croshaw of Head, Clara and Maria introduced the topic of wolves.
He said people in his township report seeing wolves crossing the river when it is frozen. He said this shows these wolves are breeding with the wolves from Algonquin Park.

"We see them coming from Quebec and going to Quebec," he said. "It is a two-way traffic."

"The wolves you are talking about are quite common," Mr. Bonenberg said.
"They do not mix with dogs, they do mix with coyotes."


Mr. Croshaw said in his 19 years in North Renfrew he has seen the wolves crossing the ice into Quebec and coming back, yet recent reports are depicting the Algonquin wolves as being a unique species which must be protected.

"The group CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) say the group in the park is a unique breed, but as far as I am concerned they are a group of mongrels," he said.

The reeve is concerned because of the concerted effort on the part of conservationists to place an outright ban on hunting wolves in the park. A permanent ban on hunting wolves in the 33 townships adjacent to the park has been proposed and is under study.

Reeve Croshaw said he does not know anyone who hunts wolves, because they are a messay animal to clean and skin. He said there are farmers in the township that would kill a wolf if the animal attempted to harm or kill livestock. Therefore he is concerned about an outright ban on hunting wolves.

"They (conservationists) want to push the township into putting a ban on hunting," he said. "So far we are not interested in doing that."

The future of the park wolves and any possible protection of them is of interest to people in his township. Head, Clara and Maria is in the unique position of being bordered by Algonquin Park from one end of the township to the other. It is a ten-mile wide strip, which runs between Algonquin Park and the Ottawa River.

Mr. Bonenberg said although the Algonquin Park wolves are different than other wolves, he would not go as far as CPAWS has and call them a member of the Eastern Wolf species, or red wolf.

"The research finds they are a different sub-species," he said. "They are not genetically endangered."

The wolves in the park also belong to a large group, although they can be isolated because of vegetation around the park and feeding opportunities.

"The population extends from Manitoba to New Brunswick," he said.

Mr. Bonenberg said the Algonquin Park group of wolves is isolated in the park. They migrate in and out of the park seasonally, but remain in the immediate area.

"They stay because they follow food," he said.

The genes of these wolves are quite mixed because of evolution, making them quite a mix which includes some red wolf.

"There are red wolf genetics, but not the red wolf you find in Louisiana or the Carolinas," he said. "There are only 60 or so of those left.

The Algonquin Park wolves also have the lupus genes, and coyote genes. Mr.
Bonenberg said 2,200 animals were tested to determine their genetic origin, so he is quite confident in saying they are a new sub-species.

"They are suggesting a new subspecies, so that is exciting too," he said.

Mr. Bonenberg said there is a desire to protect the wolves in the park, and they form a unique aspect of the park. For example, the wolf howls are extremely popular.

Mr. Bonenberg acknowledged there is still fear of wolves and misgivings about any kind of a season on wolves, which would protect them. People are afraid for their livestock or pets being attacked by wolves, yet the Algonquin Park wolves are not the big timber wolves found in the north.

The wolves in the park vary between 27 and 99 pounds.

Mr. Bonenberg said the MNR is concerned whenever a population is in danger.

"We think the park population is heavily impacted," he said. "We want to protect them with some measures."

He said it has been recommended Ontario look at a province-wide policy on wolves.

"This is just like bears were 20-25 years ago," he said. "Now there is a season."


Interspecific hybridization and the origin of the red wolf
Species, such as wolves and coyotes, that are highly mobile and can interbreed under some conditions, may form large hybrid zones. Several hundred years ago, coyotes were numerous only in the southern United States and wolves were common toward the north. Where wolves are abundant, they will exclude the much smaller coyote from their territories. After the arrival of European settlers, agriculture and predator control programs caused wolf populations to dwindle, while the coyote, a remarkably flexible and opportunistic species, expanded its geographic range to areas north and east. Today the coyote is found throughout most of North America. In eastern Canada, an area invaded b coyotes in the last 100 years, several genotypes identical or very similar to those found in coyotes were discovered in individuals phenotypically identified as gray wolves. Wolves with these "coyote" genotypes increased in frequency toward the east, from 50% in Minnesota to 100% in Quebec. The hypothesis advanced to explain this pattern was that coyotes and wolves had hybridized in areas of eastern Canada where wolves were rare and coyotes common. The interspecific transfer of mtDNA was asymmetric; none of the coyotes sampled had wolf-like genotypes although coyote genotypes were common in gray wolves. Because mtDNA is maternally inherited without recombination, this result reflects a mating asymmetry: male wolves mate with female coyotes, and their offspring backcross to wolves. Either the reverse cross is rare, or the offspring of such backcrosses to coyotes do not reproduce. This mating asymmetry may indicate that the smaller male coyotes cannot inspire the larger female gray wolves to mate with them.

Theory predicts that older hybrid zones between wolves and coyotes may be much larger than that in eastern Canada, and may be up to several thousand kilometers in width. Accordingly, attention has been focused on a potentially older and more extensive hybrid zone in the southern United States. The zone includes populations of three wolf-like canids: the red wolf, gray wolf and coyote. The red wolf is intermediate in size between coyote and gray wolves and can potentially hybridize with both species. It is also an endangered species that became extinct in the wild about 1975, and descendants of the last populations were used to found a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program. If the red wolf were a distinct species ancestral to wolves and coyotes, there should be unique mtDNA genotypes that define a separate species clade, a pattern previously found in wolf-like canids.

However, captive red wolves had a genotype that was indistinguishable by restriction site analysis from those found in coyotes from Louisiana. Because hybridization was thought to occur between the two species as the red wolf became rare, the presence of the coyote-derived genotypes in captive red wolves could represent an accident of sampling and not be representative of the ancestral population. Subsequently, an additional mtDNA analysis of 77 samples obtained in about 1975 from areas inhabited by the last wild red wolves showed that all had either a coyote or gray wolf genotype.

Conceivably, hybridization between gray wolves and coyotes alone could explain the intermediate morphology of red wolves. To test this hypothesis, DNA was isolated from six museum skins of red wolves obtained from Five states in about 1910, a time before hybridization of red wolves and coyotes was thought to be common. Phylogenetic analysis of 398 bp of the cytochrome b gene showed that red wolves at that time did not have a distinct genotype; all six had genotypes classified with gray wolves or coyotes, a result consistent with a hybrid origin for the species. Although more research needs to be done, the implication of this result is troubling for the US Endangered Species Act because a policy on hybrids has not been formulated. In some situations we may wish to protect hybrids, such as the red wolf, because they are unique. Elsewhere, in Minnesota for example, hybridization may be undesirable because it jeopardizes the genetic integrity of the gray wolf, a threatened species. Similarly, in Italy, hybridization with domestic dogs may be changing the character of gray wolves that enter small towns to feed because their natural prey has been depleted. Even the highly endangered Simien jackal is threatened with hybridization by feral domestic dogs. Molecular genetic analyses offer a powerful means to determine if hybridization is changing the composition of these endangered populations.

Future research on the population genetics of canids should focus on the analysis of polymorphic nuclear genes to complement the mtDNA data. However, nuclear DNA domains that evolve as fast as highly variable mtDNA regions have yet to be identified, and may not exist. Hypervariable simple sequence repeat loci38 may prove useful; these loci are abundant in the nuclear genome and evolve through loss or gain of repeat units rather than sequence substitutions. Analysis of simple sequence repeats will not provide the detailed picture of the succession of historical changes revealed by sequence data but may furnish estimates of gene flow and hybridization among closely related canid populations.


 Worldwide Canid species and distribution

Small Wolf-like canids   South American canids
 

Canis aureus Golden jackal Old World

Canis adustus Side-striped jackal Subsaharan Africa

Canis mesomelas Black-backed jackal Subsaharan Africa

 

Speothos venaticus Bushdog Northeast S. America

Lycalopex uetulus Hoary fox Northeast S. America

Cerdocyon thous Crab-eating fox Northeast S. America

Chrysocyon brachyurus Maned wolf Northeast S. America

Large Wolf-like canids  Red fox-like canids
 

Canis simensis Simien jackal Ethiopia

Canis lupus Gray wolf Holarctic

Canis latrans Coyote North America

Canis rufus Red wolf Southern US

Cuon alpinus Dhole Asia

Lycaon pictus African wild dog Subsaharan Africa

Vulpes aelox Kit fox Western US

Vulpes vulpes Red fox Old and New World

Vulpes chama Cape fox Southern Africa

Alopex lagopus Arctic fox Holarctic

Fennecus zerda Fennec fox Sahara

                   Other canids
Otocyon megalotis Bat-eared fox Subsaharan Africa

Urocyon cinereoargenteus Gray fox North America

Nycteruetes procyonoides Raccoon dog Japan, China


Range Expansion by the Eastern Coyote to Insular Newfoundland

The eastern coyote (Canis latrans) likely arrived in insular Newfoundland by crossing pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The first coyote sighting occurred on March 29, 1985 when three animals, reported as wolves, were seen coming ashore from pack ice off Marches Point on the Port au Port Peninsula on the Provinces’ west coast. Additional sightings on pack ice were made in 1989 and 2000. Sighting and trap records from 1986 to 2000 indicate that coyotes are now widely dispersed across the island. The coyote will almost certainly thrive and become a major presence in Newfoundland, with an abundant food supply and lack of competitors.

The entry of a this predator may have implications both for native species and for the sheep farming industry. There may be increased predation rates on woodland caribou, arctic hare, the endangered Newfoundland population of the American marten as well as interspecific competition with lynx and red fox. There has been one documented observation of a coyote hunting arctic hare and several unconfirmed reports of predation on caribou. The addition of another significant predator on snowshoe hare may dampen population fluctuations and cause reductions in the harvest potential of this important small game animal. Caribou calves are especially vulnerable to coyote predation and a significant proportion of calf mortality has been attributed to coyotes in a small caribou herd in southern Quebec. The increasing coyote numbers may also result in reductions in red fox densities as has been reported elsewhere, however, it remains unclear how these two species will interact in this Province. Management of red fox and lynx may have to be reevaluated when coyotes become well established in Newfoundland. Although the sheep industry in Newfoundland is small, there are implications for individual farmers. There have been two coyote related sheep predation incidents reported, with several sheep killed in each instance.

To date, very little biological data has been collected on coyotes in Newfoundland. Reports from Conservation Officers and the public relating to coyotes are being compiled and will be published in a report titled, "Range Expansion by the Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans) to Insular Newfoundland". Coyote carcasses from trappers and road kills are being collected opportunistically to gather basic biological information about the species. Analysis of stomach contents and faecal material of examined animals indicated that they fed on snowshoe hare, moose, beaver, red fox, red squirrel, masked shrew, ruffed grouse, various passerine bird species, and fruits such as blueberries, mountain holly, and choke cherry. Body measurements have been taken from 7 road-killed and trapped animals. All were in very good physical condition with moderate to abundant fat stores. Unidentified tapeworms were recovered from one animal.

Predicting the ecological consequences of coyote range expansion is a significant challenge. Research on this new predator will largely be determined by the availability of additional resources. If funds become available, focused studies of coyote home range size, densities, food habits, and their effects on native species will be conducted. Such studies will be essential in order to clarify and mitigate the impacts of coyotes on the ecosystem in Newfoundland.


Coyotes like town living
Coyotes are a common sight in the southern Yukon. If you live in a town or community in the southern Yukon, you have probably seen more than one or two coyotes this winter. They are a fairly common sight right now, padding across frozen rivers, standing by roadsides, and occasionally nabbing pets in people’s backyards.

Life is not so easy for coyotes right now. Like many of the animals in the boreal forest, their populations rise and fall in a roughly ten-year cycle, all linked to the number of snowshoe hares hopping through the forest. And right now the number of snowshoe hares is pretty close to rock-bottom.

Long-term studies in the Kluane area have found that the numbers of coyotes can increase five-fold, and then decrease again, all following the hare cycle. Coyotes have smaller litters when there are fewer hares around, and might stop reproducing altogether if times are really lean.

But if there is one thing that coyotes are known for, it is versatility, and an animal as smart and adaptable as a coyote is not going to starve quietly out in the woods when there is food to be had in town.

Conservation officers are on the front lines for dealing with complaints about these animals. During his years working as a conservation officer, Kris Gustafson noticed the link between complaints about coyotes and hare populations.

"In periods of low food availability, they end up in town more. There is nothing to prove it, but over the last 20 years that seems to be the case," says Gustafson, now a special services officer with the Yukon Department of Renewable Resources.

When hares last bottomed out in 1992 and 1993, coyotes attacked people in the Whitehorse area in three separate incidents. A woman was bitten on the leg while walking across the soccer field at F.H. Collins, and in two separate incidents in Porter Creek coyotes attacked children.

Gustafson says there do seem to be a fair number of coyotes around Whitehorse right now, and he urges people not to create problems by leaving out garbage or even feeding the coyotes.

"If you feed them, it is like signing a death warrant for them. If a coyote becomes habituated to people, we will have to destroy it if it is causing problems."

Gustafson grew up in Whitehorse, and says that in the 1960s there were lots of foxes around town, but he does not remember ever seeing a coyote. These wily animals are relative newcomers to the territory.

Two reports published in 1916 about Yukon wildlife make no mention at all of coyotes. But by the early 1920s, they are mentioned in RCMP patrol reports, and by 1929 there was a bounty on them in the territory.

Mark O’Donoghue, now the regional biologist in Mayo, studied coyotes for years while working with the Kluane Boreal Forest Ecosystem Project. He says that coyotes have been expanding their range everywhere in North America.

"They follow people. They are very good at living off of people. They have even made it across to Newfoundland."

Coyotes are also not fussy eaters, and that has been one of the main keys to their wide-ranging success. In North American, coyotes are known to feed on everything from berries to white-tailed deer. In the Yukon, they will even kill larger prey such as Dall sheep.

One study showed coyotes to be the most important predator of sheep on Sheep Mountain near Kluane. As the sheep population has increased there over the last 15 years, coyotes are not thought to be limiting numbers.

O’Donoghue wrote a booklet titled "Coyotes in the Yukon" while the wolf control program was taking place in the Aishihik area. Some people in the area had concerns that coyote numbers might go up as wolf numbers went down.

Coyotes usually steer clear of wolves as they can end up as prey of these larger predators. But coyotes also benefit from carrion left from wolf kills, and there is no clear evidence on how coyotes react to lower wolf numbers.

The relationship between red foxes and coyotes is more clear-cut; when coyotes move into an area, the foxes move out. In the Kluane Lake region, most foxes stick to the alpine areas above treeline, away from the forested areas where coyotes live.

Deep snow is one of the few things that can stop coyotes in their tracks, and O’Donoghue says that he noticed the low numbers of coyotes when he moved from the Kluane area to Mayo in the central Yukon.

"The snow is deeper and softer here than in the southern Yukon, so it has been interesting moving up here. Coyotes were everywhere in the southern Yukon, but here it is the opposite; there are foxes running all over, but not many coyotes."

Conservation officer Kevin Bowers says that in Whitehorse, the number of complaints about coyotes has been tapering off since Christmas. He thinks that some calls come from people who expect coyotes to be afraid of humans, and advises people to remember that coyotes have been co-existing with people for a very long time.

"Sometimes people get alarmed when coyotes do not run away from them, and they think there must be something wrong with them. But the coyote’s point of view is, ‘Hey, I have been eking a living out here for quite awhile, and I am just used to you."


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