Tag Archives: Coyotes

“Clever Coyote,” Not Going Away, SLR/IRL

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Like it or not, “Coyote” is here, and coyote is not going away. He is clever; he is ancient; and he is a master at adapting to his environment, as are we—humans. We have met our match.

Of course because both are “canines,” coyotes can mate with our friends, domesticated dogs. This is documented out west; they are known as “coydogs.”  Hmmmmm?

"Coyote and Road Runner" was a cartoon my generation grew up with but he was not always so smart!
Warner Bros. “Looney Tunes,” “Coyote and Road Runner” was a cartoon my generation grew up with. Unlike in real life, “Coyote” was not always so smart!

Coyote Road Runner Cartoon: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz65AOjabtM)

Don’t get me wrong… the first time I read that coyotes were “here,” in Marin County…the first time I saw Bud Adams’ picture on the back page of “Indian River Magazine,” the hair went up on the back of my neck. Old wives tales and ancient fears gripping me….

Since that time, I have read a lot and learned more. I am cautious but not afraid. In fact my roommate at this month’s University of Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute class was a coyote expert for the Florida Wildlife Commission. We stayed up late into the night; she showed me photos of all the things coyotes eat and told me first hand stories of how places like Hernando County, Florida, are dealing with the issue.

I sat in silent awe….

One of the most interesting things she shared was that the population of coyotes goes up the more populated an area is–you would think the opposite. “Coyotes have moved in and adapted so well we sometimes wonder who the suburbs were actually built for, us or them.” Her excellent article is at the end of this post.

Last night at a Sewall’s Point Commission meeting, a resident came forward during public comment to report about the coyotes in her subdivision. Passions flared! The discussion included guns, protected wildlife, unprotected wildlife, trapping, not leaving out cat food, not leaving out cats, as well as not leaving your small dogs or small children outside unattended. In the end, it was decided comprehensive town education was the best approach.

.....public image.
Coyote, public image.

I find my self struggling with the image of coyote. Last night after the meeting, I took a walk and kept waiting for one’s red eyes to shine in the reflection of my iPhone. At every corner I was sure one was standing….They do intimidate me, but I am intrigued with their success. I respect them.

This animal is deeply associated with Native Americans who of course “we” eradicated. Remember the Seminole Wars? The US relocation plans? Not that long ago really.  Perhaps this is our karma?

For many Native American tribes the coyote, known as a trickster for his ability to “be everywhere at once,”  was the most powerful of creatures. In fact, it was believed that tribal members of tremendous power could “shift” shape into a coyote achieving amazing things….Why the coyote? The reasons are many, but one is because “Coyote,” just as in the Greek story of Prometheus, —-(also a clever trickster)—-brought fire from Heaven to the Earth, betraying the Gods, to help us survive.

Perhaps there is a greater message here? I don’t know…but it has me thinking…One thing is for sure: smart, master-adapter, coyote is here in Sewall’s Point, and throughout Martin County. And he is so smart and adaptable that “he is not going away.”

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—Coyotes are now reported in all 67 counties of the state of Florida. They also live throughout much of the nation.

–Due to agriculture/rancher and landowner complaints, California spent 20 million dollars to eradicate coyotes with no success and now ironically the population is perhaps higher than ever.

—Coyotes are omnivorous, like people, eating everything especially insects, pet food, vegetation, road-kill, rodents, and “trash.” Thus they adapt easily.

—-Coyotes have flourished and spread since the human eradication of the larger canine family wolf —in Florida and through out the U.S.  When top predators are removed others expand.

—Coyotes hunt in family groups not “packs, or alone; ” They mate for life and their social nature is part of their success.

—Read article below for tips on how to live and/or deal with coyotes.

Public image...
Public image of an attractive coyote.

FWC article coyotes by Angeline Scotten: (http://hernandosun.com/coyotes_in_hernando)

The Once Florida Black Wolf of the Indian River Lagoon

The black wolf once roamed the shores and surrounding lands of the Indian River Lagoon, becoming extinct in 1883. (Photo public files.)
The Florida wolf or black wolf once roamed the shores and surrounding lands of the Indian River Lagoon and the state of Florida, becoming extinct in 1908. (A photo of a modern, larger, Ontario black wolf,  public files.)

A wolf of the Indian River Lagoon? You’re kidding?

Not too long ago, before 1908, a black wolf known as the “Florida black wolf” was part of the ecosystem of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. One of the best local accounts of this black wolf, can still be found in an historical document  written by a member of the Seminole War party, of Col. Benjamin Pierce, for whom Ft Pierce is named.

Col. Pierce was fighting the Indians in the 1837 Seminole War. According to the Sebastian River Area Historical Society, Col. Pierce and his troops sailed down the Indian River Lagoon on December 31st “in boats filled with baggage, men, and provisions.” Surgeon Mott, of his party, wrote of the journey:

“Nothing occurred to disturb the quiet of the night, except the wolves in the neighboring forest responding with howls as they threatened one another…”

Paining by I.Wesp of Benjamin Pierce and troops sailing down the IRL- (Tales of Sebastian, 1990.)
Paining by I. Wesp of Benjamin Pierce and Seminole War troops sailing down the IRL, 1837. (Tales of Sebastian, 1990.)

This “black wolf subspecies” became extinct in 1908, mostly due to hunting as homesteaders pushed the wolf out of its habitat. It is documented that there was also a more reddish colored “red wolf” that coexisted with the black wolf simultaneously and it went extinct a bit later, in 1921.

These black wolves and red wolves were a related subspecies of the more well known American grey wolf (Canis lupus) and related to today’s Gregory’s Wolf  or Red Wolf that has been recently been reintroduced in North Carolina.

Gregory's Wolf or Red Wolf has been reintroducing into North Carolina and surrounding areas.
Gregory’s Wolf or Red Wolf has been reintroducing into North Carolina and surrounding areas. (Photo public)

For many years, there were intellectual arguments in the scientific community about whether the the black and red Florida wolves were true “wolves” or more closely genetically related to the coyote. Although after years of heated discussion, it was first determined that the black and red wolves were a type of coyote, this was contested and overturned by the  International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature in 1957.

Yes, although they had adapted and taken on a smaller frame than their grey wolf relatives, Florida’s  black and red canines were “wolves.” 

Scientific drawing, 1800s, Florida Black Wolf. I don't quite get the buffalo in the background! But you get the idea!:) (Wikipedia)
Scientific drawing, 1800s, Florida Black Wolf. (Wikipedia)

Hmmm?

The state of Florida still has bears and panthers. Wouldn’t it be amazing  if we still had wolves!

There may always be that element of fear with wolves but there must also be respect, as the wolf is second only to humans in adapting to a changing planet, and of course the extinct black wolf, and the modern grey wolf, are closely related to our very best friends, domesticated dogs.

Just incredible!  The once wild and beautiful creatures of the Indian River Lagoon…..

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Florida Black Wolf: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Black_Wolf)

US Fish and Wildlife Commission/Grey Wolf: (http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/aboutwolves/biologue.htm

Wolf facts: (http://www.defenders.org/gray-wolf/basic-facts)

Coyotes of the Indian River Lagoon

Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals on the planet and have made their way to the Indian River Lagoon. (Photos, public, Florida coyotes.)
Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals on the planet and have made their way to the Indian River Lagoon. (Public photo, ” Florida coyotes.”)

Coyotes are here along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Coyotes were historically associated with the American West, but now they are now in most states and have been reported in 66 of 67 Florida counties, other than Monroe. There is no one to thank for this but humans. With the near eradication of the the American wolf and family of big cats related to the mountain lion since the 1800s, coyotes have no natural predators, other than man, and thus the coyote has flourished.

Most recently, along the Treasure Coast you many have read about Indian River County using cameras to see if coyotes are raiding sea turtle nests, or the controversial trapping and killing of the coyotes at Witham Field in Stuart interfering with plane landings, or the many residents in Palm City or western St Lucie County, who say they hear coyotes howling at night. Coyotes have also, within the past six months, been reported in the Town of Sewall’s Point, in the vicinity of South River Road on the south end, and Castle Hill in the north.

Photo of coyote in south Sewall's Point on River Road. (Courtesy of Sewall's Point Police Department.)
Photo of coyote in south Sewall’s Point on River Road. (Courtesy of Sewall’s Point Police Department, 2014.)

As a long time resident of Sewall’s Point, I love the wildlife and encourage all to live in harmony with these animals. They are God’s creatures and they keep the rat population down! I have seen both grey and red foxes, as well as many bobcats. I have friends who swear in Sewall’s Point’s earlier days, they witnessed panthers.

But I have yet to see a coyote. Unlike native bobcats who are solitary animals, unless mating or raising young, coyotes usually hunt in pairs and belong to a pack of about six members.

Coyotes are in the dog family and are related to wolves, foxes and domestic dogs. Coyotes and dogs can mate although this is unusual as coyotes have specific social ties and  mate only once a year. When dogs and coyotes do mate, the hybrid offspring is called a “coydog.” Coydogs are well documented out west and are said to make poor pets, as more often than not, they are very high strung.

The photo below is a grey fox for comparison. Coyotes are taller and weigh more than foxes; in our area sometimes weighing up to 30 pounds, whereas  a fox may be closer to 12.

Grey fox. Both grey and red foxes are much smaller than coyotes. (Public photo.)
Grey fox. Both grey and red foxes are much smaller than coyotes. (Public photo.)

Should we be scared? I don’t think so. We just need to be smart, coy and cautious, like the coyote.

Many Native American myths laud the craftiness of “coyote” and often in Native American mythology, he is so respected, he is  portrayed as the “Creator.” He is respected for being “ubiquitous,” as he is so successful, “he appears to be everywhere at once,” or “seems to appear everywhere at the same time.” He is not to be outsmarted.

One thing for certain, now that coyote is here, chances are, he will not go away. We must learn to live with him by keeping our distance, not leaving pets out for long periods unattended, in the evening or early mornings,  and by not feeding him. He is smart enough to feed himself.

It is said we all have a bit of fear  in our inner most nature, as the collective memory recalls the earlier times of fires and wolves, but then humankind tamed the wolf and hence today, we have “man best friend,” our dogs.

Coyote/Dog tracks
Coyote/Dog tracks

Remember that the coyote is related to dogs if you see him, and if you look him in the eye ask for a sliver of his adaptability and success surviving on an ever changing planet and an ever changing Indian River Lagoon.

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Florida Coyotes: (http://www.floridiannature.com/Coyote.htm)

Florid Wildlife Commission:(http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/coyote/)

History, Eradication of Wolves/Rise in Coyote Population:(http://www.wolfweb.com/history2.html)

Coyote/Native American Mythology:(http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/coyote.html)

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I added this photo from Dr Gary Goforth 8-13-15 that was taken this February in Foxwood off 96 A in Martin County.

Shared by Dr Gary Goforth in Foxwood, Martin County.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA G. Goforth
 MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA by Dr Goforth.
MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA G.Goforth

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I added this link on 8-13-15 written by my classmate Angeline Scotten whom I met last week at the UF Natural Resouces Leadership Institute. She is an expert on the subject of coyotes for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. This article was written for Hernando County but certainly applies to us as well. I found it very informative. (http://hernandosun.com/coyotes_in_hernando)