Sharing Habitat with our Sea Ranch Coyotes
One of the many benefits of living near wildlife habitats is the exhilarating opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. Generally, coyotes(Canis latrans) fear humans, their number one enemy. But when well-meaning people feed our Sea Ranch coyotes they can become unnaturally bold. As natural habitat is replaced by development, many coyotes have been forced to cohabit with humans. It becomes our responsibility to learn to coexist with this native species.
Living in Harmony with Sea Ranch Coyotes
Sea Ranch coyotes can be observed occasionally during the early evening and late mornings. However, coyotes are generally considered nocturnal. Visitors to Sea Ranch may be surprised by a visiting coyote especially if they forget to remove all outside food sources such as pet food, trash and garbage. Normally our Sea Ranch coyotes normally feed on vermin, insects and some wild fruits.
Our Sea Ranch coyotes are usually wary of humans and will avoid people whenever possible. Aggressive behavior toward people is not normal and is most often a result of habituation due to feeding by humans.
There has been only one recorded fatality in California from a coyote attack (a 3-year-old girl in 1981). Coyote attacks are relatively rare and the mere presence of a coyote does not constitute a public safety threat. However, in areas where coyotes are highly visible and active, caution is advised.
Did the Supermoon Call the Coyotes Out of Hiding?
While coyotes in the wild are predominantly nocturnal, nearly all research shows urban coyotes tend to be crepuscular, that is active at dusk and dawn (Andelt and Gipson, 1979; Urban Coyote Research). This could explain the observation of the trio of Sea Ranch coyotes at the wooded area around the Sea Ranch Airstrip at dusk on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Folklore, on the other hand, suggests that coyotes increase their howling activity when the moon is full.
Curiously, the same week the Sea Ranch coyotes were spotted, Sea Ranch and much of the globe experienced the rare phenomena of the Harvest Supermoon Lunar Eclipse. From Sunday, September 27 through Monday, 28, 2015, the moon reached its peak fullness in the midst of a total eclipse, also known as the Blood Moon, something that hasn’t happened in 33 years.
Could these factors, Harvest Supermoon the addition of the rare Blood Moon, plus their crepuscular activities have been a contributing cause of the trio’s appearance?
Patterns of activity exhibited by coyotes are dependent upon various environmental and individual factors:
- Availability of prey,
- Avoidance of predation or human-related activities,
- Life-history strategies, such as hunting strategies and social organization.
(Urban Coyote Research)
In a 1996 study on coyotes in the prairie, researchers suggested moonlight attributed to coyote behavior (Bender, Bayne, Brigham,1996). But, contrary to popular folklore that coyotes howling coincided with periods of the least amount of moonlight, especially during the new moon phase. In order to be successful in their nighttime hunts, coyotes’ yips and howls help coordinate the hunt and facilitate group success during reduced moonlight conditions. They also hunt larger prey on nights where vision is impaired by the absence of the moon – as it was three nights earlier during the rare full eclipse of the moon or Blood Moon.
The reports of the sightings did not include information regarding vocalization of the small band of coyotes.
But it makes me wonder, did the appearance of the Blood Moon lure our Sea Ranch coyotes out in the first place, while their individual patterns kept them nearby?
We’ll never really know, but thank heavens the next blood moon won’t occur again until October 8, 2033
What to Do if You See Our Sea Ranch Coyotes?
Remember the following when you encounter a coyote in Sea Ranch:
- Never attempt to “tame” a coyote. Keep wild things wild!
- Avoid direct eye contact.
- Do not attempt to approach or pet them. This may provoke the coyote.
- Do not turn your back or run from a coyote.
- Attempt to leave the area calmly.
- If followed by a coyote, make loud noises and make yourself look big.
- If this fails, throw rocks, first near the ground next to the coyote, then, if necessary, at the body, never the head.
- Always keep yourself between the coyote and small children.
- Coyotes are not considered a disease threat. Outbreaks of rabies in coyotes are rare and not commonly implicated in the transmission of the disease to humans or domestic animals.
- If attacked, fight back- have a friend call 911
- There are no immediate concerns other than to be aware and know these tips to be safe.
Other Suggestions to Protect Yourself from Coyotes
If you are a guest at Sea Ranch or you live in a rural habitat, follow these added suggestions too.
- Feed your pets indoors: Outdoor feeding attracts many wild animals in Sea Ranch, including coyotes, raccoons, and foxes
- Secure your garbage: Coyotes in Sea Ranch, like dogs and raccoons, will knock over trash cans or tear open trash bags.
- Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds: Coyotes use such areas for resting and raising young.
- Secure your pets: Coyotes view pets as potential food items. Keep your pets indoors. Guests must keep their pets with them at all times.
- Rabbit hutches should have a solid bottom. Construct chicken coops with the wire buried a least one-foot underground around the perimeter of the coop. Do not use chicken wire. Stronger gauge wire is a necessity in protecting your small animals.
- Pick fruit off the trees as soon as it ripens, and keep rotted fruit off the ground.
- Trim and clear, as we do at Sea Ranch Abalone Bay any shrubbery that provides cover for coyotes or prey.
- Actively discourage coyotes with loud noises, flashing lights, recorded human voices such as a radio talk show, scattered mothballs, and ammonia-soaked rags
- Unspayed or unneutered dogs attract coyotes seeking a mate. If you do not have your pets spayed or neutered, kept them inside, especially if in heat.
- Inhumane, illegal, and not a viable alternative includes trapping and relocating coyotes
- Educate your neighbors: Pass this information along since your efforts will be futile if neighbors are providing food and shelter for coyotes.
Coyotes – Yodeling Dogs of the Wild
The coyote, a member of the dog family, thrive in California. The coyote resembles a small German shepherd dog with the exception of the long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. It’s high pitched, yodel-like yapping can frequently be heard at night and the sound can travel up to 3 miles or more. Native Americans called the coyote “song dog” and the scientific name Canis latrans means “Barking Dog.”
Other Interesting Facts about Coyotes
- The young are born blind and open their eyes after 10 days.
- Coyotes live up to 10 years in the wild.
- They can jump horizontal distances of up to 4 meters.
- Coyotes can hybridize with domestic dogs and wolves.
- Native American stories depict coyotes as very clever tricksters.
- They are omnivores
- Their life span in the wild is up to 14 years
- Coyotes size – Head and body is 32 to 37 in (81 to 94 cm) ; Tail, 16 in (41 cm)
- They weigh between 20-50 lbs (9 to 23 kg)
- Their group name is a pack
- Coyotes are very good swimmers. In areas of the northeast United States, where coyotes have migrated since the 20th century, the animals have colonized the Elizabeth Islands of Massachusetts.
Andelt, W.F. and S.H. Gipson. 1979. Home range, activity and daily movements of coyotes. Journal of Wildlife Management. 43:944-951.
Bender, J.; Bayne, E; Brigham; R. M. 1996. Lunar Condition Influences Coyote (Canis latrans) Howling. American Midland Naturalist 136(2):413-147. DOI:10.2307/2426745· 0.77