Coyotes

Bob Sallinger, spoke at the May 2003 Skyline Ridge Neighbors meeting about coyotes. Bob is Director of the Wildlife Care Center of the Audubon Society of Portland. Twenty-three people attended the meeting. Here is a summary of his talk:

Because of changes in the landscape and their extreme adaptability, coyotes have expanded their territory. Until the 1940s, coyotes in Oregon were rarely seen west of the Cascade Mountains. Their weight of 22-35 pounds is deceiving because of thick fur making them appear heavier. The summer coat tends to be lighter than the winter coat. Unlike the wolf, the tail of a coyote hangs down. They can run up to 40 mph at short distances.

They live alone, in a pack or in pairs. Usually only the alpha male and alpha female breed, producing one litter a year. Breeding occurs between January and March with a gestational length of 62 days, producing 4-9 pups in a litter.

They eat a wide variety of food, for they are opportunists, smart and adaptable. Koi ponds and watermelon are fair game, as well as rodents, fruit, and pet food. Coyotes love cats and small dogs as a gourmet food source. According to studies, outdoor, domestic cats have a lifespan of only 2 years, thanks in part to the coyote.

While most activity is at night, coyotes can be seen in the daytime. Though wary of humans, they are curious and will approach people at safe distances and will stay to watch you if they feel safe. The primary cause of problems with human-coyote interaction is the human. Do not approach or feed these animals. Enjoy coyotes from a distance; they are wild. There has been only one human death caused by a coyotes in the United States. It occurred when a coyote who was accustomed to being fed by a family, preyed upon their 3 year-old child. To reduce human & coyote conflicts do not feed them, securely cover garbage cans and compost bins, remove fallen fruit from property, never approach a coyote and if necessary install coyote-proof fencing.

Despite widespread efforts to reduce or eradicate its population, the coyote population flourishes. It is illegal to remove and relocate a coyote in Oregon. If a “problem” coyote is identified, the only alternative is euthanasia. Traps and poisons are not selective in what they capture or kill, making them a real risk to pets and other wildlife. While trapping may eliminate specific coyotes, the population will ultimately not be reduced. Coyotes compensate. When their population decreases, the number of surviving pups in a litter will increase. Coyotes outside the area will quickly “fill in” to populate the area of decreased population. Coyotes other than only the alpha couple may breed.
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