The Gangsters of Wildlife, or a Diety?
The Prairie Wolf and Biological Warfare:
When Lewis and Clark first saw a coyote in 1804, they thought it was a fox but then corrected themselves and William Clark finally called it a prairie wolf.
In 1823 naturalist, Thomas Say officially described the prairie wolf as Canis latrans, barking dog, which has been the recognized scientific name ever since.
Most of us are familiar with the cartoon, Wylie Coyote, where he tries his hardest to catch the Road Runner but is always unsuccessful. That is about all that the coyote has been unsuccessful at doing in spite of man’s efforts for over 100 years to eradicate him from this earth.
To the many Indian tribes of the Great Plains down to the Southwest all the way up to Oregon, Old Man Coyote was known as the Trickster and a deity, that saved the buffalo from a monster, invented fires and helped shape the world. But to the cattlemen and sheep ranchers, they are considered parasites and they launched a fierce battle that still rages today to wipe the coyotes out.
The first government agency saddled with the job of taking care of the coyote problem, was the Bureau of Biological Survey(BBS). Don’t you think this is a great acronym for a government agency? The original target of BBS and the ranchers was the gray wolf and they were almost successful in wiping every wolf off the planet. Their recipe to achieve this included biological warfare and strychnine was the weapon of choice. They found that they could kill over 300 coyotes in a little over a week with the use of strychnine. But Montana officials rose, or should I say, stooped, to another level when they introduced sarcotic mange to coyotes. Mange is a parasitic mite that causes hair loss and inflammation. It is a miserable condition that causes itching and pain that eventually will cause the death of wild coyotes and foxes. Our government’s policy has and still seems to be that predatory animals no longer have a place in our civilization.
Like buffalo skulls and exotic bird plumage, predator pelts were in high demand and it is estimated that hunters, called wolfers, killed hundreds of thousands of coyotes on the Great Plains in the mid-1800’s.
In 1871, when Horace Greeley told R. L. Sanderson to, “Go West!” he didn’t tell him that he would encounter an animal that was as smart or smarter than he was, the coyote. Anglo-Americans were unfamiliar with the coyote and didn’t know if it was a wolf, a fox, a bobcat or something else. What they were to find out is that he possesses all the same traits as humanity, the good and the bad and that he was truly a cunning force to reckon with.
They possess a trait similar to what some humans attempt to achieve through Autogenic Training, the ability to adjust to a stressful environment and survive. This trait allows them to assess the environment around them. If they sense plentiful resources, they will produce large litters of pups, if not, their litters are much smaller.
Why is this important? Well, as the cattle and sheep ranchers of the west were busy eradicating the wolf population, the coyotes were quietly replacing them until their population was estimated to be in the millions.
In addition to the biological warfare, the ranchers employed firearms, dogs, and traps. That along with market hunting, which was later to be outlawed, they were on the way to the eradication of the barking dog.
But wait, it seemed almost impossible to even thin out this trickster, the coyote. As the saying goes, it’s time to get out of Dodge and that is what they did. The coyote started to move to different locales and, like humans, they are very adept at adapting to their new surroundings.
Coyotes represent one of the most successful colonization stories of any animal in North America. In less than 70 years, they had spread to almost all habitats within the US and now they live just about everywhere imaginable to even include your backyard. Coyotes begin looking for a den sometime in March or April, and usually do not use the den again from one year to the next.
Coyotes seek out the type of prey that will give them the greatest reward with minimal risk of injury to themselves. As a result, their favored prey include small mammals such as rabbits, mice, rats, and squirrels, as well as human-produced food such as garbage, cat or dog food. Coyotes also eat insects,fruits, and berries.
From coast to coast they’ve become a fact of life in American cities. They howl in downtown Atlanta, Washington D. C., Chicago, Beverly Hills and just about every city in America. Coyotes now born and raised in cities prefer to live in cities just like humans.
Studies have found that the coyotes in the northeastern US different from their western cousins. As coyotes migrated east across the continent, they encountered whatever remained of wolves and some interbreeding occurred. Coyotes in the northeastern United States outweigh their western cousins by 20 – 30 lbs and have more wolf-like physical traits. Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet and prefer living in parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.Coyotes, of course, take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat that has been left outdoors. However, pets are not primary prey for them. A study by Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed evidence of cats.
Probably the best-known trickster ever, Richard Nixon, banned the federal use of poisons for predator control in 1972. Like the wild horses and burros and the buffalo eradication, coyote control has been in the middle of the culture wars for years.
Between 2006 and 2011, hunter’s have killed over 500,000 coyotes nationwide.
For every coyote killed, another rat lives.