The newspaper headline would have pleased many Maine hunters: “Future of Coyotes in doubt.” But Patrick Whittle’s Associated Press story related that the reason the future of coyotes is in doubt is because they are becoming wolves.
The “increasing wolflike traits are making it a larger, more adaptable animal equipped for survival on the East Coast, scientists say. The growing wolflike characteristics mean humans must learn to better coexist with the adaptable predators, scientists and wildlife advocates said,” reported Whittle.
“It’s especially bad news for deer,” he noted. And boy, he got that right.
Scientists predict coyotes, as they continue to grow larger and more wolflike, will become more effective predators. I thought they were already pretty effective predators!
According to Roland Kays, a leading coyote biologist with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, our coyotes are 8 to 25 percent wolf. They are also 8 to 11 percent dogs, due to past interbreeding with feral dogs. Our coyotes already average 35 pounds, 10 pounds more than western coyotes. They’ve spread everywhere, including Central Park in Manhatten.
But of course, our concern is the impact that this new animal is having on Maine’s native wildlife, especially deer. And in 2009, coyotes killed 19-year-old Canadian singer Taylor Mitchell.
Whittle reported that scientists believe our coyotes “will have a greater chance of survival if they have access to large deer.” More bad news.
Dave Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, told Whittle that he has observed wolflike tendencies in Eastern coyotes, such as hunting in packs.
Also interesting was this bit of news: “State wildlife authorities are interested in finding what more wolflike traits will mean for the future of coyotes, said Wally Jakubas, mammal group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.”
Jakubas also said, “Whether these wolf genes are conferring some kind of advantage to these coyotes, that’s where it really gets interesting.”
I’d change the word “interesting” to “frightening.” How about you?