The sight and sound of coyotes should be something North Americans are accustomed to, considering our long-standing relationship with this adaptable 'yipping dog.' From Native Americans, to pioneers, to modern-day man, the coyote has been revered, feared, despised, persecuted, and admired for its ability to survive.
Coyotes, also known as song-dog, yipping dog, little wolf, prairie wolf, and barking dog, have adapted well to many environments. Their litany of names reflects the various cultures that have experienced coyotes close-up. Once found only on the Great Plains, coyotes have extended their range to include Central America, Mexico, the United States (except Hawaii), Canada, and the Arctic.
"Coyotes are not native to Ohio," said Todd Haines, wildlife management supervisor for the Division of Wildlife in south- west Ohio. "Eighty years ago marked the first appearance of coyotes in our state. Today, they are found in all of Ohio's 88 counties."
A bowhunter survey, conducted annually by the Division of Wildlife, indicated 3.8 coyotes seen for every thousand hours of time that bowhunters spent in the field in 1990. In 1998, survey results showed 9.4 coyotes per thousand hours of obser-vation.
Using corridors along waterways as travel lanes into new territories, coyotes have been turning up in the most urban of places. For example, coyotes have been removed from the Cleveland, Ohio metro area for the past three years, and recently a group of coyotes was seen in the Kettering, Ohio area near a shopping mall and major roadway. They don¿t seem to mind the big city lights either ¿ in 1995 a pair was observed in New York City's Central Park!
Coyotes are both predators and scavengers, and mainly nocturnal. And as omnivores (eating both animals and plants), they take full advantage of any available food source.
"People usually do not realize that the food they put out for their pets, or to attract wildlife such as birds, can provide a food source either directly or indirectly for coyotes," said Damon Greer, a wildlife research technician for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Even fruit from domestic fruit trees can provide food for them. Coyotes will eat just about anything. They are true opportunists.
A coyote's diet consists of rodents, rabbits, carrion, livestock and poultry, vegetation, miscellaneous animals, and a few insects. However, coyotes have also been known to eat pet food, garbage, fruits, and watermelons. Urban environments provide an ample food supply, as well as ready shelter in the form of drainpipes, culverts, and abandoned buildings.
Problems occur when coyotes - or any wild animal - become accustomed to humans and subsequently lose their fear of people. The best way to avoid this wildlife-human conflict is to not unwittingly provide a food source or shelter for wild animals.
You are most likely to hear the howls, yips, or barks of a coyote rather than actually see one of these elusive animals. The first howling season of the year occurs January through March, the breeding season. The second howling season, when the adults are calling weaned pups back to their rendezvous point, occurs during September and October.
Though a relatively recent addition to Ohio's list of wildlife, coyotes are here to stay. Wary, elusive, and smart, these wild dogs have found Ohio, as well as most of North America, very much to their liking.
The Service also administers or participates in a number of programs to conserve and restore waterfowl habitat. For example, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international partnership effort, has protected, restored, or enhanced more than 5 million acres of wetland habitat since 1986. Provisions of the Farm Bill, such as the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program, have provided significant acreage of wildlife habitat in the United States in recent years. The Swampbuster provision of the Farm Bill and the wetland protection provisions of the Clean Water Act also have helped conserve waterfowl habitat. And conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited have conserved and restored prime habitat for ducks.
Tammy York is a public information specialist for the Division of Wildlife in southwest Ohio.
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