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Eastern Coyotes could be beneficial

September 25, 2010
By Kenneth Cobb

I think it was about 1990 when I read a story in Wonderful West Virginia, titled "Coyotes Are Here to Stay." The Eastern Coyote is somewhat different from its western cousin. The Eastern Coyote is possibly a hybrid with timber wolves from the north, red wolves from the south, and maybe some large wild dogs in the eastern states. Today, this wild animal has expanded its range to all of the eastern states.

Several people have told me that a coyote's favorite food is anything it can chew. This may be true. Here is a wild animal of opportunity that can adapt itself where the food supply is favorable. Here is a predator of wildlife and small domestic animals. The diet of all coyotes usually consists of rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, muskrats, turkeys, wild fruits of all kinds and occasionally a house cat or dog that has gone wild. It is well known that coyotes are in all of the 48 adjacent states and ranges from Alaska to the Panama Canal.

Everyone needs to know that predation is a natural part of the ecosystem. Here in West Virginia, coyotes are a significant predator of deer fawns. Studies have clearly shown this is their food of choice during June and July. In some counties of West Virginia where the deer populations are overly abundant, like over next to the Ohio River, coyote predation could be beneficial to the overall health of the deer herd. Reducing the deer numbers will provide more nutrients for the remaining deer.

It does not matter whether hunters like it or not, the Eastern Coyote is now a permanent member of the ecosystem in West Virginia. They are bigger and more aggressive than the Western Coyote, but they do not have any reputation for attacking human beings. I have seen a few in the woods of Randolph County, but it was now I see them and now I don't. I figure they would see me first and quickly run.

Coyotes also prey on turkey and ruffed grouse. As of now, it is not fully known how this predator will affect the populations of these game birds.

West Virginia has very liberal hunting seasons on coyotes. Hunting is permitted at night between Jan. 1 to July 31. People hunting coyotes at night need to remember that the legal firearms are shotguns using four shot or smaller, or .22 rimfire rifles or handguns or smaller. During the daylight hours, it is continuous open season with no bag limit. Here is a real challenge for any serious varmint hunter. Since the coyote is still colonizing certain areas of West Virginia, the overall impacts of this wild animal will not be fully understood for several years, possibly two decades. The coyote is adaptable despite years of being hunted in the western states.

I remember reading an article in Popular Science magazine back in the 1960s which said coyotes were practically living in the city of Los Angeles, California. It was less than five years ago when a coyote was wandering around New York City.

Several of my neighbors are telling me they are hearing and seeing more coyotes than ever before. I am afraid that I have to agree with the story that I read in Wonderful West Virginia about 20 years ago: "Coyotes Are Here to Stay."



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