COYOTES AGAIN – February 2010

Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

My coyote observations of late have been limited to their tracks and scat but not their kills or for that matter the beasts themselves. Their numbers seem to be lower when compared to past years. The local cottontail rabbit population appears to be holding its own especially since they are finding refuge under my deck and pole barn. Wiley is remaining wiley and not venturing into close proximity of my domain although his tasty prey is here in numbers. It will be interesting to watch as the snow deepens and food sources become more scarce, will he break the human domain barrier?

A friend who lives closer to the reservoir had a fisher visit his porch in apparent search for the rabbits denning below it. Prey scarcity results in more audacious hunting by the predators, thus drawing them from the forest to a usually-feared, man-trammeled locale. The herd of eleven deer which are feasting on my front lawn of grasses and clover now lying below only about six inches of light snow, appear fat and healthy. They seem unconcerned by my presence, holding their scratched out turf, when I am out and about. Their numbers are the same as at the end of hunting season. Deep snow will make them susceptible to predation by the coyotes that learn to hunt in packs and seek out the weakened.


A fisher is a medium-sized mammal native to North America.

It seems that nature allows prey and predator populations to go through cycles of high and low numbers. Predators, being unaware of this, will continue to decimate the prey and increase their own numbers until finally (usually) there is a crash in both populations. Locally this seems to have been the case with the precipitous decline in cottontails and woodchucks and now they appear to be increasing their numbers. There appears to be a smaller number of coyotes and also of bobcats. This I am basing solely on my observations here in Bussey Hollow and other anecdotal evidence, which means it may not necessarily be so in other hollows or locales. So much will depend on the severity of the winter, especially the eventual snow depth.

Earlier, back in October, I was alerted to the carcass of a small spike buck that was lying in my woods just off Bussey Hollow Road. I found it and was unable to determine the cause of death although it was still quite fresh and warm. I dragged it to the end of a field where I could observe it with binoculars from my kitchen window. Why did I do this? Because, being an intrepid nature observer I could watch nature take its course. As we know nothing goes to waste in nature. By the end of the next day the crows, ravens and turkey vultures were feasting. The following morning not much had changed although there had been some nibbling by mice and possibly a raccoon, possum or skunk. It was four days before it was discovered by the coyotes and it was then decimated, bones chewed and scattered. I was surprised that it took that long to be discovered by the coyotes. Which in turn leads me to believe that their numbers may be down from previous years.

Anyone interested in answers to coyote questions and a lot more detail about their activities, food sources, habitat and movement should attend the lecture that  I helped arrange. ~