Wily Coyote


It seems northwestern Ontario is not the only place where canids are thriving. I’ve never seen as many coyotes in Alberta as I did this year. They were everywhere.

On the last day of the hunt, Neva took off chasing . . . something . . . and no amount of calling or whistling got her off whatever she was tracking. I even had an e-collar on her, but something must have been amiss because even that didn’t deter her. So when she disappeared over the horizon, I didn’t know what to do. So I waited . . . for about a half hour. Then, I thought I saw her, loping towards me. But it wasn’t her, it was a coyote. Which kept coming towards me. I figured she was being chased – hopefully by Neva – and sure enough, about 2 minutes after the coyote ran by there came Neva, hot on the coyote’s trail.

That was the end of her hunt for the day.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) out west tend to be smaller than their more eastern cousins, but apparently there is some evidence that their size is on the increase, possibly in response to growing populations of elk and moose. There is also a growing population of gray or timber wolves (Canis lupus) in the west.

Wolves and coyotes are incredibly plastic, and there is a lot of variation with respect to size and colour and behaviour. Some biologists have succeeded in having another species of wolf recognized (the eastern wolf, Canis lycaon ), but I don’t think it warrants being a stand alone species. It interbreeds with the gray wolf and their ranges overlap (naturally), which Bio 101 would suggest they be recognized as a sub-species, at best. Or maybe that nebulous ‘ecotype’, another way to be a splitter. In the forested east, large coyotes – or small wolves – are often referred to as ‘brush wolves’.

At any rate, wolves and coyotes are thriving over large swaths of North America. If you like wolves, that’s a good thing.

I like wolves (and coyotes), but I also think there can be too many of them. But that’s largely because I’m a hunter, and right now where I live there are lots of wolves, hardly any moose, and a low and rapidly dwindling deer population.

And not many coyotes, either ( a few, though). And that has nothing to do with human persecution or a lack of suitable coyote habitat. Apparently, timber wolves tend to lay a licking on coyotes. I suspect they have been doing just that.

  1. diplocounsel said:

    Thanks for another fantastic blog! Do you think hunting of wolves and coyotes should be encouraged to improve ecological balance? Or maybe we should avoid interfering in these natural cycles.

  2. Hunting is part of the natural system, as the world and the species in it have evolved with the presence of hunters, including the human variety. That said, we need to be careful and have to manage our hunting activities. Its all about balance. Can’t have wolves living in urban environments, and their numbers in agricultural landscapes need to be held in check. The wilder an area is, the less we need to interfere. I hope that makes some sense.

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