By: Cholla Nicoll, BRN Wildlife Intern
What is more American than the Fourth of July? How about an animal that has existed on this continent for over a million years, the coyote. The coyote arose in the Middle Pleistocene, and today there are 19 subspecies ranging from Central America to Alaska. Coyotes can be solitary or pack animals, frequently forming pair bonds that can last a lifetime. Coyotes are attentive parents and generally have pups once per year. They communicate with each other through vocalizations and scent marking. The scientific name for coyote is Canis latrans which means “barking dog”.
Coyotes continue to thrive after centuries of persecution and have even expanded their historic range filling gaps left behind by the elimination of other predators such as the wolf. The removal of coyotes leads to new coyotes breeding faster in the absence of resource competition. Although it has been well documented that killing coyotes is an ineffective and costly means of control, nearly a half million coyotes are still killed annually in the U.S.
These misunderstood animals are vital to our ecosystems and coexistence is more effective than lethal means of population control. Coyotes keep smaller predator populations such as feral cats and skunks in check, allowing birds a greater opportunity to reproduce. Coyotes also keep rodent and rabbit populations under control which benefits both urban and rural human communities. To learn more about how to coexist with coyotes please check out Project Coyote.
Arizona is now under a second round of shutdowns, due to an increase in COVID19 cases. This Fourth of July some of us will be missing our familiar routine of looking towards the sky for fireworks and laughing with friends and family. I suggest in place of our usual traditions we celebrate one of the greatest American survival stories known and turn our heads to the sky and howl.
If we can’t be together, we can take note from the coyotes and at least hear each other’s call of survival and continued endurance. Please enjoy the picture of a mated pair of coyotes who safely reside within the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.
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