End of Summer Ranch Observations, by Walkaboutlou

Here are some amazing end-of-the-summer observations I wanted to share. There’s so much information here, lots of detail, and incredible insight, beautifully woven together into a letter. Enjoy and learn! Janet

Hi Janet,

Lou here. Summer is ending and I’m piecing together local coyote snippets and news and ranch situations. All told, very consistent with local human behaviors.

On the ranches where no coyote are hunted, (and livestock are cattle) everything seems very “stable” to minimal. Small litters of 2-5. Predictable vocalizations. The usual subtle background living Coyotes seem to enjoy. The scat in these areas is full of plum and apricot seeds, deer hair, tons of blackberries, and overwhelmingly rodents.

Overall, of course each coyote is a fluid and distinctive individual, subject to rapid change and stages.

But if my summer scouting had a theme, it would be the contrast of Coyotes behavior even in similar regions.

For example, non hunted coyote in cattle ranches (4000 acres or more) seem to develop small, stable packs and territory. The food and ecosystem are abundant in large ranches. If the cattle can range, grass grows leaving vast regions of insects, and rodents. The pups learn early to forage on grasshoppers, mice. Very predictable quiet patterns. Often seen in distance in diurnal behaviors. By Fall, usually 2-3 pups remain. (accidents and natural predators curb litter survival) Pups seem to want to hang with pack a year or 2. Also, prey is scavenged until gone. A deer dying from being hit by car (running off to die in brush) or fawns harvested are eaten and visited until gone. Nothing is wasted.

The contrast again in ranches that hunt coyote hard is almost shocking. I have determined large, sheep operations are very challenging for Coyotes to coexist peacefully. If it’s large, LGD can only be in so many places. Also, large herds of sheep graze the land intensely. The cropped grass becomes a giant short lawn, unsuitable habitat for rodents, insects etc..if sheep are grazing long, you’ll notice hardly any sounds of crickets etc…and blackberry bushes are cut by ranchers because sheep get entangled. So the lack of forage, food and cover changes the setting. Add to this intense human hunting. Very intense. The coyote often become nocturnal. The closely cropped land and human hunters do not favor open, relaxed foraging. There are minimal rodents. So the coyote tend to hole up all day and hunt far and wide very hard at night with time as a factor. And pressure. Another complication-large herds of sheep especially isolated always have old, sick, hurt or dead. Or a scattering of lambs in all directions. The coyote scavenge dead sheep, or prey on lambs. Their pups are weaned on sheep. The smell becomes embedded as food-and a cycle is created.

Other reactions caused by human pressure-non hunted coyote females pick a mate around 2nd year. Hunted female coyote often pair bond as yearlings. So daughter’s breed earlier and with larger litters in answer to hunting pressure.

The social ramifications are evident. Many ranchers will hunt and leave a coyote as a magnet for surviving pack members to investigate, becoming targets themselves. Only this doesn’t work long. Hunted Coyotes learn to truly leave the dead behind. Some mothers will not check out a deceased pup or mate. This detachment of survival to me is amazing but sad too.

Also, such hard living Coyotes show other behaviors. They quickly, hurriedly hunt. And more readily raid any livestock or pets that opportunities give. They often do not return to a carcass after one feed. They’ve learned hunters, greyhounds or snares are sometimes waiting.

Pups scatter and really practice independence by Fall. The long puppyhood of stable packs is absent in hunted coyote.

All in all, stable coyote packs and hunted coyote are vastly different. And unfortunately, the unpredictability of hunted coyote makes them unwelcome even among stable packs. They really are different. And bring behaviors that can influence others.

I wish I could just make everyone leave coyote alone. They would still be amazing. But we would see and learn so much more without ignorance or outright war. Coyote are definetly mirrors of the local humans. If I want to know about people’s culture/lifestyle/knowledge or lack of, the local dogs and coyote will inform me.

Keep Studying and Coexisting.

Lou🐾


Hi Janet-I did forget to add one element to my summer coyote scouting.

This pic off internet sums it up well.

In areas where packs of coyote live more or less normally, you’ll find more or less the usual range in size and color of coyote. Especially in West. However, where coyote are hard hunted and scattered year round, you will find some that obviously have more then coyote genetics. This goes in hand with younger females (yearlings) breeding and also lower coyote numbers. If they are hit hard locally, surviving coyote have no hesitation breeding with dogs, especially free roaming ranch dogs (often kelpie/cattle dog/collie types).

This, in turn, can create more variety in local subspecies of coyote-and no doubt affects some. Larger size or bolder demeanor are often traits of 1st generation crosses. They tend to be absolved back into wild populations. But are another aspect of hard hunted coyote.
In laymans words-if you take away a coyote’s mate and think she’s beat, she’ll just recruit your dog as her next husband. And the pups won’t be Lassie. Either way, coyote will turn the dice of man’s efforts into a win.

Lou🐾

What is a Coydog?

This urban coyote, to me, is a little strange looking. The other 9-month olds that I know do not look quite like this (see photos below). I’m not sure I can say exactly *how* he looks different — possibly he’s just a little bit compressed or stunted in size? But maybe I’m wrong: it did occur to me that his oddness might just be a variation of normal that I’m simply not accustomed to. That would be good news. Alternately, he could be *handicapped* or even *challenged* in some way, and that would be bad news. OR, I even wondered if there might be the possibility that he’s an urban coydog? Probably not, but I decided to do a posting on coydogs.

The Coydog is a hybrid between a coyote and a dog. It has many features common to the coyote, both temperamentally and in appearance. A true coydog is 1/2 coyote: it has one pure coyote as one of its parents. Coydogs are MUCH less common than people think. For one, coyotes have a once-a-year breeding season (January through March), while dogs are on a twice-a-year schedule which is well after the coyote’s. The vast majority of reported or claimed “coydogs” are not coyote crosses at all, but simply husky or German shepherd crosses that look vaguely coyote-ish.

Coydogs vary in appearance, depending on which dogs they have bred with. I found that, “they can be differentiated by their typical dark neonatal hair color, a white face mask, ebony coat color in adulthood, and a bushy, downward tail. Like the coyotes, their ears are triangular, and they have piercing eyes.”

It is not known whether fertility drops in coydogs — it does not drop with wolf/dog breeding. Coydogs do only two things that wolves & dogs don’t do: they have the unique ability to gape (instead of a doglike snarl) like its coyote parent, when threatened. And, they can emit a hissing sound like a cat, which other dogs can’t. Besides these two similarities, coydogs make sounds that are a fusion of a howl and a high pitch bark.

The individual disposition of coydogs might range from a shy, timid nature, to a gentle, friendly one, to one who is so overly fearful that it would feel threatened and afraid very easily, resulting in aggression or even biting. Coydogs, as coyotes, are very territorial. Their behavior is skittish and can be outright aggressive towards “intruders”. This is one of the reasons they do not make good pets.Another reason is that they need lots of individual affection and care — much like a human child — which is, of course, what their parents give them. They are intelligent, aggressive (compared to most domestic dogs), strong, loyal and energetic.

Most 9-month old coyotes look like this

another 9-month old