Has Spermatogenesis Kicked In?

In this short video clip, you’ll see a 4½ year old female (and two-time mother) coyote exhibiting a keen interest in her long-time mate’s urine odors. Might this kind of behavior have to do with reproduction and, although I don’t know this for sure, would her interest be tied to odors emanating from spermatogenesis in the male? Whether this is the case or not, this is a good time to address the phenomenon of spermatogenesis in coyotes.

Spermatogenesis is the process of producing sperm. For coyotes, unusually and fascinatingly, it kicks in heavily during just the winter months starting about now and coincides pretty exclusively with female ovulation, wherein there occurs just a ten-day window of opportunity for fertilization to occur. The production itself apparently takes about two-months. I decided to read up some more about it in three scientific papers, but I’m sorry I did. I was able to confirm my information above which I already knew, but I didn’t find out anything else about the process. And I was awakened to upsetting scientific methods.

Science often is not as concerned with the well-being of the animals as much as it is with the information that is sought. For one of these studies, captive animals *kept* by our Department of Agriculture were used — animals that had not been allowed to live their natural lives. In another study, animals were captured and removed from their family environments, which in itself is inhumane because these animals are integral parts of long-term family units and are very tied to their territories in an *ownership* type of way. Removing them disrupts not only the family, but the territorial dynamics which have been established. The coyotes were kept in small kennels for 6 months before the actual study even began. Coyotes wander great distances of several miles every single night, so this confinement must have been excruciating for them. They were anesthetized before probes were inserted through their anuses for *electroejaculation* for the purpose of obtaining semen for sperm counts and hormone levels. Only the third study extracted information from post-mortem animals: I’m pretty sure that the 441 animals involved weren’t expressly killed for this study. Might simply watching their behaviors (mating at only one time of year), and using roadkill have provided the sought-after information more humanely and respectfully?

I asked myself, “why do scientists want this information in the first place?” The answer given in the papers was to possibly regulate their numbers: i.e., birth control. BUT, coyotes control their own populations naturally through territoriality: they themselves limit the population in any given area to just one family and they keep other coyotes out. And they also limit their family numbers through behavior: younger females below the alpha mother remain “behaviorally sterile” as long as they remain on their parents’ territory. I read long ago where birth control does not work in coyotes, even with TEN times the amount given other animals.

For me, the welfare of the individual animals comes first, but then again, I’m not a degreed scientist. The population study I’m collaborating on through UC Davis is hands-off and non-invasive. We use visual recognition of the coyotes, and then scat to confirm and expand on those findings. The study also involves diet analysis through DNA found in their scat — again, this is a hands-off and non-invasive study.

I think more and more people are coming to realize that the wildlife around us needs to have their rights protected. I’ve just bought a book, one of a growing number on the subject, that addresses my concerns: The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World by Boyd, David R. which states that, “a growing body of law around the world supports the idea that humans are not the only species with rights; and if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities.” Apparently *forests* are another group of species that are being viewed as having legal rights. I think this is highly interesting, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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