- November 25, 2020
Trust me, even though you may not have seen any coyotes lately, there are still plenty of them roaming the countryside. Over the past couple of months, I have had a number of people tell me about the coyotes they have spotted, with a couple of people even reporting that they saw a pack of
Trust me, even though you may not have seen any coyotes lately, there are still plenty of them roaming the countryside. Over the past couple of months, I have had a number of people tell me about the coyotes they have spotted, with a couple of people even reporting that they saw a pack of coyotes; we’re talking three or four in one bunch. I suspect one of the reasons for the increase in sightings is simply because more people are roaming the woods now that a number of hunting seasons are open. While I haven’t spotted any coyotes during my own outdoor ventures lately, I have seen my fair share lying dead on highways.
The sighting of a coyote can solicit all kinds of reactions; some people are excited to see one, and there are some who hate the critters. If you are a farmer losing livestock due to coyotes, you probably fall into that second category. There is no doubt that some hunters fall into that second category as well, and some just plain fear the coyote even though it’s highly unlikely to be a threat to humans.
Early records show that the first “eastern coyote” was killed in Tioga County in 1942. It is believed that the first coyotes made their way into Pennsylvania by way of the Catskill Mountains in New York and then spread south and west across the state.
I heard of my first coyote sighting in the ‘60s when I was living in western Pennsylvania; it was such a rarity that many of us didn’t believe the report. By the 1970s, the Pocono Mountains had a pretty good population, and coyotes continued to expand their range until by the 1990s they occupied the entire state.
The total Pennsylvania coyote population in the 1990s was believed to be between 15,000-20,000, and although I don’t have any recent figures, I suspect that the number has grown considerably since then. Back in the early 90s the harvest was believed to be around 6,000, and about half of that number were coyotes taken while hunters were actually after turkeys, bear, or deer. Coyote hunters and trappers accounted for the other half. It’s also interesting to note that of all the coyotes taken, only about 15 percent were adults.
The coyote has earned its not-so-likable reputation from its taste for a variety of food items that include a wide range of wild game, plants, and fruits, and in some cases, domestic animals. Scat studies revealed that deer was a dominant food item, but that should not be surprising since we make plenty of deer remains available during our hunting seasons, including wounded and not recovered deer. We make even more available on our highways. Just last week, on a trip out Interstate 80 to DuBois, my brother and I counted 24 dead deer on or along the highway, and I’m sure we missed some.
Of course, coyotes are opportunists and will eat what they can capture; mice, voles, rabbits, or any other wild critter, but on occasion, they will take chickens, ducks, goats, and yes, even the neighborhood cat.
So, the coyotes are still out there, and they are doing just fine. Last week, a friend of mine showed me a photo he had of a pack of three not far from his front yard and not that awful far from my front yard. Even if you don’t get to see one, you might want to keep your ears tuned for some of their nighttime howls.