COYOTES: Sensational Newspaper Articles Provoke Public Paranoia

THE WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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Coyote stalking meadow voles in a Brandon Township meadow. (Photo courtesy of Ron Lapp)

It happens every summer: sensational news reports vilify coyotes in Oakland County. The media transforms Canis latrans into something as foreign as an alien spacecraft landing. That style of reporting (in print and on television) creates bias by being short on facts and using such words as predatory and lurking.

Coyotes are predatory but the word predatory when placed before the word coyote creates fear.  Frogs, salamanders, hawks, robins and the beautiful eastern bluebird are also predatory. A phrase such as “The coyote was seen lurking in the woods” is often included in news reports. Lurking equates with sinister intent; you will never read, “A predatory bluebird was lurking at the edge of the woods,” in the newspaper.

Coyotes are highly intelligent animals, and are adapting to our way of life far more quickly then we are learning about theirs. A few days ago, I received an inquiry asking what can be done to rid the county of “vermin”. And by vermin the complainant referred to a coyote that might have killed a fawn not far from the Paint Creek Trail. The individual was upset that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was not going to trap the coyote – they wanted warnings posted that a coyote was seen in the area. I do not see anyone asking the County to rid us of automobiles because they kill deer. I suspect a bit of the “Bambi Syndrome” came into play – with the fawn being cute and coyotes having an undeserved image of being a bad guy.

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After a surprise cross country ski encounter on a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore trail, the coyote and I went our separate ways.

Coyotes are very much part of the natural environment in every county in Michigan; they help to keep geese in check by eating the eggs and the geese still in their flightless stage.  They also feast on mice, rats, groundhogs, rabbits and just about any small creature.  They are also a natural predator on fawns. That is the way of the coyote.

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A coyote that tripped an automatic wildlife camera in my wooded yard in Brandon Twp. Note: The elongated snout was a result of slow-shutter speed and the position of the camera.

The way of humans should be to keep coyotes wild. Coyotes are an important role in the ecosystem and by their very nature are curious of their surroundings and cautious of humans.  But if they are given access to garbage and human food, their behavior changes and they become bold and begin to lose caution and fear. With sensational newspaper articles provoking public paranoia, it’s time for a few facts about how to co-exist with coyotes.

  • NEVER feed coyotes.
  • Do not leave pet food or water bowls out overnight.
  • Keep small pets indoors at night.
  • Always keep dogs leashed on trails.
  • If you see a coyote around your home or on a trail, never run away. Create noise and commotion to scare it away.

Arm yourself with knowledge, not fear.  An excellent on-line resource on co-existing with coyotes and other wildlife can be found on the website link of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Keep Me Wild program: www.KeepMeWild.org

Text and photos by Jonathan Schechter, Oakland County Parks Nature Education Writer. www.DestinationOakland.comSchechterj@oakgov.com

3 thoughts on “COYOTES: Sensational Newspaper Articles Provoke Public Paranoia

  1. Coyotes are vermin. They are not native to MI, and can be hunted at any time as long as you possess a valid hunting license (the new base license includes a small game license).

    The best way to tell if you have coyotes around is to look for their scat. Coyotes eat their entire prey – fur and all, and they can’t digest hair. So look for hairy piles. If there’s a pack nearby, they will also greet the returning alpha dogs in the twilight. It’s a scary sound and exactly what you think it might sound like.

    Coyotes also kill an awful lot of fawns. There are arguments pro and con about this, however, as noted before, the coyotes aren’t supposed to be here.

    • Thanks for your note on coyotes however, I must respectfully disagree with you on most points. Although rumors on how coyotes have colonized Michigan have taken on a life of their own with some alleging that coyotes (and cougars) were secretly trucked here by the DNR; they are a native species and here on their own accord. If you check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or the wildlife agency of any other State you will discover that eastern coyotes are found in all states east of the Mississippi. A google search will produce the same results. Coyotes arrived in Michigan the old fashioned way; walking east with a bit of possible breeding with wolves along the way. That’s why the Eastern coyote, a native species of Michigan, is larger than its western kin, the western coyote. They are found in every county in our State.

      As for your comment that they are ‘vermin’ and can be hunted at any time, that’s simply not true. A check of the hunting and trapping regulations of the State of Michigan confirms there is a regulated hunting season.

      Yes coyotes will kill fawns. Coyotes, wolves, bobcats and bears all kill deer and fawns. However, Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Buick, Toyota, Jeep, Subaru and Hyundai kill far more deer and fawns than the natural predators. Coyotes are not considered vermin; except perhaps by those that do not like coyotes and hunt them for sport. Many farmers appreciate coyotes being around for they eat other pests some call vermin; rats, mice, voles, rabbits, groundhogs and even grasshoppers. Coyotes also eat young geese and geese eggs which helps control the great number of geese in suburbia.

      You are correct about the scat, wolves, coyote and fox scat all contain bits of fur and bone but the scat is not left in ‘hairy piles’ The scat has a twisted, almost braided look and is very different looking than dog scat.

      -Jonathan Schechter, Oakland County Parks Nature Education Writer

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