It happens every summer, a coyote is noticed for a fleeting moment in Oakland County and suddenly neighborhood Facebook chat groups explode with sensationalized reports of a coyote that is “lurking” about.
Words have power. “A deer was lurking in the woods and watching me” would be a laughable sentence. But when it comes to coyote sightings, “lurking” seems to be a word that makes its way into a descriptive sentence. Coyotes don’t lurk. They watch. They listen. They sniff. They observe. They act. And they respond to human behavior. Continue reading →
“Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared landscapes with humans. They were part of the ecological matrix within which Homo sapiens evolved. They were part of the psychological context in which our sense of identity as a species arouse.”
“The teeth of big predators, their claws, their ferocity and their hunger, were grim realities that could be eluded but not forgotten. Every once in a while, a monstrous carnivore emerged like doom from a forest or a river to kill someone and feed on the body. It was a familiar sort of disaster-like auto fatalities today – that must have seemed freshly gruesome each time, despite the familiarity.” — Monster of God, David Quammen
Oakland County lacks the man-eating predators of history that still seem to haunt our minds and exaggerate our fears. But as the cold days of November shorten, and some species of wildlife move closer to our homes to forage under bird feeders, we still behave at times as if our lives are at risk by the very presence of wildlife. Negative comments about opossums, raccoons, deer, wild turkeys and the much maligned Eastern Coyote seem to spread like wildfire as Thanksgiving draws near. Some neighborhood social media sites fuel misinformation about urban wildlife with comments such as, “We saw a coyote lurking in a field.” Deer, rabbits, turkeys and coyotes might be seen in a field, but none “lurk” there: a reminder that the usage of certain words can be powerful and lead to fear-mongering. Continue reading →
The eastern coyote (Canis latrans) is an intelligent, curious, and highly adaptable animal. Although once confined to the great American deserts and prairies where they were targets of ceaseless eradication campaigns, coyotes have now colonized our nation from coast to coast. “Unlike wolves, which succumbed quickly to predator control measures, decades of intensive persecution did not eradicate coyotes – the unrelenting pressure on them did invoke an ancient coyote biological imperative: It triggered larger litters of pups and colonization behavior that pushed them into new settings everywhere.” – Dan Flores in his 2016 book Coyote America. Continue reading →
Winter is the perfect time to search for wildlife tracks. No matter how bold or stealthy the wanderings of a wild creature might be, tracks in the snow expose identities – and sometimes create mysteries. Tracking in snow can be fantastically easy, as in the case of clear raccoon tracks near a bird feeder, or it can be deceptively tricky when tracks distort and expand during snow melt. A bare footprint of a human in snow turns into something that is Sasquatch size, and a house cat track might morph into a mountain lion. One thing is certain, winter wildlife tracks are fun to explore, and many park agencies have winter tracking programs. Check with your nature center or park agency for details! Continue reading →
Coyotes present a clear and present danger—-to the furry, little, meaty meadow voles that live under the snow in meadows and lawns of Oakland County. Canis latrans, the eastern coyote, is very much at home in the parklands, woodlands and even the suburban and urban areas of Oakland County. Coyotes are elusive, adaptive, curious, and intelligent. They manage to hold their own and often thrive when living in close proximity to humans. Coyote sightings within city limits and along the trails of suburban parks in winter are not at all unusual. They are adapting to our ways and behaviors and have adjusted in our midst far more quickly than we have been able to fully learn about their ways.