Nocturnal tunes of bluffing wolves are heard around Vernon and other British Columbia communities recently as they move into urban areas.
Attempts to eradicate coyotes in British Columbia since the early 1900s have proven long-term failure. To appreciate their success, we need to understand this intelligent, adaptable, wary of humans, but cunning creature.
The wolf, or sen k’lip, was revered by the Indians of the Okanagan First Nations as a cunning trickster and teacher. One of the legends says that “if all the animals in the world died, the wolf would be the last animal left”, attesting to its intelligence and adaptability.
Eradication of coyotes, which was damaged as insects in the last century, was attempted with a reward of $1-2.50 per skin. Rural youth and hunters were encouraged to be shot on site in an effort to protect livestock and hunt. By the 1950s, a compound similar to strychnine was added to meat baits to poison coyotes in wild areas.
How then did coyote populations rise up against these efforts to eradicate them, despite the predation of wolves, cougars, and bears that kill them for territorial reasons as rivals? This may be the key. As we eradicate predators from our growing urban areas, coyotes have moved in. Also, wolves are adapted to very diverse habitats and opportunistic food sources.
Coyotes are spread throughout North America. They are often seen in the fields around town and even on golf courses as well. People have watched them catch golf balls which may be mistakenly thought to be eggs. Often, coyotes are seen jumping and pouncing on prairie mice or mice in the fields, picking up the rodents between their front paws and swallowing them. It will also disrupt ground squirrels emerging from the holes.
Like other dogs, wolves have a wonderful sense of smell as well as sight and hearing. They are agile, fast and can chase prey at speeds of up to 65 km / h. They will eat almost any small animal they can catch. But nearly 90 percent of their diet is small mammals. So they are excellent rodent population controls. They will also eat rabbits, hares, ground squirrels, birds, eggs, bird seed, berries, grasshoppers, snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, litter, carrion, and even grass gnawing. Coyotes sometimes hunt in groups, but mated pairs and single wolves are most common. Occasionally, winter packs descend upon floundering deer. They generally do not kill livestock larger than chickens but can rely on carrion during the winter.
The coyote looks like a very small German shepherd the size of a terrier. But unlike other canines, coyotes run with their bushy tails and sometimes sway as if they were a sinner. They have narrow, pointed muzzles and large, hairy erect ears. Their fur is grayish on top, orange-brown on the sides and lighter on the bottom. Their feet are compressed.
They are outside at any time of the year, day or night. But they are most active at dusk and dawn when you hear choruses of barking, barking and howling. Thus, the name coyote is from the Spanish (Mexican) word meaning silence (callete). The Latin name Canus latrans means barking dog, as does the Aztec name Coyotl.
Stay tuned for the second part about wolves in next month’s column, which presents the habitat of the coyote, the life cycle and living with wolves
For more information on coyotes, read Carnivores of British Columbia by David Hatler, David Nagorsen, and Alison Beal, available in our library.
Roseanne Van Ee passionately shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook.
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