Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Urban Wildlife Watch - Coyotes

Coyotes conjure up a lot of different images: Wil E Coyote of Looney Toons or evil bandits that attack sheep and other livestock. But the Coyote, scientific name Canis latrans, are a mixed bag. We typically think of predators species like coyotes as living in rural or big open area nature areas (like pasture ranges, national parks, deserts) but they are capable of living in almost any environment. Coyotes have made a tremendous comeback and populations are spreading far and wide. But interestingly coyote populations don't grow as well when their ranges overlap with wolves - a bigger, badder predator. Coyotes live everywhere, throughout the entire North American continent. They even live in cities, and are sometimes regarded as a nuisance. They are opportunistic. They are great hunters, but they will scavenge a cheap or free meal like trash, road kill, or unsuspecting family pets.

Even in very large, dense urban areas coyotes can survive - well. You may have even have seen one. Doubt it? Although, coyotes look alot like German shepards, there are some differnces. For one, coyotes are much smaller. In fact, coyotes usually weight only 35-40 pounds. Second, coyotes are pretty much light in color all over - a mix of grizzled gray and buff; they don't typically have a dark colored back like most German shepards. But one of the best ways you can you tell the difference between a coyote and dog is to look very closely at how it runs. When a coyote runs, its tail sticks out straight so that the tail is not curled or curved. Second, the tip of the coyote's tail is black. German shepards are not only bigger, but have a curved tail and the tip of the tail is buff color.

Keep your eyes open for these 'top predators' in your neighborhood. But be careful. Never attempt to pet or approach any wild animal, especially a smart predator like the coyote. And keep your pets safe and avoid leaving unsued pet food (or any food) out. Remember, coyotes are in the dog family - so being wild animals, they are likely to carry dog diseases that could make your family pets very ill. Plus, it's best to see these great animals from afar.
photo credit: www.thegeminiweb.com

Keep having Urban Science Adventures! (c)

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