Posted by: teatown | March 29, 2009

Teatown Coyotes

Living in the Midst of a Predator

Teatown has released a report “Coyotes of the Hudson Hills and Highlands” detailing results of a 2007-2008 study (download the full report here). This effort sought to increase our understanding of coyote behavior and ecology, so as to minimize coyote-human conflict.

Historically, coyotes were not found in the Hudson Hills and Highlands. At the time of European settlement, their geographic range was restricted to the mid-west prairie states. Over the last 100 years, however, coyotes have successfully colonized the entire lower 48 states. Eastern colonization began in the early 1940’s in western New York, southern Canada, and Maine. Coyotes moved into the Hudson Valley about 1960 and into the Hudson Hills and Highlands about 1975. About 10 years ago, human-coyote conflicts began to be reported, typically involving predated pets or perceived threats to public safety. Every indication is that coyote numbers are increasing throughout the Hudson Valley and New York (about 30,000 coyotes currently live in New York).

Methods. Located in the heart of the Hudson Hills and Highlands, the project’s study site, Teatown Lake Reservation, typifies much of the region. To understand where coyotes are likely to be encountered by people, “camera trap surveys” of free-ranging coyotes were conducted throughout the Reservation between May 2007 and June 2008. Attached to a tree at a height of about 24 inches, the cameras automatically detected and photographed warm-blooded mammals and birds passing within 25-40 feet of the unit. Six rounds of surveys deploying cameras at 97 locations were conducted, resulting in 41,544 hours of sampling.

coyoteResults. 1,223 animals were identified in photographs, including: white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, common raccoons, coyotes, turkeys, red foxes, Virginia opossums, striped skunks, North American otters, fishers, domestic dogs, and people. No long-tailed weasels, bobcat, or gray fox were detected despite being known from the area. Chipmunks and rodents probably are too small to be seen on the photographs, and might account for some of the 275 “blank” photos. Table 1 summarizes the results of the study.     

 Table 1.  Animals photographed by camera trap surveys at Teatown Lake Reservation.

Round

Deer

Squirrel

Raccoon

Coyote

Turkey

Red Fox

Opossum

Others

No ID

Total

1:  “A”

294

8

6

9

3

2

2

19

104

447

2:  “B”

80

21

7

8

1

1

0

13

17

148

3:  “C”

262

35

9

9

9

2

0

19

57

402

4:  “D”

112

11

5

2

0

3

4

22

16

175

5:  “E”

96

17

8

4

7

2

3

9

53

199

6:  “F”

65

18

7

4

3

2

0

0

28

127

Totals:

909

110

42

36

23

12

9

82

275

1498

% of Animal Photos

74.3

9.0

3.4

2.9

1.9

1.0

0.7

6.7

—-

—-

 

The 36 photographed coyotes could not be distinguished as individuals. However, because of differences in tail length and other physical markings, we suspect at least 6-10 different coyotes were observed. Three of the animals were first-year pups. There were no significant seasonal differences in the number of coyote photographs, but we did see a trend for the fewest coyotes in November and December. The 36 photographed coyotes were observed at 21 of the 97 (21.6%)  camera locations.  The habitat for each of the 21 locations was recorded. All 36 coyotes were photographed at night.  Teatown Lake Reservation contains five major habitat types that typically are found in the Hudson Hills and Highlands. Coyotes were found more often than expected in scrubland, meadows,  and forested hardwood swamps.

Conclusions. Camera trap technology proved useful for wildlife managers at Teatown to better understand coyote ecology and behavior, and we learned that:

 1. Camera trapping methodology is especially practical at small geographic scales (500 to 5,000 acres) and allows wildlife managers to make specific recommendations aimed at minimizing coyote-human conflict at their site.

 2. Coyotes at Teatown, and we infer throughout the Hudson Hills and Highlands, can be found anywhere but are most likely to be encountered by people when they visit natural areas of shrublands, meadows, and forested hardwood swamps during the daytime and startle the resting coyotes — especially when these habitats also are away from human-use areas. Of course, traveling in these habitats at twilight or at night when coyotes are most active increases the chances of encountering them. We suspect that these generalizations hold for resident coyotes, but that dispersing juveniles or transient adults might be encountered anywhere, including near houses, schools, businesses, and (especially) farms.

 3. While the coyotes photographed in this study were relatively low in number (36), the 3-7 adult individuals were more than we expected for the land area surveyed (1-2 were expected, based on often reported densities of 0.5 coyotes per square mile in New York). We conclude that there are many more coyotes in the 936-square mile Hudson Hills and Highlands than is generally believed; we estimate at least 550-750 in the region.

Recommendations. Based on these observations and other known facts about eastern coyotes, we offer the following suggestions to minimize human-coyote conflict in the Hudson Hills and Highlands:

 1. Do not feed coyotes or encourage them to enter yards or human-use areas by carelessly storing garbage. Be sure to feed all pets inside and do not allow pets to run free. Supply only enough birdseed to feeders that can be consumed during daylight hours; excess birdseed draws rats and other rodents that, in turn, attracts coyotes.

 2. Coyotes natural inclination is to avoid people. They can be found anywhere in our region – day or night, but usually at night. If you do encounter one, especially near human-use areas, be aggressive in your behavior – make loud noises, wave your arms, throw sticks and stones.

 3. Understand that coyotes prefer the cover and remoteness that shrublands, meadows, and forested hardwood swamps provide. Be especially careful when walking in these areas.  Remove brush and tall grass from around your property.

 4. Understand that coyotes are “dogs” (canids) and perceive small dogs and cats as food, and treat larger dogs as competitors. This is especially important from February to June, when coyotes are breeding and denning with pups and become especially territorial.  You should always keep pet dogs on leashes when you hike or walk in parks and other natural areas. You should not travel with dogs in the more remote parks and natural areas between February and June.

 5. Be especially ready to encounter dispersing juveniles in unexpected places (e.g. in more human-use areas) in February and March when parents force them out before breeding season begins.

 6. Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance and inform them how to respond if they do encounter a wild animal.

 7. If you live adjacent or near a park, nature reserve, or other protected land your cooperation with the steps above is essential.

 8. Ask your neighbors to follow all the steps above.

Acknowledgments. The project team consisted of Fred Koontz, Mike Rubbo, Charles Koontz, Susan Elbin, and Alex Cochran. Teatown Lake Reservation thanks Wildlife Trust for financial support of the project.

Primary References.   1) Gompper, M. E. 2002. The ecology of northeast coyotes: current knowledge and priorities for future research.  Wildlife Conservation Society, Working Paper No. 17. Bronx, New York.  47 pp.   2) Parker, Gerry. 1995.  Eastern coyote: the story of its success. Nimbus Publishing, Halifax, Canada. 254 pp.

 Posted by Fred Koontz

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Thanks so much for posting this interesting study. With so much coyote activity in the neighborhood (and coyotes spotted in yards, including mine, in the daytime), do people with small children need to be concerned? My children are of the larger variety, but I have neighbors with toddlers.

  2. With common sense and proper interaction, I believe we can live with coyotes and other predators. Small children and pets should NOT be left unattended outdoors. It is essential not to feed wild animals, intentionally or accidently (e.g. unsecured trash cans). Teach your children to respect wild animals and maintain distance.

  3. Great report. What do we teach small children to do when a coyote is to close to them???

  4. We live on one of the Teatown properties, and saw our first coyote the other morning!

    We have a small herd of deer which come thru our backyard every morning and afternoon. Sometimes there are 5, other times a mother and her teenage doe. On Monday morning, I called my son to come outside to watch them (he likes the deer). When he walked out, their tails flipped and the deer bounded off. I though we had spooked them, but 3 seconds later a canine with a lush, red/grey coat walked out of the underbrush, sniffed in our direction, then ran off after the deer. Twas a coyote, obviously hunting the younger of a mother/daughter team.

    Since moving here I’ve seen plenty of wildlife; even had a crippled goose try to come inside, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a hunting coyote. Beautiful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: