WILTON – The coyotes are here. They are going to stay, so we better adapt to live with them.
Chris Schadler of the NH/Vermont Project Coyote presented a program about the animals at the Collaborative Space on Wednesday, September 21, sponsored by the Wilton Public/Gregg Free Library. About 15 people attended.
Project Coyote promotes education and coexistence with coyotes and advocates to eliminate coyote hunting throughout the year.
Schandler is a co-founder of the NH Wildlife Coalition, which defends predators and raises the public voice for wildlife. They are trying to convince the NH Fish and Game Department to change some of their policies.
He began with a general history of the area’s predators, including bobcats and fishermen. The fisherman, he said, is in danger.
When the Europeans arrived, they cleared the forest by driving out all the larger animals. Some of them, like the caribou, will never come back.
The coyote is the only dog native to North America. Our version, the eastern coyote, is a product of the smaller western coyote that interbreeds with the northern red world. DNA analysis, he said, has confirmed the wolf heritage. They can range in color from white to black with some larger individuals resembling wolves.
Coyotes live in family units with a breeding pair. They mate for life, self-regulate pack size, and are highly territorial. A coyote lives for three to four years and 2/3 of the females never reproduce. The mortality rate among cubs is 50 to 75 percent.
The coyotes came with the reforestation from the east, he said. The eastern form lives east of the Great Lakes and in Canada.
Schadler began his studies with wolves in the Midwest. Upon moving to NH, he purchased a sheep farm that had been continually ravaged by coyotes. She set out to coexist. By improving the fences and keeping the lambs inside at night, she said, she never lost a sheep.
“Care and tight fences, and perhaps a dog, will protect the livestock. Electric mesh fences will protect free-range chickens.”
Hunting will not rid the area of coyotes, he said. They’ve been testing out west for a hundred years using every conceivable method. “You can’t get rid of them. Adapt and protect your pets and livestock and be aware.”
Project Coyote advocates closing hunting season during the time the pups are in their den, April and May. They also ask farmers not to cut hay until the end of June.
Coyotes are both scavengers and predators, he said. If a hunter guts his deer in the woods, there are probably coyotes waiting for him to go. Their main diet is rodents (mice, chipmunks, squirrels), but they will also eat nuts and berries, and whatever else they can find. Cats are common prey. So keep them inside at night.
“People are not on their menu”, he stressed, though occasionally there is an animal that will attack a person, usually to protect cubs or territory.
“Killing coyotes increases litter size to compensate,” Shadler said. “It’s best to keep packages small.”
He emphasized that the coyotes are not impacting the deer herd, although they will take a fawn, many deer are sick or injured. “We have a lot of deer.” Predators regulate deer herds.
Although a coyote can breed with a domestic dog, these crosses generally do not survive due to the genetic difference. There are very few shy dogs.
“So be careful,” she said, and learn to live with them. “They are beautiful animals.”