Saturday, January 14, 2006

More Coyotes

This spot in Prince Edward County, where I have been staying for the past week (home again tomorrow) is the spot for seeing coyotes. The last three I've seen have been here, in almost the same spot. Once in the early summer, once a month or so ago, and today. All three times the coyote has been crossing just below the house. Now I know that they also come into the yard right around the house because I've found tracks and scats, and the other night I stepped out and startled a couple of somethings into leaving the yard and making a hasty retreat down an almost vertical slope, a drop of 10 or 15 metres. Could have been deer, but it's so steep, I'd have to see deer manage it at that speed to believe it.

The coyote I saw today was interesting for two reasons. First, it didn't notice me, so I got to watch it for a whole minute or two from above as it worked its way across the bottom of the slope and up through the woods on the other side of the yard. But second it was the first one I've ever seen that showed clear signs of mange.

I've heard a lot about mange in coyotes in this area. I gather that it can become very widespread, and then fades out of the population for a while, to reappear a few years later. Here's a link to a hunters' forum discussion about coyotes and mange. Mange is a disease caused by an infestation of mites. It's said to be very itchy, and the animal I saw today did stop for a good scratch. (The action showed how very thick its coat was where it was not affected.) It probably has sarcoptic mange, very common in canid populations in these parts. The mites cause itchiness, thickening of the skin and hair loss. Today's coyote had a beautiful coat on the front half of its body, patchy in the back half and an almost naked tail. And today the temperature dropped back near January normals--hard to live around here if you lose your coat.

Mange spreads from animal to animal--the mites don't survive long on their own. So obviously the more coyotes there are, the bigger their packs, the closer together they live, the more mange there will be.

I hear coyotes often in Thomasburg, and as I wrote in, my last post, people are shooting them there in a rather dedicated way lately, so there is at least the perception that we have a lot, too many. But I hear them more often (in proportion to listening opportunities) and see them so often down here I think there are probably many more.


Anonymous said...

I miss the sounds of our local coyotes chorusing since I've closed the house up- it's a shame to find them with mange, we've had mangey squirrels and fox both that my husband had to put out of their misery- squirrels will literally dig their poor little eyes out, it's a horrible way for any animal to suffer. You'd think the cold would knock back parasites, but guess not :( sorry to read you have ice too, I fell hard a few years ago, so now if it's icy I don't go out unless I have to.
I still haven't entered my Cornell data.. shame on me ;)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't discount the deer on the steep slope, I've witnessed deer running down a very steep slope in what would appear to be impossibly thick undergrowth, without any problem.

Mange certainly appears to be cyclical, appearing and then waning in the population. The last mangy coyote I saw was in La Ronge in Northern Saskatchewan, and several appeared that winter. I'd thought that they were at their northern limit there, until a few years later when I saw a Coyote near Hay River in the NWT. Fascinating animal.

Pamela Martin said...

Yes, Cindy, mange is a tough way to go when it gets serious enough. The stories I've heard about badly affected mangy coyotes are pretty gruesome.

Ice was bad here about ten days ago--and may return--warmer temperatures and freezing rain are predicted over the next couple of days. I just hope more snow will come and rough it up again.

Interesting about the deer Clare--I've often thought in tricky situations "four legs good, two legs bad." So maybe they could manage that slope. I sure would like to see it.

The story of the expanding range of the coyote is amazing. I didn't know that they were in NWT. They apparently got to Newfoundland in the 90's by crossing on ice floes. Wolves haven't crossed over from Labrador--too smart to try, or not as adventurous?

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It is not surprising that there are more coyotes than the ones you thought. It is because they know the importance of being together as a family.