At the Cove, we know there are coyotes around because of the scat they leave behind. They’re very good at being secretive, and sightings are rare – but recently, I lucked out and spotted an older pup! It was so exciting!
Coyotes are one of my favorite animals, despite their bad reputation. They’re not as aggressive as we tend to believe they are, and prefer to stay away from people if they can. This doesn’t mean they’ll stay away from our communities; on the contrary, modern human habitat is quite coyote-friendly! But as far as human contact is concerned, they’re wary of us: in 40 years, there were 160 human-coyote conflicts reported, which comes out to around 4 per year. Did you know there are 4 million dog bites reported in the U.S. each year? By comparison, humans are responsible for more than 100,000 coyote deaths each year. Coyotes are also responsible for much less damage on ranches and farms than they are accused of, and attempts at getting rid of them actually trigger behaviors that cause them to breed more.
Coyotes are intelligent and curious. Sometimes this gets them into trouble because inquisitiveness can be misconstrued as boldness or aggressiveness. They also have very strong family units and seem to “mourn,” or go into a state of chaos, when a family member passes away.
Many First Nation tribes, including those local to the Cove (Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute), viewed the coyote as a trickster figure, grandfather figure, or a right-hand helper of the Creator. Coyote was so good at fooling people that he often fooled himself in the process!
You can tell a coyote track by a couple of clues: animals in the dog family do not have retractable claws, so you can see the tips of the claws above the toes. Also, the whole track is oval shaped, as opposed to cat tracks that are more circular. See if you can notice the 5-armed star that’s colored light gray in between the toe pads in the image below – this is another helpful way to recognize a coyote track.
All creatures have their place in the ecosystem, even if they get a bad reputation. Will you give the coyote a chance? When you’re at the Cove, keep an eye out on the Tam-A-Lau trail for tracks and scat from this clever critter!