If you have been enjoying time on your Colorado ranch, you have undoubtedly heard the howl of the coyote. At once beautiful and eerie, it reminds us of our close proximity to the wild and how fortunate we are to coexist with animals such as the coyote, bear, moose and mountain lion. To some Native American tribes, the coyote represents a revered teacher who uses mischief and trickery to teach needed lessons. To livestock ranchers they represent a nuisance. Many of these ranchers are turning to non-lethal control such as using livestock protection animals like llamas, donkeys and the Great Pyrenees dogs to keep these predators at bay.
Colorado Ranch Wildlife - The Howl of the Coyote
Appearance and Diet of the Coyote
Coyotes are smaller than their cousin, the gray wolf, weighing anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds. They have yellowish-brown to sometimes gray fur and beautiful amber eyes. Their body is three to four feet long and ends with a long bushy tail.
Coyotes are omnivorous and opportunistic when it comes to feeding. In essence, they will eat anything available which explains their ability to thrive with the encroachment of civilization when other animals have perished. It will feed on bird seed, rodents, berries, garbage, birds and, unfortunately, small pets. For this reason, it is important to keep your pets indoors at night. Small dogs especially should be closely supervised—especially at dawn and dusk when coyotes are most active. If one of your family members is a cat, consider keeping them indoors if your ranch is in coyote territory.
Viewing Coyotes in Colorado
With the declining number of wolves and cougars, their top predators, coyote populations are at an all-time high. They can be found in the deserts of the southwest to the snowy tundra of Alaska and in almost all of the 48 states in-between. A beautiful place to view these magnificent creatures is Rocky Mountain National Park. They can be spotted frequently, even during the daytime hours, and are regarded as the park’s most cunning predator.
Coyotes are secretive and shy in nature. They tend to sleep during the day and hunt at night. They are skilled hunters with excellent eyesight, hearing and a strong sense of smell and can run up to 40 miles an hour. A single coyote tends to pounce on its prey while a pack of coyotes often use distraction as an effective hunting method.
Coyotes form strong family bonds, with mates remaining together for several years. Mating takes place in January and February which has led to some reports of aggression during this time as the coyote searches for a den in which to raise its young. Coyotes will fiercely defend their young in late spring and are more often seen at this time as they search for food throughout the daytime hours to bring back to the hungry pups. Dens are usually on sandy hillsides, steep creek banks, as well as in thick underbrush and are solely used to raise their young after which time they are abandoned.
Living With Coyotes
With their close appearance to our canine friends, people have been known to unwisely approach these wild animals. It is always best to give them the space they deserve and make sure that they see you as the alpha. To this end, never feed a coyote or bring in any type of food that may attract them such as bird seed, pet food, or fallen fruit. If you see a coyote when hiking, stop and look right at it. Do not continue, do not ignore it, and do not run. If it continues to look at you and does not leave the area, make yourself look as big as possible by raising your arms and shouting in an authoritative tone.
Coyote attacks on humans are extremely rare. There have been only two recorded incidences in the Unites States and Canada of humans being killed by these skilled hunters. In most cases, coyote attacks are due to people being bitten when defending their free-roaming pets or when feeding the wild animal. For the most part, humans have learned to peacefully coexist with this cunning, intelligent animal.
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