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Eastern Coyotes and Gray Wolves

The Catskill Mountains have coyotes in most mountain ranges. Coyotes can be found at all elevations of the mountain ranges. Some coyotes will chase prey up the trail until they come to a section that is too steep or the ledge is too high. It then becomes a kill-zone. The peaks of mountains also become kill-zones when the prey cannot get away. You can find coyotes in the valley, moraines, mountain sides, and summits.

Eastern Coyotes are larger then coyotes in other parts of the United States. Coyotes range from 35-to-45 pounds. Some males can easily exceed 60 pounds. Some larger coyotes can be the same size as a gray wolf. The largest coyote weighed 74 pounds and was over five feet long. The length of the coyote is from 30-to-34 inches (not including the tail). The height to the shoulder ranges from 23-to-26 inches. Most coyotes have the appearence of a German Shepherd. Coyotes can run up to 43 MPH, and leap over 13 feet.

Prior to the 1900's coyotes were pushed out by the Gray Wolves (Timber Wolves). When Gray Wolves were hunted to extinction in the east coast, this gave coyotes the ability to re-establish back in the east coast. By 1900, coyotes had moved back into southern Canada. By, 1920 coyotes had moved into New York State. One of coyotes greatest ability to thrive and survive is the their ability to range up to 100 miles during their lifetime. This give them the exceptional ability to re-establish themselves.

One of the biggest issues that people have with the Eastern Coyote and Gray Wolves is that a large Eastern Coyote looks almost identical to a Gray Wolf. Many believe that large coyotes are actually Gray Wolves. DNA analysis has now shown that hybridization has occured between coyotes and gray wolves. It is believed that the hybridization occurred in southern Canada where both coyotes and wolves coexist. Today coyotes populations are estimated between 20,000 and 30,000. Population levels fluctuate year-to-year depending upon the availability of prey and ravages of disease. Coyotes exist everywhere in New York except for Long Island. Right now it is believed that Gray Wolves do not exist in New York. But, it is believe it is just a matter of time before they migrate into New York from Canada. If they do appear in New York, they will be first sighted in the Adirondacks. Coyotes travel with their tails down, where Gray Wolves travel with their tails up.

Coyotes prey upon a large number of animals. They can eat insections, small rodents, snakes, rabbits, cats, domestic dogs, up to deer. In fact, they do concentrate on deer quite often. They also eat berries when available, but 90% of the diet is from animals. Many deer hunters dislike their competition for deer. In the past, it was a general belief that coyotes will not attack humans. But, coyotes and wolves learn by experience. If they do not experience humans they do not know how dangerous humans are, or how dangerous they are to humans. But, over time and experience they can learn that humans can be attacked. Over the past twenty years, we are experiencing more-and-more attacks on humans. Especially by larger coyotes. It is more of an evolution issue.

Some people question what value that coyotes have for New York. The answer is actually very simple. They help manage population levels of many animals. They also leave behind partially eaten prey. This helps increase the populations of other scavenger animals, such as, fischers, foxes, martens, ravens, bald eagles, etc.

Coyotes mate between February-and-March. They gestrate approximately two months. They will give birth to an average of six pups, but can have as little as one and as many as nineteen. 50-to-70% will not make it to adulthood. When born they weigh approximately 1/2 pound, and are blind. They start to see after about 10 days. They will leave the den around 3-4 weeks after being born. The males will disperse around 6-to-9 months after being born. Females will stay with their parents to form a pack. They will be fully grown in 9-to-12 months, and will be sexually mature in 12 months.

Coyotes usually travel in pairs or individually. Occasionally, they will travel in low-socialized small packs. Wolves always travel in a highly-socialized large packs. This is one of the major differences between the two. Today coyotes are mostly nocturnal. But, from time-to-time they can be seen during the day. In prior history, coyotes were considered diurnal. But with closer contact with humans, they have adapted from diurnal to nocturnal. The average distance each night is 2-1/2 miles. A pack of coyotes can take down a 500 pound animal.
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Eastern Coyote
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eastern coyote
Aged and dried Coyote Scat

Links and References: Forum - Ask questions or talk about Nature in the Catskill Mountains
SUNY ESF - Coyote
New York Coyote Organization
New York DEC - Coyote

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