Animals in Winter: Eastern Coyote

The Eastern coyote is an important and relatively new member of Vermont’s ecosystem. They are highly adaptable mammals with a divisive history in the state. Coyotes began to appear in Vermont in the 1940s. Development in the western United States led to the loss of their habitat and they began to move eastward through southern Quebec and Ontario. It is believed that along the way they bred with the small eastern wolf.

Photo courtesy of Seven Days
Coyotes have reddish fur on their heads, with a grey face and dark muzzle. They have long, bushy tails and light fur under their chins. Their large body helps them to survive winters with heavy snowfall. Perhaps the coyote’s best known feature is their howl, which is often heard during winter nights. Their vocalizations are a form of communication that can carry over long distances. These sounds are used to let members of their family know their location after separating for a hunt. Sometimes coyotes howl to indicate to neighboring coyote groups that the territory is already in use.

Their diet consists of rodents, plants, cottontail rabbits, birds, and deer during the winter. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife, in spite of being prey for coyotes, deer populations are not considerably effected by them, except during particularly harsh winters or in areas where the deer population is already dwindling.

The Vermont coyote population ranges from 4,500 to 8,000. Coyotes use more open habitats during the summer and fall and utilize forested habitats during the winter and spring and, because of their high adaptability, can also survive in suburban areas. However, the coyote’s habitat varies and is contingent upon many factors including weather, other predators, and prey populations.

For more information about the Eastern coyote, view the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Fact Sheet: http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/library/factsheets/furbearer/coyote.pdf

To listen to to some coyote sounds, play video:

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