by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Niagara coyotes are described as the Eastern coyote (canis latrans), and the theory is they migrated to New York state in the late 1930s and early '40s. In the 1970s they became very abundant across the state, and in some pockets they over-populated.
They are an admirable animal to just sit and watch. Coyotes are very smart, wily, adaptable, and good hunters, eating small rodents and rabbits, and in summertime they add grass, berries, large insects and birds at times. Coyotes are mostly nocturnal, and they love cats that are left out at night, so make sure your pets are safe and sound. Raccoons get blamed for a lot of things that coyotes can get into, and they can tip your garbage can over in a jiffy and feed just like the raccoons.
Coyotes are about 4 to 5 feet long including the tail; about the size of a mid-sized German Shepard, and weigh 35 to 45 pounds with long thick fur and bushy tail. Color varies and the ones I have seen are generally dark tan and black. Coyotes may be seen alone or in small groups. They are often spotted crossing the Robert Moses Parkway anywhere between Lewiston and Fort Niagara, and oftentimes during the day in late summer and fall, when the adults send their offspring away to fend on their own, find their mates, and take up a new territory.
I live in a neighborhood where there are virtually no dogs, and many times this time of year, I go out in the morning only to discover piddle on my car tires and against my shed and other objects in the yard. It's a sure sign I had visitors through the night marking their territories. I have never seen one in my yard, but I know it was them casing my territory. I never found any feces, but if I did I would know what to look for, as it is made up of what they eat; parts of animal hair and bones, and pieces of nuts and fruits, things they can't digest. Through the winter snow coverage they can hear a mouse tunneling under many inches of snow and then pounce on it for another meal. In the spring time when food gets scarce they have been known to take down a new born fawn to get a couple of meals out of, or even freely eat off a dead deer along the roadside.
Rabies are rare in coyotes with only a few cases reported in New York state. But they are known to show aggressive behavior sometimes, so you should always be cautious if walking your dog through a wooded or grassy area; they like to show off their superiority toward other dogs. You should report any aggressive behavior to the state Department of Environmental Conservation or a nearby police agency and let them handle it. Dogs and coyotes do not interbreed.
Getting close to Mother Nature is a great thing, and many of us are blessed to be able to get outdoors in Niagara to enjoy the solitude, especially with winter snows approaching where we can get out and actually track a lot of winter creatures. Coyote tracks can be a little confusing; they look similar to medium-sized dog tracks. Sometimes when tracking you will see where one caught his meal and a scuffle ensued only to see feathers and bones left. You may even hear the eerie howls and yelps of the lonesome coyote in the wind. (They can be heard up to three miles away on a quiet day or night and favorable wind.)
These critters don't hibernate and they hunt all winter. Hunting them is regulated, and you can hunt or trap them in New York state from Oct. 1 to March 25. And you must purchase a small game license to do so. There are no limits on what you take and you don't have to report your harvest.
There is a wonderful story about coyotes on the Outdoors Niagara website written by local outdoorsman Mike Gillis, a lifelong resident of Youngstown. He goes a little more in depth where he actually encountered these creatures of nature. For more, visit www.outdoorsniagara.com/coyotes.htm.