Sunday, December 27, 2009

Florida Coyotes

Coyotes are now found in every state of the Union except Hawaii, and everywhere their numbers are on the rise.

Sean O'Quinn sends me these photos of a coyote he photographed just a few miles outside of Fort Pierce, Florida. He says coyotes have just arrived in his neck of the woods, but clearly they fear little if they are so bold as to be abroad in daylight.

Eastern coyotes are extremely variable in size, with some as large as small wolves, and others sized quite a lot smaller, similar to their western counterpart.

In the East, there is no shortage of food for coyotes, from mice, rats, possums, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, groundhogs, and wild turkey, to gut-shot deer, downed duck, and feral cats. Perhaps the biggest buffet of all is roadkill. Around Ft. Pierce, the menu will be supplemented by snakes, frogs, and lizards (including iguanas), which are all found in abundance.

Ft. Pierce is surrounded by farm land and variable edge habitat combining pine woods, scrub, lush prairie areas, marsh, lake, and shore. Bottom line: It would hard to find a more ideal location in which to grow up as a young coyote.


Sean said...

Thanks for posting Patrick. By way of further information for the Fort Pierce curious, this picture was taken about 50 yards south of the intersection of Angle Road and N. 53 St. If you put that in Google Earth you will see that this fellow was not way out in the woods. He was east of the Turnpike and I-95 and less than an 1/8 of a mile outside of a neighborhood. I walked to within 50 yards of it without it being too concerned, so his going into the neighborhood for cats is not unlikely.

Retrieverman said...

Coyotes can make it in that climate. They have made it as far south as Panama, and if it weren't for the Panama Canal, I bet they would have made it to Colombia. Coyotes live in Newfoundland, which the colonized by crossing the frozen Strait of Belle Isle (which is probably how Newfoundland's now extinct wolves probably first migrated to the island).

However, in Florida, they have to contend with both heartworm (which is year round) and alligators (and dogs are choice prey item for alligators).

I rarely see coyotes out in the open. Coyotes here know that they are hated, and the bullets are forever flying at them. They also fear large domestic dogs, for it is now more common for foxhounds to be run after coyotes, which have driven off or killed many of the foxes that the hounds once chased.

All of the coyotes I've seen have been running flat-out for heavy cover-- except for the first one I saw in West Virginia. That animal was running with one of my dogs, and my dog trotted up the trail to greet me, the coyote followed. I thought she'd met a stray Norwegian elkhound (a very common hunting dog in these parts). It wasn't until the coyote was ten feet away from me that I realized what it was. It had copper-colored eyes, and when those glowing orbs locked on to mine, the coyote froze for a second. Then, it came to its senses and took off, just as my two other dogs came bounding after it. They were more interested in running the coyote off than playing with it.

anissa_roy said...

Hey there, thanks for posting about the songdogs in my home state!

I'm a resident of Jacksonville, a pretty sizeable city. A coyote was shot in someone's backyard less than three miles from my decidedly suburban house (and never mind that no-discharging-firearms-within-city-limits law, the coyote was trying to get at the person's pet rabbits). I've seen coyotes running alongside Old Kings Road on the northside of town, and in Osceola National Forest to the west.

Maybe the coyotes will venture over to the office park where I work - it's not so far from wooded areas, and it would be a thrill to see one. Other wildlife hangs out in the area - last year's litter of three fox kits were regularly spotted by night shift employees leaving work, and we've had alligators up to five feet long in the retention pond. I've also personally seen a whitetail buck with a nice rack crossing the road in the area - a six-lane boulevard less than a hundred yards north of a very busy mall.

With all the development in Florida, we shouldn't be surprised to see wildlife so close. At least both humans and animals are maintaining a safe distance, for now. Hope it stays that way, and the critters can live peaceably close by.

Seahorse said...

Sean, these are stunning photos. I'm so glad you sent them along and Patrick posted them.