Wild Side: Wiley coyotesLast week Wednesday night was the last of our recent brutal cold spell. The minus-15 degree cold made the rafters on my house contract. The house shuddered with a big boom, waking me up.
By: Dan Wilcox, Outdoors Columnist, River Falls Journal
Last week Wednesday night was the last of our recent brutal cold spell. The minus-15 degree cold made the rafters on my house contract. The house shuddered with a big boom, waking me up.
Outside close by the house, a coyote yelled, “Yap, yap, yap, aaiieeeee!” Its companions replied and a coyote chorus ensued with a wild series of barks, yips and howls. I thought they must be pretty tough to be out in those conditions.
Unlike the hapless Wile E. Coyote in the “Roadrunner” cartoons, wild coyotes are intelligent, highly adaptable and successful. Coyotes are medium-sized members of the dog family with long legs, a tapered nose, tall forward-facing ears and a long bottle-brush tail. Males and females look much alike, although males tend to be somewhat larger.
Most adult coyotes weigh between 25 and 40 pounds. They have long fur that ranges in color from pale gray to brown, often with darker fur along the middle of the back. Their undersides are cream colored. Their dark-tipped, multicolor fur gives them a grizzled appearance.
Coyotes are relatively abundant in our area, but being mostly nocturnal they are seldom seen. Often out on the prowl hunting at a “dog trot,” they leave a distinctive linear series of tracks in the snow with the hind paws overstepping the front paws. Coyote tracks are larger than fox tracks, about 2 1/2 inches long. They leave scat fuzzy with fur on rocks and logs to mark their territories.
Mice, voles and cottontail rabbits are the primary prey of coyotes in Midwest farm country. Coyotes can team up, taking turns to wear out and tackle weaker deer. I’ve noticed a decline in the number of rabbits around our place over the course of the winter. Many probably became dinner for coyotes and owls.
The increased frequency of calling at this time of year is because now through April is their mating season. Coyotes enlarge abandoned dens made by woodchucks, badgers and foxes. A couple of months after mating, the female gives birth to a litter of pups, usually about six. After three or four weeks the pups come out of the den. Both parents feed the pups regurgitated food. Male pups leave the family after six to nine months, while female pups stay with their mother’s pack.
Lee Schommer, of Lee’s Taxidermy and Furs in Prescott, said hunters in Pierce County have sold him about 110 coyotes this hunting season. More are brought into his business from Minnesota and the Dakotas. The price of fur is down now, and a coyote pelt in good condition only brings about $15. Lee said coyotes weren’t around here in the 1950s and 1960s. The “brush wolves” that first came into our area from the north were small and scruffy. Later immigrants from the west and south were larger with better quality fur.
Most coyote hunters in Pierce County hunt them with dogs during the winter. Although coyotes can run fast, dogs can tire them out over long distances. Some hunters call them in with the squealing sound of a rabbit in distress. According to the Wisconsin DNR rules, coyotes can be hunted without restriction, using rifles, even at night.
According to Schommer, coyotes have been maintaining their population in this area for many years. The adaptable coyotes are invading suburban areas preying on the abundant cottontail rabbits.
The coyote chorus and owl calls provide a special wildness to cold late-winter nights. I’m glad they are out there dining on those rabbits.
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