“It turned out, according to a months-long investigation by John Barnes of the newspaper consortium MLive, that Koski had been baiting wolves with deer and cow parts and then bellyaching about wolf incidents – in addition to getting financial compensation for it. Barnes determined that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was working hand in hand with Koski, and ‘found government half-truths, falsehoods and livestock numbers skewed by a single farmer distorted some arguments for the inaugural hunt.’ Some months after the MLive series ran in papers throughout Michigan, Koski pled guilty to animal neglect for starving guard donkeys that the state gave to him to ward off wolves.”
GOGEBIC COUNTY, MI (AP)– Gogebic County prosecutors are investigating two Upper Peninsula hunters for videotaping hunting dogs mauling a coyote and for running down a coyote with a truck before filming and killing it.
MLive.com reports court documents describe videos that one of the men had uploaded to YouTube. They’ve since been taken down.
A conservation officer recommended in a sworn affidavit that they be charged with a felony for knowingly killing or torturing an animal.
One video showed dogs attacking a dying coyote that was already shot. The man holding the camera says it’s going to be a “live action” video as the coyote is heard wailing.
The Humane Society of the United States posted an edited version of the video to protest what it called the “deliberate torture” of the coyote.
One morning in August 1981, 3-year-old Kelly Keen wandered out the door of her home and into her family’s front yard. That was the last day of Kelly’s life.
Kelly wasn’t hit by a car or abducted by a stranger. She was killed by a lone coyote. Within seconds of the attack, Kelly’s father managed to force the coyote to release Kelly’s head and chase the canine away. But it was too late. Kelly died four hours later in Glendale Adventist Hospital from blood loss and a broken neck.
Following Kelly’s death, the City of Glendale commenced an 80-day program of trapping and shooting coyotes resulting in the killing of 51 coyotes within half a mile of Kelly’s home. It was never known if the coyote that attacked Kelly was destroyed. In addition to coyotes, many other animals were killed or mortally wounded in traps, including bobcats, gray foxes, skunks, raccoons and domestic dogs and cats. As of 2013, Glendale continues to have coyotes wandering city streets. To this day, Kelly Keen is the only human to have been killed by a coyote in the United States.
A coyote is an opportunistic predator. That is, it will attack, kill and consume any animal it perceives can be subdued. A family of coyotes may perceive that, together, they can subdue larger prey species than can a lone individual. Coyotes from desert regions rarely weigh more than 30 pounds, and so when they do eat animals it is mostly insects and other arthropods, rodents and occasionally rabbits. Coyote scat found with traces of deer or bighorn sheep, almost always reflect a coyote that has chanced upon a carcass of one of these animals. Coyotes are well-known scavengers.
Desert coyotes regularly consume plant materials including buds, fruits and seeds of a wide variety of plants. In one study, nearly half the diet of desert coyotes was comprised of plant parts.
Statistics clearly show the overwhelming majority of coyotes, more than 99.99 percent of all coyotes living today, do not consider humans of any size as prey. The chance that a human will be threatened, stalked or attacked by one or more coyotes anywhere in North America is so small that it is not statistically detectable. Put another way, any factor that can harm a human is more likely to hurt a human than is a coyote. Honey bees, walking on the street and shopping in a store are thousands of times more likely to result in injury than an encounter with a coyote.
In spite of the tragedy that struck Kelly Keen and her family in 1981, coyotes as a group cannot be considered hazardous to human well-being. With some adapting on our part, we can live in the presence of coyotes today just as they do in most cities. Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman summed it up best in 2011 when she said, “people need to adjust, too.”
James Cornett is a desert ecologist and author of “Wildlife of the Southwest Deserts.” Contact him at JWCornett@aol.com.
Humans are not newcomers when it comes to messing around with nature. While we haven’t created Frankenstein’s monster yet, what we do messes with the natural world. One recent example is the creation of the coywolf — a hybrid of the coyote and the wolf that is also known as the Eastern coyote.
These animals have a completely new genetic make up: Their genes are about 1/4 wolf DNA and 2/3 coyote DNA, the rest is from domesticated dogs. They were created when previously separate wolf and coyote populations merged in the land north of the Great Lakes.
Here’s the coyote, which traditionally maxes out at 75 pounds and has pointier features, and readily populates cities:
And this is what a wolf looks like. Wolves are usually bigger, weighing in at about 100 pounds, and prefer more wild habitats.
While the grey wolf and the coyote are each other’s closest living relatives, the two animals separated evolutionarily 1 to 2 million years ago. These hybrids have only really emerged en force during the last few decades, as wolves were hunted and forced north and coyotes moved east from the Great Plains.
According to The New York Times’ Moises Velazquez-Manoff: “[The coywolf] can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf’s more social nature, which allows for pack hunting.”
Specifically, this genetic combination of the two animals seems especially well suited to its northern habitat — better suited than either parent species. The wolf genes allow the coyote to take down bigger prey, while the coyote genes let them adapt to cityscapes and other metropolitan areas.
To study the hybrids better, scientists went ahead and made some 50/50 hybrids in the lab, mating female coyotes with male grey wolves. That’s not exactly like the wild coywolves, but it’s similar. And gives scientists a better idea of how successful a mating between the two species would be. While two pregnancies didn’t result in live offspring, one litter created six puppies.
Here’s the result:
Generally the hybridization of species gives evolution something to work with to deal with tough times. When food is low because of climate change or your habitat is being destroyed by humans, these animals can turn out to be tougher or more adaptable than their parent species (though many aren’t and many turn out to be sterile).
So, how did these hybrids come to be? Well, as Velazquez-Manoff writes in The New York Times magazine:
The emergence of the Eastern coyote, however, shows how human activity can break down the barriers that separate species. Perhaps the most obvious way in which humanity is altering the natural world is through climate change. The Arctic, where its effects are especially evident, is warming between two and four times as fast as the rest of the planet. Spring thaws now arrive weeks earlier; winter freezes come weeks later. Shrubs are invading once-barren tundra. Animals at high latitudes — where related species tend to have diverged more recently and can therefore interbreed more easily — are shifting their ranges in response to rising temperatures and melting sea ice. As they do, they may encounter cousins and hybridize.
This is what a wild coywolf looks like. This one was spotted in West Virginia.