Friday, March 20, 2015

Rarely-Seen Neighborhood Coyotes Say Hello

Coyotes are common but rarely seen in Massachusetts, preferring to avoid any contact with people. In my neighborhood of Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven, coyotes made news a few years ago when a series of cats went missing, but I'd only spotted one briefly dashing through the snow during a storm.

Then last night just after sunset, some nearby coyotes decided to yip & howl it up:

A video posted by Miles Grant (@thegreenmilesgrant) on

Impossible to say exactly how close they were as howls can be clearly heard over a surprising distance, up to a few miles. As intimidating as coyote sounds can be, their message could've been as simple as, "We're claiming this spot to build our den & have our pups in a few weeks."

How many were there? Adirondack Almanack says it could be fewer than you'd think:
When people hear coyote howls, they often mistakenly assume that they’re hearing a large pack of animals, all raising their voices at once. But this is an auditory illusion called the “beau geste” effect. Because of the variety of sounds produced by each coyote, and the way sound is distorted as it passes through the environment, two of these tricksters can sound like seven or eight animals.
Coyotes thrive in suburban and even urban areas, just as their prey do. Rodents, rabbits, deer, frogs, fish, insects - if it moves, they'll probably eat it. When I worked odd hours in Arlington, VA, I'd very rarely spot one among the high-rise apartment buildings just across the Potomac from DC. You'd never know they were there unless you had your headlights on at the right time in the early morning hours (and cars are coyotes' main enemy). By the time most people start waking up, coyotes are back in their wooded homes.

By far the number one conflict between coyotes and people is over pets. Cats and dogs should never be left outside alone, especially at night. Coyotes almost always steer well clear of humans, but a small dog let out alone before bedtime can be easy pickings for a hungry coyote.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife has more tips for living with coyotes.

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