The current monthly Amateur Birder's Journal is always here. INDEX of PAGES.
PAGES The Bald
Eagle Page, recently featured on Lakewood Now, tells the story
of photographing the first Bald Eagle seen at the
lake in years. Several
Strange Things Pelicans Do with Their Beaks Herons Egrets and Which
is which? Herons
vs. Egrets White
Rock Map Bird
Story and Photographs by J R Compton
On February 10, 2009, at 11:41 AM, Megan Feldman wrote:
I so enjoyed your Bald Eagle shots! I saw a pair of them while I was home in New Mexico over the holidays — they were flying over the Taos Box.
I have a question: Do you know anything about an apparent rise in the numbers or activity of coyotes at the lake lately? I've been hearing there are more and the city began a trapping program, so I thought I'd see if you knew anything about it.
Thank god, The City has no trapping program. Their policy is peaceful coexistence with coyotes, wildcats and other varmints. I love having coyotes at the lake, although I really hate having dogs. I think there should be dog-free areas. I'd especially like dogs prohibited from the Sunset Bay ecoscape.
I believe coyotes are an important element in the cycles of life and death at the lake.
I doubt there are more coyotes lately, only that they are becoming better known and more visible. From late January to late March is coyote mating season, and that probably accounts for their recent visibility — although they are more often heard than seen, and any passing police car or fire truck with its siren going can set the coyotes to howling.
That's how we located them the night we followed them around the park, Anna driving, and me protruding from her car's sun roof. I had worried when I photographed this coyote family, as I photograph other species of wildlife here, that The City might clamp down on them once their presence was better known.
That was late autumn, after we'd heard about coyotes coming close to The Bird Squad — humans who gather on pleasant nights at White Rock Lake's Sunset Bay to talk and feed geese and ducks, who have gathered near where many feedstore-bought domestic geese have been "released" into the "wild" of the lake.
The coyotes did not threaten any of those adults. Coyotes generally do not attack things bigger than they are, although they may take an unprotected calf. They prefer smaller animals and children. Dogs can fight back. Cats generally just get eaten. If you live near where they have been seen or reported, it's a good idea to keep pets and children inside.
According to a site headlined Warning on Wily Coyotes Breeding Brings Critters Closer to Homes by Dana Bartholomew:
It's breeding season for coyotes, and state Fish and Game officials are warning residents to use more caution as mother coyotes sneak closer to homes to find food for their pups.
In urban areas, coyote mothers get more aggressive as they search for food, and can hunt cats and dogs and even attack small children, officials said.
According to the Outdoor Tip of the Week at www.catfish (near bottom of page), although these hunters give me the creeps,
Now is prime time to enjoy hunting varmints. The coyote breeding season is underway and male coyotes are on the move seeking mates. Get into your hunting area before first light and use a coyote howler to locate packs or lone animals, then use an injured cottontail or jackrabbit call to entice them within rifle range.
Coyotes have a keen sense of smell and their eyesight is amazing. Set up downwind of where you are calling and keep an eye peeled for animals sneaking in from either side of your location, they often make a big circle before coming in to the sound. A stuffed toy rabbit or rabbit or squirrel skin on a pull sting, dangled from a tree branch, adds a bit of realism that often helps pull coyotes in close.
More (not many and not as good as these) of my photographs of the Sunset Bay Coyote Clan can be found about a quarter down the December 2008 Amateur Birder's journal page (December 23 and 21)
According to Wikipedia's Coyote page:
Unlike the wolf, the coyote's range has expanded in the wake of human civilization, and coyotes readily reproduce in metropolitan areas. It is thought by certain experts that the coyote's North American origin may account for its greater adaptability than the wolf, due to North America's greater prehistoric predation pressures.
In areas where wolves have been exterminated, coyotes usually flourish ... filling the empty biological niche. Coyotes appear better able than wolves to live among people.
Coyotes are often attracted to dog food and animals that are small enough to appear as prey. Items like garbage, pet food and sometimes even feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards.
Coyotes are versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat.
Part of the coyote's success as a species is its dietary adaptability. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months.
The average distance covered in a night's hunting is two and a half miles.
Coyote attacks on humans are uncommon and rarely cause serious injuries, due to the relatively small size of the coyote. ... There is currently only one recorded fatal attack on a human.
And from DesertUSA's coyote wildlife information page:
Only 5-20% of coyote pups survive their first year.
The coyote can run at almost 40 mph and can get over a 8' fence.
The coyote is more likely afraid of you than vice-versa.
Apparently, we humans attract coyotes with our garbage, of which there is an abundance at the lake. If the City were serious about cutting back the visible coyote population, they'd do a better job of cleaning up the garbage.
I know of several instances of dog food regularly left at the lake, and one instance of coyotes being fed store-bought chickens hung on trees in Sunset Bay, although both acts were by kind-hearted canine-lovers. It is human behavior that encourages and helps sustain coyotes' presence at White Rock, and it sometimes makes them more visible.
They've always been here. I've heard reports of coyote presence at White Rock for decades. I saw but did not photograph one near the stables north of Northwest Highway and Flagpole Hill more than a dozen years ago. A guy who works at a bar told me he used to see one almost every morning after 2 in the scrub above the Bath House Cultural Center.
Keep White Rock Wild!
Index of Pages
text and photographs copyright 2009 by J
All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without
specific written permission from the writer or photographer.