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This Week’s Creature Feature: Coyotes Among Us

Quietly, they are extending their range to Maryland
The wild coyote in the photo and I startled one another when it ran up.
      A thin dog-like silhouette against the rising desert moon. The apparition tilts its head back and utters a piercing wail. From all around come multiple plaintive responses. If this eerie scene fits your image of the coyote, think again.
      These canines are moving east and changing their behaviors. They have been seen in the streets of Chicago and Brooklyn. In early November, one coyote was hit by a car on Muddy Creek Road; a second was hit on Rt 2. below Annapolis. A female with a litter was seen in Lothian.
       Eastern coyotes are larger, up to 45 pounds, than their western counterparts and are quieter with less howling. DNA studies of the eastern subspecies have shown some mixing with wolves.  Conversely, red wolves in North Carolina have been found to have some coyote DNA in them.
      Coyotes are smart and alert canines that differ from domestic dogs in several ways. The most obvious way is that their top canine teeth are much longer and overlap the lower jaw. They also have narrower paws and therefore distinctive paw prints. Their eyes seem to be narrower set. Running, they frequently hold both head and tail down.
      The young are born and grow up in a dugout den with several adults helping. This family style gives the kits collective teaching. Because of their intelligence and shared learning, they adapt easily to many environments and avoid poisons and traps.
      Coyotes also often hunt in a pack. A pack can bring down a deer. In Colorado, coyotes have been known to lead an angry domestic dog into the middle of a pack to be killed. However they are more likely to hunt groundhogs, rabbits, birds and other small animals. Outdoor pets and domesticated animals, like chickens, are at risk from coyotes, which can also carry rabies.
        Coyotes have been in our area for at least 10 years and are likely here to stay. So pen or protect your animals at night, and don’t leave out food.