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Living with Coyotes

Living with Coyotes

Stuart R. Ellins
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  • Book Info
    Living with Coyotes
    Book Description:

    The coyote may well be North America's most adaptable large predator. While humans have depleted or eliminated most other native predators, the coyote has defied all attempts to exterminate it, simultaneously expanding its range from coast to coast and from wilderness to urban areas. As a result, coyotes are becoming the focus of increasing controversy and emotion for people across the continent- from livestock growers who would like to eradicate coyotes to conservationists who would protect them at any cost.

    In this thoughtful, well-argued, and timely book, Stuart Ellins makes the case that lethal methods of coyote management do not work and that people need to adopt a more humane way of coexisting with coyotes. Interweaving scientific data about coyote behavior and natural history with decades of field experience, he shows how endlessly adaptive coyotes are and how attempts to kill them off have only strengthened the species through natural selection. He then explains the process of taste aversion conditioning-which he has successfully employed-to stop coyotes from killing domestic livestock and pets. Writing frankly as an advocate of this effective and humane method of controlling coyotes, he asks, "Why are we mired in the use of archaic, inefficient, unsophisticated, and barbaric methods of wildlife management in this age of reason and high technology? This question must be addressed while there is still a wildlife to manage."

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79696-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
    (pp. 1-2)
    (pp. 3-9)

    Sonja, my second-year graduate student, burst into my office with a panicked expression on her face. “Just got a call from Santos. Heuga lost a bunch of lambs last night. He’s on the warpath. He’s got guns and wants a trapper. We had better get out there.” Thirty minutes later we were speeding down a winding single-lane road into the Antelope Valley in the Southern California high desert in my dust-covered pickup.

    In the late seventies, the Antelope Valley was a sparsely populated semiarid region bordered on the south, west, and north by the foothills of the converging San Gabriel...

    (pp. 10-24)

    Few animals have so stimulated the human imagination and have generated such extreme emotions as the coyote. According to J. Frank Dobie, the observation of coyotes by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804 resulted in one of the first recorded descriptions of its habits in the New World. Following that encounter, the coyote was most commonly referred to as a prairie wolf. Its scientific nameCanis latrans, meaning barking dog, was assigned to it in 1823 by the naturalist Thomas Say after he heard coyotes’ barklike vocalizations on a westward expedition in what is now Iowa. In the thirties,...

    (pp. 25-41)

    In the Antelope Valley, sheep were maintained under a variety of conditions. Many local woolgrowers grazed their sheep in fenced pastures on their ranches. Other herds that were transported into the valley were penned constantly to keep the sheep from wandering as they grazed on harvested alfalfa fields or on desert brush. These herds were often on the move, and rolls of fencing wire and iron fence posts that could easily be driven into the ground and converted to portable pens were trucked to each grazing site. Most herds, however, roamed freely in open fields during the day, usually under...

    (pp. 42-52)

    A coyote’s predatory fixed action patterns enable it to acquire food to reduce its hunger. Laboratory and field observations clearly demonstrate, however, that each fixed action pattern in the predatory sequence likewise appears to satisfy a different subordinate need and may function independently of the other fixed action patterns. Thus, although attacking, killing, and eating activities usually proceed in that order, they are separate fixed action patterns and may also occur out of order, or any of them may even occur alone if the animal is in the proper drive state and is confronted with an appropriate releasing stimulus. Such...

  8. Five AN OPPORTUNISTIC SCAVENGER: Coyote Feeding Habits
    (pp. 53-68)

    On a blistering hot September afternoon we parked our pickup on a dirt road adjacent to a sandy desert wash that was known to be traveled by coyotes, as evidenced by the presence of scattered tracks. In our conversations with herders we had learned that coyotes tend to approach sheep herds from specific directions marked by lines, such as fence lines, dirt roads, and washes. Occasionally motorists even see coyotes merrily prancing along the shoulders of paved roads. It is likely that the Antelope Valley is crosshatched by a network of these lines, like streets on a city map. Rather...

  9. Six FEEDING THE PACK: The Development of Dietary Preferences and Aversions
    (pp. 69-79)

    A lone coyote carrying a recently born lamb was shot by a herder. The lamb was dead but still warm. It was the killing of lambs that was the hardest to take. At the beginning of our taste aversion project in the Antelope Valley I was naive to wildlife research in the West. As an Easterner, I had observed scenes like this only in the movies. I really didn’t understand the complex symbiotic relationships among herders, their sheep, predatory coyotes, feral dogs, ravens, and environmentalists. Each lives off the other. They are all both right and wrong. The newborn lambs...

  10. Seven TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT? Modification of Dietary Habits
    (pp. 80-91)

    A great deal of research has been conducted on the roots of dietary selection, the learning mechanisms by which animals, including humans, choose to eat certain foods and reject others. It all began in the fifties when John Garcia and his colleagues at Harvard University Medical School were testing the effects of X-rays on the behavior of rats. At that time the medical use of X-rays provided a new technology, and it was not known if there were any adverse side effects. Garcia discovered that high dosages of X-rays produced nausea in rats. If rats drank from plastic water bottles...

  11. Eight CONDITIONED PREY AVERSIONS: Will They Work in the Real World?
    (pp. 92-111)

    A 3,000-acre ranch in southeastern Washington state was the site of the first field test of Gustavson’s notion that coyotes could be conditioned to avoid live prey. Coyotes were frequently sighted in the area, and there was a large rodent population that could replace the ranch’s sheep as a food source for the coyotes. Baits were placed at various locations on the ranch, including bone yards where carcasses were dumped. The piles of decaying and partially devoured sheep provided coyotes with a veritable banquet where they acquired a taste for mutton. The carcasses of sheep that died in the field...

  12. Nine PREDATOR MANAGEMENT: Sociology, Science, or Politics
    (pp. 112-132)

    In our attempt to investigate the application of the conditioned food aversion methodology to predator management in the Antelope Valley, we answered some questions but we also created new questions, and problems, which in turn demanded investigation and resolution. This process is neither unusual nor damaging to the original endeavor. On the contrary, it is the bread and butter of scientific inquiry and advancement. In this way science is self-correcting, in that all experimental results are under strict scrutiny, and old experiments always generate new questions to be investigated. The first surprise was the curious lack of interest in our...

  13. Ten CURRENT STATUS: The Application of Prey Aversion Conditioning
    (pp. 133-150)

    In recent years prey aversion conditioning has, for the most part, moved from the realm of scientific investigation to application in the public domain. It is generally considered that any additional laboratory or scientific field research on the efficacy of this learning paradigm in the management of wild predators would serve no useful purpose. That is not to suggest that the book is closed on the issue. Indeed, controversy and activity have heated up in recent years, because it remains clear that traditional solutions to predation problems are expensive and ineffective and concerned citizens want something to be done. The...

    (pp. 151-158)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 159-165)