Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are Coyotes Denning in My Yard??

It's not quite 10:30 a.m. It's an overcast, dank and humid day.

I just saw a coyote pup in my yard.

As is often the case, my cat Luther's behavior as he looked out the window caught my attention. I thought it was perhaps a catbird in the mulberry tree, but when he jumped off the bench in front of one window and jumped on a chair at the other window, I knew it must be something good.

As we both peered out the window, I caught sight of a very small coyote pup grabbing a green apple that had fallen from the apple tree. He gnawed at it a bit, then hurried on, looking like he was exploring/foraging.

See his head in the grass, to the left of the thick mountain laurel trunk?

But where was Mom? And should he be exploring on his own? How far had he ventured from his den?

I lost sight of him after he trotted over to a brushy area on the north side of the house, not 10 feet or so from one of the three woodchuck burrows I'm aware of on my property.

Yes, there are three burrows: the oldest one is behind a thicket of overgrown forsythia on the south side of the house. I went to considerable trouble in April to severely cut back the forsythia, and now that I see how quickly it's recovered, I regret not pulling it up completely, but of course there was the question of what to do with that space so it wasn't simply overtaken by weeds or brush.  The second burrow, the newest one, lies six feet from the north side of the house (!) in another admittedly overgrown area bordered by a waist-high picket fence. It's the area that always comes last on my list because of its large size.  The third burrow is also on the north side of the house, about 25 feet further from the house.

The north side, it seems, has become a little Shang-gri-la for critters, as it contains a productive apple tree that drops fruit from June through fall, a gooseberry patch and a mulberry tree.

But back to the woodchuck burrows. In an effort to get the woodchuck moving on somewhere else, I threw used cat litter into each of the 6 burrow holes. (There's always a front door and a back door for each burrow.) I did that the day before I left to visit my father in New Jersey, and I haven't seen the woodchuck since.  It's possible it's still around, as I haven't been outside much due to the extreme heat.  But now I'm wondering if a coyote discovered the abandoned burrow and adopted it as her own.

Some quick research on coyote ways told me that coyotes will den in a rock pile or hollow tree, but sometimes enlarge the burrow of another animal. And that there are usually three to nine pups to a litter. I am going to have to go outside and look for scat.

Much as I enjoy wildlife, I feel more than a little uncomfortable at the thought of coyotes possibly living so close by.  I've always known they were in the neighborhood. They killed the dog of my neighbors who live behind me.  Maybe once a week I'll hear them barking and yipping late at night, but they seemed to stay up higher on the hillside behind my house.Well, there was that time (noted on this blog) about a month ago that I spotted an adult coyote, during daylight hours, passing through the extreme rear of my property in back.

My other neighbors, next door, just acquired a goat.

Every once is a while, you hear a news story about a coyote attacking a small child or pet. I just started berry-picking at dusk along the perimeters of my yard. The wineberries have begun to ripen. I stand 5'4". I hope I'm big enough to dispel any coyote thoughts of an attack. I think now I'll limit my berry-picking to daylight hours.

UPDATE: An hour after I posted this, I went downstairs to make myself an early lunch. Guess who had returned to eat more apples? The coyote pup. He ate a lot of them. I watched him for as long as he was out there, until he walked past the burrow and up a narrow path. From there, his travels were lost to my view.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating! We have seen coyotes here in the tall weeds, heading toward a pond below us, but only rarely. Yours are awfully bold and very near habitation. I didn't know they would forage for apples.