Western History & Genealogy Blog

Coyote: From Western Resident to All-American Species

Charles L. Cadieux. Coyotes: Predators & Survivors. Harrisburg, PA: Stonewall Press Inc., 1983. Front Cover
Coyote Pelts. Z-1569.  http://cdm16079.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15330coll22/id/65870
Trapped Coyote. Z-1570.  http://cdm16079.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15330coll22/id/65871

This may be unpopular opinion among farmers and ranchers where I’m from (including some in my own family), but I like coyotes. Coyotes kill all kinds of livestock and have long been the bane of farmers and ranchers. But having grown up on the high desert, where the haunting coyote call slices through whatever notion of security you might get from four walls, I must say I’ve always gotten a thrill from nature talking back to man and reclaiming what’s rightfully hers: A river breaking through a dam to overthrow its banks, a tree breaking through concrete with its roots, and the coyote overcoming government sponsored killing that has persisted since 1914. In his book Coyotes: Predators & Survivors, Charles L. Cadieux reports that from 1937 to 1981, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service paid bounty hunters to scalp 3,612,220 coyotes. Despite this killing and the mass culling that continues today, the coyote has increased its numbers. The coyote responded to attempts to decimate its species by having larger litters of pups and by widening its range. You have to admire that tenacity (even if you don’t like it). Cadieux explains that coyotes have thrived because they’re so adaptable. They survive “Where no other carnivore could find a meal,” and can live off gallons of creek water or “Scant juice from the withered bodies of jackrabbits” (Cadieux, page 7). They hide in broad daylight and are seen only when they want to be seen. This is not to make the coyote into a saint. Cadieux says that that coyote will also “Kill sheep and lambs for the sport of hearing them bleat in terror before kicking their last.” But in these days of habitat loss and mass extinctions, I’m heartened by the ability of this animal to thrive. Recent genetic tests and anatomical evidence even show that the coyote, traditionally a resident of the American West, Northern Mexico and parts of Canada, has interbred with the grey wolf in the Great Lakes region. Imagine the hunting prowess of the wolf combined with the street smarts of the coyote. This hybrid has colonized the Northeast and moved down the Appalachians into the South, filling a vacuum left by the eradication of major predators in those parts. The coyote has also moved into major urban areas, and has even gone as far south as Central America. For more information on the coyote, check out Cadieux’s excellent book, located in Western History and Genealogy’s Conservation Collection. For images of coyotes, including those to the left, search our Digital Collections.

urban coyotes

Those eradication numbers are staggering! Now that coyotes are known to some people only within the urban landscape, it will be interesting to see how their reputation will evolve in the future. Some people have no knowledge of coyotes' representation as the bane of rural farmers and ranchers.