Exploring The Last Green Valley – The Call of the Wild

Exploring The Last Green Valley – The Call of the Wild

Exploring The Last Green Valley – The Call of the Wild

I have seen them on many occasions, followed their tracks in the snow, and been bolted awake by their long lonely howl from the dark woods.  Every encounter is recalled and always thrilling.

One memorable sighting was several years ago when I was driving along a Woodstock backroad. About 100 feet in front of me, what looked like a German shepherd dog trotted across the road and jumped atop a stone wall that boarded a field and patch of woods. I stopped the car some 20 feet away and with mouth agape, stared in awe at the size and length of one of New England’s apex predators.

With yellow-gold eyes it looked right at me. As if in a staring match, our gaze held for a long moment, then it lifted its nose toward the field, bounded off the wall and slowly walked away. It stopped again, turning to stare me down one more time before disappearing among the trees. That was one eastern coyote I’ll never forget.

The eastern coyote is here to stay. If you have yet to see one, don’t worry, you will. If you have yet to hear their evening song your patience will eventually be rewarded. To know this remarkable animal is to appreciate its resilience and adaptability to the habitat and landscape that we share.

I have found several good resources for information about the eastern coyote. If you’re interested in learning more, I suggest an excellent website www.easterncoyoteresearch.com dedicated to education and research about the eastern coyote.

You may want to also look over the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Coyote Fact Sheet with basic information about the animal as well as helpful tips on living in close proximity to coyotes. www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=325992

Another interesting resource is Project Coyote www.projectcoyote.org, a national organization dedicated to understanding our primary carnivores, including western and eastern coyote.

Here are some facts about one of our region’s top predators.

The eastern coyote traces its roots to the western coyote, a much smaller relative found west of the Mississippi River. As the western coyote migrated east, it interbred with the Canadian red wolf, with the result being the eastern coyote. By the 20th century it had moved into the New England states and filled the niche left by extirpation of the eastern timber wolf.

The eastern coyote is a “generalist” and is successful across a variety of habits in our region. Unlike more “specialist” animals that require a specific habit and food source for survival, the coyote will eat most anything and live anywhere – even in suburban and urban neighborhoods.

Eastern coyotes average 30 to 50 pounds with an oval-shaped paw track of 3 to 3 ½ inches long. They are 45 to 60 inches from nose to tip of tail. Their color ranges from blonde to darker black and brown, but usually a tawny brown. They resemble a lanky German shepherd with long slender legs, long snout, pointed ears and bushy tail that is carried close to the ground.

Coyotes are monogamous and breed in late January to early February. The gestation period is 63 days and the female will deliver a litter of up to 10 pups in early April to mid-May. The pups are vulnerable to disease and predators such as weasels. On average only 50% of the pups survive.

The eastern coyote feeds on small mammals and are opportunistic predators. They will take mice, voles, rabbits, woodchucks and larger mammals such as deer fawns and even household pets. They will eat fruit, carrion, and garbage when it can be found.

The family consists of the adult pair and their young that will stay together until the young are almost fully grown at 6 to 9 months. I have usually seen a single coyote, though on a few occasions two or more have been seen together in our back field.

The adult pair will scent-mark and defend their territory against other coyotes and foxes. They are most active at night, though they are also seen during the day, particularly during the pup-rearing days of summer. The family group will break up in fall or early winter and the nearly full-grown pups will head off in search of new territories.

Coyotes use a wide repertoire of vocalizations to communicate with each other. Known for their long wails and howls, they also yelp and make high-pitched cries as well as barks and growls. Mostly heard at night or during dawn and dusk hours, they are also known to respond to sirens.

Many times during a long summer night I have heard what sounded like dozens of coyotes all calling to each other. The woods seem to come alive with wailing songs from what is actually a family group of four or five coyotes. It is always a thrill to hear them sing, unexpected and a bit hair-raising.

Eastern coyotes are alive and well here in The Last Green Valley. We have a diverse landscape that is perfect for this apex predator to roam and thrive. We can appreciate this animal for its resiliency and beauty while also taking the time to educate ourselves about its habits.

To encounter an eastern coyote is for me almost a primal experience. Our early human ancestors formed a deep bond with wild canine species, as dogs became one of the first animals to become domesticated. Through the eons of time, the human and dog connection can be found in our world’s many diverse cultures. Our coyotes remind us of this connection through time.

Do you have an encounter with an eastern coyote that you would like to share with me? Feel free to contact me and together we can care for, enjoy, and pass on all that we have come to appreciate about living here in The Last Green Valley.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the following article.  The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work


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