How does a growing coyote population
Coyotes were historically a western species, found mostly west of the Mississippi River. As competing predators were eliminated or reduced in other parts of the country, coyotes expanded their range. They now can be found in every state and province in North America.
Coyotes were first documented in Maryland in 1972 in Cecil, Frederick and Washington counties. Since that time, they have expanded statewide, with the highest numbers occurring in Western Maryland and the lowest on the Eastern Shore.
Maryland is one of the last states in the contiguous United States to be colonized by coyotes, which gives us the unique perspective of witnessing the ecological and social impacts of established coyote populations in other states. We will certainly share many of the same experiences as the population continues to expand.
More familiar species, particularly the red fox, will be affected. The red fox shares habitat requirements with coyotes, so as the number of coyotes increase, the red fox population usually declines. Red fox populations are currently on the wane in portions of central and western Maryland.
Smaller, but significant changes are also expected in gray fox, bobcat and other populations. Data on the impact on the white-tailed deer population in Maryland is not currently available. Studies show that coyotes regularly use deer as food, but it does not appear that coyote currently limit deer populations in our region.
Public opinion concerning coyotes evolves in a predictable fashion. When they first appear in an area, coyotes are novel and receive a great deal of interest. As population densities and nuisance complaints increase over time, public opinion quickly changes from novel fascination to, "I do not want this animal in my neighborhood."
Few, if any other wildlife species has the ability to evoke as widespread and passionate disdain by the general public as coyotes, especially since they have been known to occasionally prey on livestock and domestic dogs and cats. Once coyotes move into an area, it is recommended that farmers and pet owners take steps to ensure the safety of their animals.
- Robert Colona
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