The Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge recently sponsored a talk on coyotes by John Maguranis, the MA representative of Project Coyote. A former Animal Care Specialist in the US Army, John is now the Animal Control Officer in Belmont, and trains other ACOs on how to manage coyotes in their communities.
Entitled “Coexisting with Coyotes”, his presentation was both fun and informative. With a great sense of humour, John conveyed a wealth of ecological and management information, kept over 90 people spell-bound with stunning photography, and moderated a lively discussion thereafter.
We learned about the evolution history of coyotes, their ecological role as an apex predator, that they post no real threat to people, and lethal management of coyotes leads to more not less coyotes in the areas being managed. Here is the program description posted for his talk to the Friends.
Coexisting with Coyotes by John Maguranis
Wednesday, February 27, 7 PM
Visitor Center, Assabet River NWR 680 Hudson Road, Sudbury MA 01776
Coyotes are important ecologically and need to be welcomed as a much needed predator. This talk covers natural history, habits, diet, hazing of coyotes, human and pet safety, discusses the unfair press coverage and dispels the myths of the much misunderstood American Song Dog that deserves respect and appreciation. The presentation is filled with great photographs of local coyotes and will answer your questions and concerns about coyotes and will provide information to educate the community about living with coyotes, empowering communities and Animal Control Officers (ACOs) with the tools, information, and resources they need to coexist with coyotes. John’s passion and engaging personality have been instrumental in helping to foster educated coexistence and compassionate conservation throughout New England. His ability to distill information from scientists, researchers and biologists and present it in a way that is meaningful and memorable has earned him recognition throughout the North East.
I highly recommend John to animal protection and environmental organizations, hunting clubs, public agencies, educational institutions, and community libraries. He is great, and you cannot go wrong with his presentations.
I want to draw out three points from the discussion that followed John’s presentation.
The absence of grey wolves (Canis lupus) in the Northeast has opened ecological space for coyotes. Yet the eastern coyote looks to be an emerging species, the outcome of hybridization between the western coyote (Canis latrans) and the eastern Canadian wolf (Canis lycon). Hybridization in the wild is one kind of evolution, and the eastern coyote appears well adapted to the humanized landscapes of New England. If you are a fan of natural history, it really is quite a remarkable and exciting development. One of the people to read on this is Jonathan Way, who has radio-collared and studied coyotes in MA. See his Eastern Coyote Research for a wealth of information.
The ineffectiveness of lethal management is due to the “vacuum effect”. When we kill resident coyotes, we open up their territory to partition by non-resident coyotes. This leads to even more coyotes living in the same area. Killing coyotes is thus counterproductive. This is one of the core insights Project Coyote conveys in its mission to foster coexistence with these canids. In contrast, Wildlife Services kills half a million coyotes annually. MassWildlife allows the unlimited hunting of coyotes for six months a year. Such killing has no ecological purpose, wastes public funds, and represents the worst of public policy.
Coyotes are not pests. They are co-inhabitants. They have an intrinsic moral value of their own, and as much right to inhabit the landscape as we. Indeed, the presence of coyotes in our midst is an ecological, social and ethical good. Though they are not a complete substitute for wolves, coyotes are filling a crucial ecological niche created by the extermination of wolves in New England over a hundred years ago. In doing so, they provide society an opportunity to learn how to live with predators in shared landscapes. Insofar that we do learn, then we fulfill our moral obligations to other animals, as well as inch closer to living a truly sustainable way of life.
Image: A coyote from the town of Belmont, taken by John Maguranis in November of 2011.