Coexisting with Coyotes

Belmont coyote

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.

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3 Responses to Coexisting with Coyotes

  1. William Lynn says:


    You are correct on a minor point, but wrong in terms of the big picture. I agree that animals do not have the same rights as we do. That is because we are different kinds of creatures, and thinking in terms of human, or political, or civil rights is the wrong metaphor to use when describing our moral obligations to other animals.

    As to their purpose, you are arguing the fallacy of intelligent design. We co-evolved with other animals, and we have moral obligations to them because many other creatures are, like us, aware and self-aware, sentient and sapient, social and cultural. Not in exactly the same way as we, but in ways distinctive to their kinds.

    You might enjoy John Muir’s remarks in this regard.

    “The world, we are told, was made especially for man, a presumption not supported by all the facts. A numerous class of men are painfully astonished whenever they find anything, living or dead, in all God’s universe, which they cannot eat or render in some way what they call useful to themselves. They have precise dogmatic insight of the intentions of the Creator….Now, it never seems to occur to these far-seeking teachers that Nature’s object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them, not the creation of all for the happiness of one. Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation”?

    – John Muir (1916) Anthropocentrism and Predation, A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

  2. joe russel says:

    Animals DO NOT have the same rights as we do. This is rediculous. We also have no moral obligations to other animals. They are there for us to hunt and eat. We have an obligation to conserve them for the next generation so our children can enjoy them. Coyotes are a nuisance and here in Kansas I have seen 15+ in my friends front yard and they harrasss his cattle. They need to be culled.

    • Nathan Lemmon says:

      Joe- Fortunately, you are not the one who gets to decide why animals exist. You can have your opinion (uninformed as it is) but it is your opinion. I’ve not heard of people eating coyotes in Massachusetts. That would be a very strange and anti-social
      thing to do. I know you were making a comment about all wild animals but the article was about coyotes so…

      Humans have evolved past the point where we need to hunt wild animals for food. Well, the vast majority of us have at least.

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