Howling Coyotes and Ignorant Neighbors

sunningcoyote

Sunning Coyote Photo by Richard Spencer

There are coyotes in them thar woods.  For the past few weeks now, the coyotes have been singing – their yips and howls echoing down the canyon walls of Lake Cumberland and causing our dogs to bolt out the pet door into the fenced yard, barking and bristling at the hoodoos in the woods.  I love it.

Not everyone around here thinks the same as I do though.  One of our neighbors stopped by last night to chat with my hubs, and talked about how the coyotes were getting out of hand.  Too many of them, killing off the deer.  Really?  Is that really the case, or are you just a less-than-adequate hunter?

If one is lucky enough to either stay up all night (hardly) or be a very light sleeper who sleeps with her window open a few inches, no matter how cold it is, so she can hear the night sounds outside – and if one really listens  to the wild, wonderful serenade, one would be able to discern there are maybe five or six voices in the two,  rarely three – groups that are singing.  Granted, there may be several groups that don’t all call at once, and there’s no way to really know how many are out there – but I don’t think we’re surrounded and outnumbered by a population “out of hand.”  It’s also important to remember that these are coyotes,  not wolves, not cougars…and they pose no threat.  They most assuredly are not taking down full-grown deer.  There are plenty of those around here too; they probably outnumber the coyotes.

It’s winter – so there are no newborn fawns, which coyotes will take if they can. But coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever they can find.   This bunch of canine ruffians are more likely to be feeding on mice and voles, rabbits,  flying squirrels, skunks, insects, groundhogs, carrion, nuts, chipmunks, and yes, feral cats – though around here there’s a tree about every two feet so any cat with half a brain could save itself.  There is no shortage of feral cats around here either.  If you really think about it, coyotes prey on many of the animals people complain about having around in the first place!

Some coyotes will prey on farm animals like chickens, sheep and goats when the opportunity is available to them, but this usually happens when wild food sources become scarce.

goat5

As a matter of fact, another neighbor, about half a mile away through the woods behind our house, has a goat farm – for several years now.  I asked her if the coyotes have been a problem – especially since they have goat kids every spring – and if she puts them in the barn at night to protect them.  Nope.  No coyote problems, not even an attempt.  The coyotes sing all around the goat farm, but apparently prefer rodents to ruminants.

We live in the Daniel Boone National Forest, for Pete’s sake!  Personally, I feel privileged to be able to hear the coyotes at night, and have been known to leap out of bed and bolt out the door with the dogs (though I use the people door) just to hear them singing.  In a world gone crazy, it’s actually one of the most reassuring sounds.  It tells me that, at least in this particular place, all is right with the world, and all is as it should be.

Wordless Wednesday

Bearly There (sorry)

 NJ Black Bear – photo by Rob Socha

A few ‘bear aware’ flyers and posters are beginning to appear around town – especially in sporting goods stores or places that sell feed. A bear population in KY is a relatively new thing – which seems rather odd considering the amount of bear habitat here. But the bears have been gone since around 1900.  The wooded habitat was severely logged, and the bears hunted without laws or limits.

The forest habitats have largely recovered from excessive logging, and black bears are now finding their way into eastern Kentucky from Virginia and West Virginia, and in southern KY, from Tennessee. We’re sort of between the two, in south-central KY very close to Tennessee in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and only 20 miles from the Big South Fork Recreation Area.  Plenty of prime bear habitat – but we have heard of only one or two sightings.  I can’t believe that there are no bears here, so I’m thinking the lack of sightings may be due to the fact that, unlike overpopulated New Jersey (a few old posts  here and here) the bears in KY simply have plenty of open space and don’t venture near or stay around people long enough to be seen.

The current bear situation in KY reminds me of NJ when I was a kid in the 60s.  I’m sure there were a few around, but we never, ever saw them. I saw my first bear in NJ in the mid 80s, only because I was with the bear biologist and we were tracking a radio-collared female. Come to think of it, we never did actually see her – she kept moving away whenever we got close.

According to the Fish and Wildlife authorities here, the number of bears in KY is unknown.  There are enough, however, in three eastern counties that there’s going to be a short bear hunting season this December. Of course there is.  I won’t say any more about that….

For now, having come from NJ where bears are commonplace, I’m enjoying not having to worry about them being in my face.  But the truth is, I miss seeing them.  Surely, they belong in woods as vast as these, and I’m certain they are out there. I”m hoping we can continue to enjoy this natural balance, where they remain wild and in the woods instead of parked in my yard.

I have all this new-found freedom!  I can hike here and be outside without constantly watching for bear. I can put up my bird feeders and suet without imposed restrictions from the authorities. I can leave my birdfeeders out overnight. Still can’t leave the trash, but that’s due to coyotes, feral cats, raccoons, opossums, neighborhood dogs, and other mysterious nighttime critters.

So far, my suet and bird feeders have been molested only once by raccoons.  I’ve hung them out-of-reach on a wire line now, so the raccoons will have to scrounge for leftovers on the ground. When my hanging suet and sunflower feeders disappear, and when I find my cross wire ripped out of the poles and on the ground, I’ll know there’s been a bear in the yard.  Or maybe Bigfoot.  Cain’t never tell around here….

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