[CT Birds] Non-bird Wildlife

Sarah Faulkner sffaulkner at comcast.net
Tue Aug 2 21:55:05 EDT 2011

It's nice to hear about other wildlife, too, Jan!  Thanks for the story. 
There was a coyote that gave me a good staring just around the corner from 
my house a few years ago -- a huge animal, thick coat, broad muzzle --  
looked for all the world like a full wolf.  It crossed in front of my car 
and I stopped to get a good look, and it stopped and stared back at me 
through the open window -- and I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck 
and wished the window was closed.  One of the few times I've felt like prey.

Biologists have recently reclassified our Eastern Coyote as a separate 
subspecies, because they clearly are evolving into a more wolf-like 
creature, filling the empty niche for a top canid in the northeast.  There's 
debate about how many of them have any of the wolf blood/DNA, vs. natural 
selection choosing those with the best genes to survive our 
climate/snow/food sources, but there are a number of characteristics that 
are showing up in our northeastern coyotes that were not present 20 years 
ago: larger overall body size; thicker, stronger legs; shorter, broader and 
stronger muzzle; shorter and broader ears; and -- and this is a little 
controversial -- a bushier tail that some are holding upright.  It used to 
be that you could tell a coyote from a wolf simply by the way it held its 
tail.  Wolves run with their tails up, while coyotes run with their tails 
down.  Apparently this is no longer the case.  Also, coyotes did not in the 
past hunt in a structured pack with an alpha pair as wolves do.  This meant 
that coyotes couldn't hunt deer, which requires coordination and a 
hierarchy.  Recent data in Connecticut indicates that the social structure 
true of wolves has been observed in at least one family group of coyotes., 
and they've been filmed hunting deer.  Fascinating, no?

I had an interesting but yucky wildlife experience on Sunday morning.  I 
went out to get my newspaper, ready to sit in my garden, drink my coffee, 
and enjoy the early morning birds and coolness, when I found something gross 
on the front lawn: an animal's stomach and a length of intestines.  Both 
were sizeable, and so I put on my best biology detective hat: final analysis 
showed there had been a kill on my front lawn only a few hours earlier, and 
my neighbor was missing her cat whose fur matched the pieces in the grass. 
I'm thinking the predator was a bobcat, since the kill scene was pretty 
clean, with only the stomach and piece of intestines (plus bloody grass) to 
show anything had happened.  Coyotes usually make more of a mess, and owls 
usually take the whole prey away.  Whatever it was took the time to 
disembowel the prey before running off with it.  Cool/gross/scary to know 
that a sizeable predator took down a 14 lb housecat on my front lawn just 
before dawn...  in little Collinsville!  (And, with apologies to the cat 
lovers amongst us, I was not overly upset at this, since that cat had been 
hunting my songbirds!!! Justice in the animal kingdom!!!)

Sarah Faulkner

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jan Hollerbach" <smilifase at gmail.com>
To: "CT Ornithological Association COA" <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2011 8:44 PM
Subject: [CT Birds] Non-bird Wildlife

> Got home from work and went to clean/refill bird baths when I saw movement 
> in the "wilderness" section of my yard. Usually it's a deer, and at first 
> glance I thought it was a small deer. But then it stopped. And I stopped. 
> And it was a coyote!
> Now, having grown up in CA, I'm used to the raggedy slinky "Wiley Coyote" 
> types.  Kinda like a guy in a bar trying to pick you up wearing a "leisure 
> suit".   This was not that guy!  I remember the discussion about Coyote X 
> Wolf, and this looked more like that possibility. This Coyote was bigger, 
> less dissheveled looking and did seem to have a good-sized head. He was 
> pretty intimidating!  After a good staring, he walked off, but I'm 
> thinking I may not need to apply Bobbex to my plants to keep the deer away 
> anymore!
> Also, around dusk I was gonna go out and fill my bird feeders on the deck. 
> When I looked outside to make sure there were no more birds at the 
> feeders, what do I find but a baby racoon asleep on my deck railing!
> I guess trying to make your yard bird friendly doesn't stop with the 
> birds.
> Jan Hollerbach
> Sent from my iPhone
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