This is a follow up to our previous blog post about coyotes at the Sheep Dog trials. Since last Friday, we have learned more. Because Vashon Nature Center’s focus is to provide information about local wildlife and ecosystems, we would like to share resources on living with coyotes, new information about recent events, and results from our local research on Vashon coyotes since 2011.
While we believe in both the intrinsic and ecological value of coyotes in the landscape, we are committed to remaining open to the question of whether coyotes and humans can be successful living together on Vashon-Maury. Our purpose is to provide the best information about wildlife so that we can work intelligently towards living together.
Please ask us if anything in this post is unclear, or if you need more information. We will work hard to connect you with someone who can answer your questions.
For information on living with coyotes:
Shivik 2004. Non-lethal alternatives for predation management. Sheep and Goat Research Journal. 19:64-71. Download
For information on ecological benefits of coyotes:
For case studies of other communities that have had success in living with coyotes:
Proceedings of the 22nd Vertebrate Pest Conference: Fox- C.H.2006.Coyotes – Humans – Can We Coexist VPC Proceedings
If you want to talk with an actual person:
Both USDA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife representatives are willing to talk with Vashon-Maury residents. Both of these agencies can employ lethal control but emphasize it as a last resort and agree on the importance of using non-lethal and preventative techniques for success in the long-run. USDA contact: Andy Cleland 253-329-6234. WDFW contact: Mike Smith 425-775-1311.
New information and its implications
USDA provided us with the demographics of the two coyotes that were shot: one juvenile male and one yearling female that had never bred. There were adult coyotes present in the remaining group. The fact that adults were not killed is potentially good news as it suggests that the social structure of the pack remains intact. Research shows that maintaining the social structure of coyote packs is very important as it prevents a “Lord of the Flies” situation where young coyotes are left to fend for themselves, which often leads to an increase in bold behavior towards humans and domestic animals. Keeping the leading adults with the pack also prevents population booms because breeding is suppressed in all but the alpha pair. If the alpha pair is eliminated, then all coyotes can disperse and breed (Humane Society, Moehlman et al. 1997).
We now have a window of opportunity to successfully live with coyotes if our community employs the various non-lethal techniques available to encourage the remaining coyotes to be wary of humans and domestic animals. As coyotes learn more desirable (for humans) behaviors, these behaviors are more likely to persist in the long run as they are passed from older to younger animals in the pack.
Insights to date from our local island sightings database
Since 2011, Vashon Nature Center has been keeping a coyote sighting database to track coyote ranges, behaviors, and habits (we record sightings, human or domestic animal interactions with coyotes, and howls heard). Please keep telling us what you experience so we can all work together to better understand our island coyotes and minimize conflicts. We’d like to share the insights from this database so far.
Other communities have found that the key to minimizing conflicts is keeping coyotes acting wild and wary of humans.
We will continue to do our best to provide updates on anything coyote moving forward. Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. AAAAAOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!