Protecting the pack

MILFORD -Wile E. Coyote versus Big Bad Wolf.

We think wolves and coyotes are two different animals, and we think we know how they differ. Coyotes are small, scrawny, clever. Wolves are big, fearsome and hunt in packs.

Not quite true, says Chris Schadler, who gave a slide presentation called "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England" to a standing-room-only audience in the Amherst Town Library last week.

That’s because Eastern coyotes, the kind we have around here, are part wolf – "simply a small wolf" she said – the result of mingling of the Eastern wolf with coyote as coyotes migrated east and mated with wolves.

And, ironically, one of the reasons why the coyotes came back to the northeastern United States, in the mid-20th century, was because people had wiped out its chief competitor, the wolf.

If the coyotes we see in New Hampshire look like wolves, it’s because they are part wolf – on average 10 percent dog, 30 percent wolf and 60 percent coyote.

This part-wolf canine has wolflike traits, can hunt in packs and is significantly bigger than its Western cousin.

"We used to think they were separate species. Now we know it’s a genetic free-for-all," said Schadler, who sprinkled her program with jokes and whose slides featured photos of "a philandering Lab and a lonely coyote" and a coyote pair walking through the branches of an apple tree.

She taught conservation issues and wolf ecology at the University of New Hampshire and once raised sheep in Kensington.

The sheep raising was a deliberate experiment in re-educating the coyotes – teaching them that "their territory was now mine," using four border collies that she walked around the perimeter of the sheep enclosure every night to mark her territory.

"I asked for a farm with a lot of coyote problems," Schadler said. "I used my dogs to claim the territory and an air horn to chase them into the woods."

In this way, her 20 sheep avoided predation for nearly two decades.

But you don’t have to live in the country or have sheep to find coyotes.

"Every one of you is living within the territory of a pack," even in Amherst Village, Schadler told her audience. And even in Chicago, where there are estimated to be about 2,000 animals in the metropolitan area.

The howling many of us hear at night might seem frightening, but it shouldn’t be, she said. Coyotes howl to communicate with family members and establish their territories.

It was a sound hated by our ancestors, who feared wolves, Schadler said. And they nearly succeeded in wiping them out. By the time the federal Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there were only tiny populations in remote northern reaches of the U.S.

The other top predators – coyotes, lynx, mountain lions, wolverines, animals that once roamed New Hampshire – were gone, as well, along with other wildlife. Only a few beaver were left and about 50 black bears.

Then forests began to replace farm fields and coyotes came back, and the first of the new breed was seen in Holderness in 1944.

Now they are found all over the state, and that’s good for our ecosystem, said Schadler, who is the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote, a coalition of scientists, educators and ranchers dedicated to coexistence between people and wildlife.

She gave tips on living peacefully with coyotes and urged her audience to be "active educators." Feeding the animals habituates them to human beings, and habituated coyotes that regard people as a source of food are not good to have around. But they are mostly shy of people, except the young ones, who should be chased away, she said.

Coyotes give birth in April and May, and any animals people run into during the warm months are likely to be uneducated pups who don’t fear people.

The coyote is the only top predator left in New Hampshire, and we need it for a host of reasons, Schadler said, not the least of which is natural pest control.

Rodents make up about 60 percent of their diet, and white-footed mice are part of the Lyme disease cycle.

Yet federal, state and local governments and private individuals kill about 500,000 of the animals a year in a misguided, taxpayer-funded effort to protect livestock, according to Project Coyote.

Misguided, because the more coyotes are hunted, trapped and poisoned, the more coyotes there are, said Schadler, who showed a photo of a barn covered with hundreds of coyote hides.

"We promote coexistence because there is no other choice," she said, and it’s counterintuitive, but it’s a fact: When coyotes face persecution, a complex biological mechanism kicks in – "responsive reproduction" – which results in larger, healthier litters.

Schadler has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Antioch University Graduate School. She is working on a book, "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England," and will give another presentation at Milford’s Wadleigh Memorial Library on Thursday, April 21.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Protecting the pack

MILFORD -Wile E. Coyote versus Big Bad Wolf.

We think wolves and coyotes are two different animals, and we think we know how they differ. Coyotes are small, scrawny, clever. Wolves are big, fearsome and hunt in packs.

Not quite true, says Chris Schadler, who gave a slide presentation called "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England" to a standing-room-only audience in the Amherst Town Library last week.

That’s because Eastern coyotes, the kind we have around here, are part wolf – "simply a small wolf" she said – the result of mingling of the Eastern wolf with coyote as coyotes migrated east and mated with wolves.

And, ironically, one of the reasons why the coyotes came back to the northeastern United States, in the mid-20th century, was because people had wiped out its chief competitor, the wolf.

If the coyotes we see in New Hampshire look like wolves, it’s because they are part wolf – on average 10 percent dog, 30 percent wolf and 60 percent coyote.

This part-wolf canine has wolflike traits, can hunt in packs and is significantly bigger than its Western cousin.

"We used to think they were separate species. Now we know it’s a genetic free-for-all," said Schadler, who sprinkled her program with jokes and whose slides featured photos of "a philandering Lab and a lonely coyote" and a coyote pair walking through the branches of an apple tree.

She taught conservation issues and wolf ecology at the University of New Hampshire and once raised sheep in Kensington.

The sheep raising was a deliberate experiment in re-educating the coyotes – teaching them that "their territory was now mine," using four border collies that she walked around the perimeter of the sheep enclosure every night to mark her territory.

"I asked for a farm with a lot of coyote problems," Schadler said. "I used my dogs to claim the territory and an air horn to chase them into the woods."

In this way, her 20 sheep avoided predation for nearly two decades.

But you don’t have to live in the country or have sheep to find coyotes.

"Every one of you is living within the territory of a pack," even in Amherst Village, Schadler told her audience. And even in Chicago, where there are estimated to be about 2,000 animals in the metropolitan area.

The howling many of us hear at night might seem frightening, but it shouldn’t be, she said. Coyotes howl to communicate with family members and establish their territories.

It was a sound hated by our ancestors, who feared wolves, Schadler said. And they nearly succeeded in wiping them out. By the time the federal Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there were only tiny populations in remote northern reaches of the U.S.

The other top predators – coyotes, lynx, mountain lions, wolverines, animals that once roamed New Hampshire – were gone, as well, along with other wildlife. Only a few beaver were left and about 50 black bears.

Then forests began to replace farm fields and coyotes came back, and the first of the new breed was seen in Holderness in 1944.

Now they are found all over the state, and that’s good for our ecosystem, said Schadler, who is the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote, a coalition of scientists, educators and ranchers dedicated to coexistence between people and wildlife.

She gave tips on living peacefully with coyotes and urged her audience to be "active educators." Feeding the animals habituates them to human beings, and habituated coyotes that regard people as a source of food are not good to have around. But they are mostly shy of people, except the young ones, who should be chased away, she said.

Coyotes give birth in April and May, and any animals people run into during the warm months are likely to be uneducated pups who don’t fear people.

The coyote is the only top predator left in New Hampshire, and we need it for a host of reasons, Schadler said, not the least of which is natural pest control.

Rodents make up about 60 percent of their diet, and white-footed mice are part of the Lyme disease cycle.

Yet federal, state and local governments and private individuals kill about 500,000 of the animals a year in a misguided, taxpayer-funded effort to protect livestock, according to Project Coyote.

Misguided, because the more coyotes are hunted, trapped and poisoned, the more coyotes there are, said Schadler, who showed a photo of a barn covered with hundreds of coyote hides.

"We promote coexistence because there is no other choice," she said, and it’s counterintuitive, but it’s a fact: When coyotes face persecution, a complex biological mechanism kicks in – "responsive reproduction" – which results in larger, healthier litters.

Schadler has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Antioch University Graduate School. She is working on a book, "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England," and will give another presentation at Milford’s Wadleigh Memorial Library on Thursday, April 21.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

Protecting the pack

MILFORD -Wile E. Coyote versus Big Bad Wolf.

We think wolves and coyotes are two different animals, and we think we know how they differ. Coyotes are small, scrawny, clever. Wolves are big, fearsome and hunt in packs.

Not quite true, says Chris Schadler, who gave a slide presentation called "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England" to a standing-room-only audience in the Amherst Town Library last week.

That’s because Eastern coyotes, the kind we have around here, are part wolf – "simply a small wolf" she said – the result of mingling of the Eastern wolf with coyote as coyotes migrated east and mated with wolves.

And, ironically, one of the reasons why the coyotes came back to the northeastern United States, in the mid-20th century, was because people had wiped out its chief competitor, the wolf.

If the coyotes we see in New Hampshire look like wolves, it’s because they are part wolf – on average 10 percent dog, 30 percent wolf and 60 percent coyote.

This part-wolf canine has wolflike traits, can hunt in packs and is significantly bigger than its Western cousin.

"We used to think they were separate species. Now we know it’s a genetic free-for-all," said Schadler, who sprinkled her program with jokes and whose slides featured photos of "a philandering Lab and a lonely coyote" and a coyote pair walking through the branches of an apple tree.

She taught conservation issues and wolf ecology at the University of New Hampshire and once raised sheep in Kensington.

The sheep raising was a deliberate experiment in re-educating the coyotes – teaching them that "their territory was now mine," using four border collies that she walked around the perimeter of the sheep enclosure every night to mark her territory.

"I asked for a farm with a lot of coyote problems," Schadler said. "I used my dogs to claim the territory and an air horn to chase them into the woods."

In this way, her 20 sheep avoided predation for nearly two decades.

But you don’t have to live in the country or have sheep to find coyotes.

"Every one of you is living within the territory of a pack," even in Amherst Village, Schadler told her audience. And even in Chicago, where there are estimated to be about 2,000 animals in the metropolitan area.

The howling many of us hear at night might seem frightening, but it shouldn’t be, she said. Coyotes howl to communicate with family members and establish their territories.

It was a sound hated by our ancestors, who feared wolves, Schadler said. And they nearly succeeded in wiping them out. By the time the federal Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there were only tiny populations in remote northern reaches of the U.S.

The other top predators – coyotes, lynx, mountain lions, wolverines, animals that once roamed New Hampshire – were gone, as well, along with other wildlife. Only a few beaver were left and about 50 black bears.

Then forests began to replace farm fields and coyotes came back, and the first of the new breed was seen in Holderness in 1944.

Now they are found all over the state, and that’s good for our ecosystem, said Schadler, who is the New Hampshire and Vermont representative of Project Coyote, a coalition of scientists, educators and ranchers dedicated to coexistence between people and wildlife.

She gave tips on living peacefully with coyotes and urged her audience to be "active educators." Feeding the animals habituates them to human beings, and habituated coyotes that regard people as a source of food are not good to have around. But they are mostly shy of people, except the young ones, who should be chased away, she said.

Coyotes give birth in April and May, and any animals people run into during the warm months are likely to be uneducated pups who don’t fear people.

The coyote is the only top predator left in New Hampshire, and we need it for a host of reasons, Schadler said, not the least of which is natural pest control.

Rodents make up about 60 percent of their diet, and white-footed mice are part of the Lyme disease cycle.

Yet federal, state and local governments and private individuals kill about 500,000 of the animals a year in a misguided, taxpayer-funded effort to protect livestock, according to Project Coyote.

Misguided, because the more coyotes are hunted, trapped and poisoned, the more coyotes there are, said Schadler, who showed a photo of a barn covered with hundreds of coyote hides.

"We promote coexistence because there is no other choice," she said, and it’s counterintuitive, but it’s a fact: When coyotes face persecution, a complex biological mechanism kicks in – "responsive reproduction" – which results in larger, healthier litters.

Schadler has a master’s degree in conservation biology from Antioch University Graduate School. She is working on a book, "Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England," and will give another presentation at Milford’s Wadleigh Memorial Library on Thursday, April 21.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.