TulsaPets Magazine July 2022

18 TulsaPets • July / August 2022 Crafty Canines Adapt to Change by Kelsey Warren-Bryant I used to live in a house that belonged to my parents, a two-story home in the middle of Oklahoma woods. Trees surrounded every side of the home, and with them, wildlife. I had my fair share of experience with wild animals while living there — deer grazing the backyard, turkeys crossing the road, families of bunnies hopping around the front fence. I’m even pretty sure I heard a bobcat once. One afternoon I hopped into my blue Chevy, ready for a long commute to class in Norman. I started my way down the driveway, then slammed my foot on the brake as I caught sight of something standing across the road. In an empty patch between trees, I could see the canine clearly. It was midsized and lanky with narrow brown eyes. Its fur was a fluffy swirl of gray, tan, and red. Its eyes were on me as if it could see me staring at it from inside the car. Although I was a safe distance away, I dared not move, afraid even the smallest disturbance might scare it off. In all my years growing up in the country, I had never seen a coyote before. I wanted a good look. The coyote gave me one last, long stare, as if sizing up my inten- tions. After a few moments, its shoulders relaxed. It slinked off, its furry spotted coat disappearing into the expanse of trees. Of course, I was in no immediate danger that day. However, for some people, the appearance of a coyote can be disconcerting. Here are some answers to questions you might have about coyotes. What Is a Coyote? Coyotes are midsized canines, known for their characteristic yips and howls. Coyotes can live as bachelors, in mated pairs, or in fam- ily groups. They use their unique voices to communicate with their pack. For example, a bark alerts the pack of nearby danger. A howl lets the other pack members know the coyote’s location, and a yip is a welcome to new members of the pack. In Oklahoma, coyotes are usually apex predators, meaning they have no competition from bigger predators. Although their diet consists mostly of rodents, fruit, and vegetable matter, they are op- portunistic and will attack larger prey such as young calves or small household pets if given the chance. What Is the History of Coyotes? Coyotes have resided on the North American continent for approx- imately five million years. Unlike their wolf cousins, who crossed into America from Asia, coyotes originated here. Despite their resemblance to wolves, they are more closely related to jackals, with only a 4 percent genetic variation. When Lewis and Clark encountered their first coyote on their explorations of the West, they didn’t know what to make of it. After determining that it was not a fox, they decided to call it a “prairie wolf.” That name was used all the way until the mid-1800s, when the term coyote became more popularized. The species is called Canis latrans . Since the discovery of coyotes, governments have attempted sev- eral extermination efforts against the species to appease frustrated farmers and ranchers. The biggest of those efforts occurred in the 1950s. The federal government authorized the use of different poi- Coyotes and You The coyote ( Canis latrans ) is native to North America. The coyote’s coat is a mixture of colors.