Researchers learn the ins and outs of wild dog communication
By James M. Odato
Scores of four-footed families dating back almost a century live throughout the North Country woods. They leave paw prints on snowmobile trails and hiking paths, hide in the thickets and hunt white-tailed deer.
You may never see them, but you can hear these Eastern coyotes yelping like a kennel. “You could go out into their territories and howl, and they’d howl back,” said wildlife biologist Gary Brundige, who spent several years monitoring them around Newcomb.
His research with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry led him to an Adirondack family of seven, four of which he collared with radios after trapping and sedating them.
They deserve their reputation of being wily. The traps never worked a second time. “They’d dig them up, take a dump on them,” he said. “They learn quickly.”
The pack hunted as a group and lived together without fear of predators, since wolves had exited the Adirondacks generations ago.
Breeding pairs mate for life and have about four to six pups a year born in a den around May. Through the mid-summer they guard the young and pounce on prey. They defend their territories of about 2 to 15 square miles, according to state estimates. And, though they look like dogs, they may attack pets, even other coyotes.
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SUNY ESF projects 2.5 breeding pairs in the Adirondacks for every 10 square miles.
Brundige only heard the distant calls of his coyote family after releasing members. Native Americans used to call them tricksters, he said, but these wild canines tend to keep away from human audiences.
The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends keeping your distance and notifying them if coyotes seem to be acting bold.
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