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Did my wildlife camera take pictures of coyotes?

Did my wildlife camera take pictures of coyotes?


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A wildlife camera took these photographs of these animals. These are the only pictures my camera collected of them. This picture was taken in the central interior of British Columbia, Canada. The distance from the camera to the subject is a few meters, and the height of the camera off the ground was probably about 50 cm.

I think they're too small to be wolves, and they don't appear to be any of the dogs I've seen in the area. My intuition strongly points to them being coyotes based on pictures, videos, and occassionally seeing them in the light of day. However, I'm hoping that someone can explain why my intuition is right, if it is right.

The small coniferous tree beside the road (left of center) is about 50 cm tall.


Short Answer

Yes, these are likely coyotes.

Long Answer

Your options of dog-like carnivores (i.e., Canidae) in BC include the following:

  • Coyote (Canis latrans)
  • Grey wolf
    • British Columbia Wolf (C. lupus columbianus)1,2
    • Northwestern wolf (C. lupus occidentalis)1,2
  • Domestic dog (C. lupus familiaris)
    • Siberian husky
    • Utonagan
    • Tamaskan
    • Alaskan malamute
    • Northern Inuit dog
    • Saarloos wolfdog
    • Shikoku
    • others…
  • Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Let's start ruling out the unlikely options:

[I'm not trying to be comprehensive, but rather just pointing out the easiest evidence we can see]

  • Dogs: Many of these might look wolf or coyote like, but it is very unlikely that any of these domestic breeds would be forming wild packs (as is indicated by your image containing multiple specimens). (In fact, it's unlikely you'll even see half of those breeds in BC to begin with!). I'll leave it to you to peruse the links I provided if you insist on examining and comparing their anatomies/morphologies to your specimens.

  • Fox: Although the largest of the true foxes, this is still a relatively small canine; they typically are less than 20 inches high and 35 inches long [source]. Without some measure of scale, we can't be sure, but your specimens certainly look larger than that relative to the tree in the background. More definitely, however, is that V. vulpes has a tail that is typically half or more of its own body length. The tail also rests nearly to the ground. The length of tail on your specimens do not match either of these length characteristics. Further, the very bushy, white-tipped tail of the fox is not represented by your specimens' only-somewhat bushy, dark-tipped tails. Red fox are also typically solitary hunters (source; unlike your shot of multiple specimens).

I know what you're thinking: "duh, get to the wolves vs coyotes already!!"

See here for a guide to differentiating wolves, coyotes, and dogs

  • British Columbia Wolf (C. lupus columbianus): According to Goldman (1941)3 and here, this subspecies of wolf is large with a dark (black with some cinnamon brown color) coat. No mention of a light ventral region is mentioned, which is apparent even in your night-camera shots!

  • Northwestern wolf (C. lupus occidentalis):

    • Their color does not rule them out -- This wolf subspecies is quite variable in color and can range from all dark, to mottled grey to all white. (see here for visual comparison of some wolf colorations).
    • This is potentially the largest of wolf subspecies (27-36+ inches tall at shoulder [source] and 4.5 - 7 feet long (nose to tail tip)! [source:i, ii). Your specimen's do not look this large, but they could be juveniles. It would be great to get a height estimate of that plant in your picture or diameter estimate of that tree…
    • This site suggests that the average pack size is 6-12 wolves, which is significantly more than showed up on your camera (though, obviously this could be coincidence and not a definitive way to rule out this wolf).

This leaves the coyote:

  • Size: Between the size of the fox and grey wolf: 21-24 inches at shoulder; 3.5 - 4.5 feet long (nose to tail tip) [source].

  • Color: Gray (or reddish brown), often grizzled, often with whitish/paler throat, chest, and/or belly. Black patches may be seen on the tips of tails on on feet. [[sources: Bekoff (1977)4 and CDFW].

  • Anatomy/morphology: Bekoff (1977)4 and CDFW compare coyotes to wolves. The snouts are thinner with smaller nose pad on coyote vs wolf, and a coyote's ears are taller and more pointed. Your images, unfortunately, don't really allow us to differentiate adequately.

  • Behavior: typically less social than wolves and will rarely travel in groups larger than their immediate family. Even still, they often keep their distance and practice more asynchronous activity. However, coyotes are most often observed as lone individuals or in pairs (especially during breeding season)4. This matches your camera's image.

    Coyotes are most active in the early evening, but their activity can be variable. Many coyote have become quite nocturnal (especially near humans), but they are known to also be sporadically active throughout the day and showing peaks of activity at dawn and dusk. [sources: Bekoff (1977)4 and Wikipedia. Wolves, though, are also active during evening and night…

Summary

So, based on the the few number of individuals, coloration, and perceived relative size of your specimens, it seems most likely that these are coyote. If you can get us estimates of height and diameter of the foliage in the background, this could be stated more definitively.

You could always go back to the site and photograph and compare the tracks, too (try starting here and here to compare)…

Though of course, it could always be a "coywolf" (also see here) :p.


Citations

1. Nowak, R. M. (1995). Another look at wolf taxonomy. In Carbyn, L. N.; Fritts, S. H.; D. R. Seip (eds.). Ecology and conservation of wolves in a changing world: proceedings of the second North American symposium on wolves. Edmonton, Canada: Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta. pp. 375-397. [see map on p 376 here]

2. Goldman, E. A. (1941). Three new Wolves from North America. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 54: 109-113. [See HERE for a map]

3. Goldman, E.A. (1941). Three new wolves from North America. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash, 54: 109-13. [available here]

4. Bekoff, M. (1977). The coyote Canis latrans. Mammal. Spec, 79:1-9.[see here]


Coyote Conflicts

The Eastern coyote is firmly established in New York. They live in New York as an integral part of our ecosystems. People and coyotes can usually coexist if coyotes' natural fear of people is maintained. Coyotes provide many benefits to New Yorkers through observation, photography, hunting, and trapping however, not all interactions are positive. While most coyotes avoid interacting with people, some coyotes in suburbia become emboldened and appear to have lost their fear of people. This can result in a dangerous situation with pets and young children at the greatest risk.

Below are steps you should take to reduce and prevent coyote problems from occurring. For additional information see our nuissance wildlife species page.

Coyote Encounters

A coyote that does not flee from people should be considered dangerous. Coyotes in residential areas can be attracted to garbage, pet food, and other human-created sources of food. Coyotes can associate people with these food attractants. In some cases human behavior is perceived to be non-threatening by coyotes (running into your home after seeing a coyote is behaving like prey). In short, people may unintentionally attract coyotes with food and people may behave like prey. Add to the mix people intentionally feeding coyotes and the potential for a coyote attack becomes very real.

How to handle coyote encounters:

  • Do not let a coyote approach anyone.
  • If you see a coyote, be aggressive in your behavior-stand tall and hold arms out to look large. If a coyote lingers for too long, then make loud noises, wave your arms, or throw sticks and stones.
  • Contact your local police department and DEC regional office for assistance if you notice that coyotes are exhibiting "bold" behaviors and have little or no fear of people.
  • Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance. Children are at greatest risk of being injured by coyotes. If a coyote has been observed repeatedly near an area where children frequent, be watchful.

Potential does exist for coyote attacks in New York. However, a little perspective may be in order. On average, 650 people are hospitalized and one person killed by dogs each year in New York State. Nationwide, only a handful of coyote attacks occur annually. Nevertheless, these conflicts are bad for people, pets, and coyotes.

Make your Yard Less Hospitable

Unintentional food sources attract coyotes and other wildlife, as well as increase risks to people and pets.

To reduce risks:

  • Do not feed coyotes and discourage others from doing so. Visit our Do Not Feed Wildlife: Why Feeding Wildlife Does More Harm Than Good page.
  • Do not feed pets outside.
  • Make any garbage inaccessible to coyotes and other animals.
  • Eliminate availability of bird seed. Concentrations of birds and rodents that come to feeders can attract coyotes.

Protect your Pets

Take action:

  • Do not allow coyotes to approach people or pets.
  • Do not allow pets to run free. Supervise all outdoor pets to keep them safe from coyotes and other wildlife, especially at sunset and at night.
  • Fencing your yard may deter coyotes. The fence should be tight to the ground, preferably extending 6 inches below ground level, and taller than 4 feet.
  • Remove brush and tall grass from around your property to reduce protective cover for coyotes. Coyotes are typically secretive and like areas where they can hide. See our Tips to Eliminate Wildlife Conflicts page for more information.
  • Be alert of your surroundings and take precautions such as carrying a flashlight or a walking stick to deter coyotes.

Do dog owners need to be concerned about coyotes? The answer is maybe. Conflicts between dogs and coyotes can happen any time of the year, but are more likely in the months of March and April. It is during this time that coyotes are setting up their denning areas for their soon-to-arrive pups. Coyotes become exceptionally territorial around these den sites in an attempt to create a safe place for their young. In general, coyotes view other canines (dogs) as a threat. Essentially, it comes down to a territorial dispute between your dog and the coyote. Both believe that your yard is their territory.

Owners of large and medium sized dogs have less to worry about, but should still take precautions. Owners of small dogs have cause for concern. Small dogs are of greatest risk of being harmed or killed by coyotes. Small dogs are at risk when left unattended in backyards at night and should be supervised by owners. Coyotes have attacked and killed small dogs unattended in backyards. Coyotes may approach small dogs along streets at night near natural areas, even in the presence of dog owners.

Do coyotes kill cats? Absolutely, but so do foxes, dogs, bobcats, vehicles, and even great horned owls. Cat owners need to be aware that cats allowed to roam free are at risk from many different factors. To protect your cat, keep it indoors, or allow it outside only under supervision. Coyotes in some areas appear to become specialists at catching and killing cats.

Livestock Risk

Problems with coyotes and livestock do occur in New York. Most problems involve sheep or free ranging chickens and ducks. Most problems can be avoided with proper husbandry techniques. It is much easier to prevent depredation from occurring than it is to stop it once it starts.


Camera to capture candid crepuscular critters? June 8, 2021 11:34 AM Subscribe

I already have a crapy trail camera that uses about 18 C cell batteries every ten minutes and requires that I bring the camera back inside and upload all the photos to my computer before I can even see if I've got anything.

Ideally I would like something that I could keep outside for long periods of time and it would somehow send me pictures and videos when it captures something interesting.

I *think* what I want is something like a Nest security camera, though since this will be out in the yard I wouldn't want to have to hard-wire it to anything. It would probably be within range of my WiFi if I didn't put it too far away from the house.

I'm willing to spend some money for some equipment but I don't want to spend *too* much money.

What's the best way to do this?

I had a crappy trail camera too that also ate batteries and required a hardwire connection.

As for better stuff, if you could plumb ethernet into your backyard (I know it's kind of a wild request) you can run a PoE camera that saves videos to a NVR hard drive system. It's basically how all decent security cameras work and what I have around my home.

For a simpler option, I backed this on Kickstarter, a product called bird buddy that tries to fix all the problems of trail cameras, but I have no idea when it actually releases to the public.
posted by mathowie at 11:40 AM on June 8

Ditto. The answer is "trail cam". While they have internal batteries, you MAY want to add an external battery for longer life, or even hardwire it back to the house.

Some of the ones with only 4 batteries supposedly have impressive battery life. They are claiming a set of 4 AA Lithiums lasts a whole week. YMMV.
posted by kschang at 11:49 AM on June 8

If you are within WiFi coverage, the ReoLink Argus 2 with solar panel may be a good fit.

I recently picked one of these up to keep an eye on funny business that's been happening in my front yard. I inadvertently caught a recording of an urban fox which was a fun thing. The nice thing about the ReoLink is that you don't need a cloud service. The camera will accept a MicroSD card and automatically save recordings to it that will be accessible to you from your smartphone. You can subscribe to their cloud service if you want but it is not required. The whole package is weatherproof.

The battery has never showed less than 90% full with the solar panel attached. I am not so sure how this will perform through a Wisconsin winter but so far so good!
posted by sewellcm at 12:07 PM on June 8

I have two Netgear Arlo cameras. They're battery-powered and weather-resistant, and they have infrared illuminators. They work OK, but not great. There is often a significant lag between the time motion occurs and the time that the camera starts to record images. So you end up with sequences where nothing is happening. They also tend to lose their wireless connection to the base station. Still, I've recorded some good images of the raccoons and opossums that eat food left out for the feral colony I maintain on my property (not to mention lots of videos of the cats themselves).

Caveat: My cameras are about five years old (maybe more), so perhaps the newer models work better.
posted by alex1965 at 12:15 PM on June 8

I'm actually about to do the same thing and for the same reasons - after checking with several folks I know online, I'll probably be picking up one of these game cameras in the next week or two. But, I'll need to retrieve the SD card regularly to see what's up.

I considered a Wyze outdoor cam, but I think the camera would wind up being a bit too far away from the house for a reliable wifi signal in my case. There's a lot of plant and tree cover in that area, too. This might be a good option for you and the whole thing is supposed to be dead simple to set up.
posted by jquinby at 2:21 PM on June 8

We have a set of Arlo Ultra cameras that serve as both home security and critter cams. The newer Ultra series are definitely better than the older models (we have both). They are 100% wireless and work off wifi provided by the Arlo Base Station, so even if your home access point is in an inopportune location in your house, you can locate the base station in your home as close to the camera location as possible to increase signal consistency if it's an issue.

On the Ultras they have a floodlight you can configure to turn on when motion is detected. It does capture a little better video than the night vision, though battery life will suffer if it goes off a lot. They also capture (and can send) audio.

We replace the (rechargeable) batteries on average about once every 3-4 months. We bought an extra battery and charger so that when you need to, you just go to the camera and swap out the battery for the fresh one - takes literally 5 seconds. The included app can give you notifications of motion based on what it thinks it detected (it does a pretty good job of differentiating between a car, a person, and an animal, for instance), on a schedule, etc. so it's pretty versatile.

Like any wireless solution there is going to be a small gap between when it detects motion and when it starts recording - having the ability to record from the beginning requires recording 24x7, which cannot be done unless you have the power cord attached. You can trigger other cameras to record when one detects motion, so with a strategically placed pair you could trigger camera B, where the animal likely will be in a few seconds, to start recording when camera A detects motion and vice versa.
posted by SquidLips at 6:02 PM on June 8

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Kestrels at Great Salt Lake

We're back for another season of the beloved kestrel cam at Utah's Great Salt Lake. Though fairly common across North America, scientists have reported declines in American kestrel populations. For that reason, they are a welcome sight at the Great Salt Lake, and their presence is a strong indicator a healthy wetland ecosystem.

Greater Prairie Chicken Greater Prairie Chickens on Dunn Ranch Prairie. © Danny Brown


A coyote walks calmly past this Down East trail camera

There are plenty of coyotes roaming the woods of Maine, but they’re often fairly elusive.

People who are out and about might hear a group of coyotes howling in the evening, or might catch a passing glimpse of one running away after having been alerted to the presence of a human.

That’s part of what makes today’s trail camera photo from Jaime Harmon pretty neat.

The coyote pictured is taking a leisurely stroll along a path in the woods behind Jaime’s home in Down East Maine, near the Dennysville River.

Note the neat way the texture of the coyote’s fur blends in with the shades of black and white in the photo, which Jaime said was actually from 5:02 a.m. as the time noted on the camera is incorrect.

Jaime apparently gets quite a bit of wildlife activity on the camera, so hopefully we can share more of them with you in the future.

And if you have any trail cam photos and videos you think are interesting, please send them along to my email address below!


Gear and Stuff

I made all these photos from my car. There are so many people driving around the national parks in Africa and elsewhere that the animals simply ignore cars and it’s easy to get close.

Different animals are different, of course: Herbivores like impalas and gazelles tend to be pretty skittish and have greater flight distances than carnivores like cheetahs and lions, who can be very blasé. On hot, sunny days, I’ve had lion cubs crawl under my car to get in the shade (and to chew on the brake lines and tires).

Telephoto lenses are a must for wildlife photography—how long depends on how close you can get and on the size of your subject. I made most of these cheetah pictures with a 300mm f2.8, but that’s because they were so tolerant of me. Birds, small and flighty, need really long lenses. So do animals that are shy. For these, I use a 400mm or 600mm, though these lenses are big, heavy, and not a lot of fun to lug around. It’s not a great problem when shooting from a car, but if I’m hiking I sometimes use a teleconverter on the 300mm. They’re small and light, come in different degrees of magnification, and greatly increase the reach of your lenses. The downside is that image resolution is not quite as good and you lose some stops of light—but my back and shoulders are a lot happier.


Pronghorn

A male pronghorn grazes along the grasslands as the sun sets in San Rafael Valley. Pronghorn are considered to be the fastest land mammal in North America, with the ability to travel at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Males have sharply pointed horns. Females also have horns, which are smaller and more slender. The horn&rsquos tissue is composed of fused hairs which form over a bone core.

There are multiple subspecies of pronghorn in the U.S., including the Sonoran pronghorn, a subspecies listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Known as the &ldquodesert ghost,&rdquo this subspecies is notoriously difficult to spot. With eyes positioned high on their heads, they can spot movement from miles away.


How to Haze Coyotes

This short, educational video discusses how to effectively “haze” or deter coyotes. Coyotes in urban areas may learn to tolerate human presence instead of fleeing. Hazing is the process of disturbing an animal’s sense of security so it leaves an area or otherwise changes its behavior. Methods of hazing may include the use of audible, visual or physical devices or actions to cause the desired reaction.

Coyotes are not large animals and rarely pose a threat to people, especially adults. They can be curious but are also timid and generally run away if challenged. If a coyote approaches too closely, there are methods you can use to deter it and frighten it away. Hazing the animal by making loud noises and acting aggressively will typically cause a coyote to leave an area, but you may need to increase and continue hazing efforts until the coyote is effectively deterred and leaves the area for good. There are several methods of hazing that are effective with coyotes.

  • Waving your arms in the air and yelling will usually get a coyote to retreat, unless there is a den with pups nearby. You may need to move towards the coyote and increase hazing if the animal does not immediately run away. Once the coyote begins to move away, it is important to continue hazing efforts until the coyote has completely left the area.
  • Noisemakers are often effective deterrents to coyotes, including air horns, banging pots and pans and homemade noisemakers. A “coyote shaker” made from placing pebbles or coins in an empty drink container can be an effective noisemaker.
  • Throwing small stones or sticks towards (but not at) a coyote will usually cause the animal to leave. Spraying water from a hose or using bear repellent can also be effective hazing methods. Do not attempt to hurt the coyote because injured animals are more likely to defend themselves the goal should be to scare the coyote away. Remember that wildlife will attempt to protect themselves or their young if threatened — keep your distance.
  • Vary your methods of hazing so that the coyote does not become desensitized.
  • If a coyote approaches a child, an adult should first yell loudly to startle the coyote and then move towards the coyote. This gives the adult an opportunity to lift the child as quickly as possible and back away. Do not run from a coyote, as this may cause the animal to chase.
  • Teach children to recognize coyotes. If children are approached by a coyote, have them move slowly inside and yell loudly – teach them not to run, approach, or feed coyotes.

Coyote caught on home security camera attacking, killing a cat in Sarasota

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Home surveillance cameras captured video of two coyotes attacking and killing a cat.

"The cat had access through the cat door on the side," said Vlad Vanchanka.

Vlad Vanchanka lost his pet of nearly 10 years earlier this month. His cat was relaxing on a patio chair around 6 a.m.

The attack happened in a neighborhood off of Fruitville Road in Sarasota.

A coyote approaches the cat in the backyard. Video shows the cat trying to scare it away, but another coyote approaches and grabs it.

"We saw the coyotes pretty much attack and kill it," said Vanchanka as he watched home surveillance videos.

Vanchanka said the cat would only go outside when the weather was nice, but mostly stayed indoors. He checked security cameras when the cat did not return.

"It was a good animal. I never had a problem and usually it was indoors. It liked to go outside just to walk around," he said.

Vanchanka located his cat's remains not far from his home.

State wildlife officials warn coyotes do prey on domestic cats and small dogs. Most coyote attacks on pets happen either at night, in the early evenings or in the early mornings (dusk and dawn).

According to FWC, coyotes rarely pose a threat to people, especially adults. They can be curious and also timid and generally run away if challenged.

If approached by a coyote, making loud noises and acting aggressively will typically cause a coyote to leave the area, but you may need to continue hazing efforts until the coyote is effectively deterred and leaves the area for good.

Another homeowner said he lost his cat, Tippy, about two months ago. In August, the cat never returned home.

"It was devastating. He was definitely part of the family and when he did stay in at night, he liked to sleep on my chest," said Mark Wigley.

Wigley located his cat's remains in a neighbor's backyard.

"They're predators and they're doing what they're born to do. I blame myself," said Wigley.


JWM: Coyotes don’t reduce deer populations

A coyote captured on a camera trap preys on a deer fawn. ©Dr. Aimee P. Rockhill (Western Carolina University) and Christopher S. DePerno (North Carolina State University)

As coyotes (Canis latrans) expand their range and increase their population sizes across the eastern United States, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations are not impacted, according to new research.

“I hear lots of people arguing about coyotes impacting deer populations,” said TWS member Roland Kays, a professor at North Carolina State University and head of the lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “If you look broadly at the trends we see in deer populations, they’re generally going up. And coyotes have recently colonized. It struck me that it seemed like people had this intuition, but if coyotes have such an impact on deer, why do we have so many deer?”

Kays co-authored the study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management that set out to unpack this contradiction. The study was led by postdoctoral researcher Eugenia Bragina.

The team evaluated deer harvest numbers from 1980 to 2017 in 384 counties of six eastern states. They used trapping data for coyotes and found their numbers appear to be growing throughout the region. “We didn’t find any kind of consistent crash in coyotes,” he said.

Yet despite their growing numbers, the team found no indication that they are bringing down deer numbers.

“There have been studies that show coyotes can have an impact, but in terms of having an impact on a large scale across the entire continent, we didn’t find any evidence,” he said.

It may be that coyotes haven’t reached their carrying capacity yet, so impacts may be seen in coming years, Kays said, but because of their small size, it’s unlikely they would ever be a major deer predator. “We don’t think they will,” he said.

As a result, Kays said, reducing coyote numbers to increase deer won’t help, and it could create further problems if their social structure is interrupted. Remove a dominant coyote from an area, and it’s likely that more coyotes will swarm in and jockey for position, he said.

While his paper looked at large-scale trends, Kays said it is likely that in some places where deer populations are already low, coyote control could have an impact on deer populations.

The next step will be looking at what happens when coyotes hit carrying capacity and looking more in depth at differences in states. “It will be interesting to look at white-tailed deer, which are smaller in Florida than Maine,” he said. “How vulnerable are they to coyotes?”

TWS members can log in to read this paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management.


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