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Cape Cod is "Coyote country"

CaneCaonAwesome - Jon Way

Photography by Dr. Jonathan Way

Across the Cape, Sandwich Police Dept. clerk Lori Cannon receives a fair amount of coyote-related calls, but describes the threat as minimal at best. “A lot of people have some unnecessary fear,” Cannon says. “If the coyote is not sick or injured it’s just walking through, because that’s what they do.”

A survey of Cape Cod Life staff produced several coyote stories: the animals have been seen all over the Cape, from Bourne to Brewster, and even running along Route 3. One staff member sees coyotes passing through her yard in Falmouth. She says they seem skittish, or more afraid of her than she of them. Recently, she has seen a local pack so often she recognizes them by their coats and colors, and has even given them names. Coyotes are also populous on Cuttyhunk of the Elizabeth Islands, yet it appears the animals have yet to make it to either Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

The coyotes found on Cape Cod vary in color. Typically, the animals have a grey or reddish muzzle, the color extending behind the ears and neck, with white fur below the chin and underbelly. Signature details often include a black line extending from the eyes, and a bushy tail with a black tip. The length of the coyote’s body generally ranges from 42 to 55 inches, with females measuring slightly smaller.

Coyotes have a complex social structure, and a pack may consist of a mating alpha pair, two other beta or supporting coyotes and the alphas’ most recent pup litter, the omegas. Alpha pairs are believed to be monogamous for life. Betas are usually offspring from previous litters that have stayed behind for further parental instruction, and to help maintain the pack’s territory. Much like in human families, the care of playful pups creates a welcome distraction from the work of daily coyote business.

The coyote’s diet consists mainly of carrion, meadow voles, other rodents and rabbits; they will also take down an occasional deer. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and on the Cape there have been reports of the animals eating fish. They will also eat berries and plants in winter. While coyotes do consume garbage and have taken many pets, Paul Morey of the USDA National Wildlife Research Center states that this constitutes the smallest percentage of their diet.

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