Exclusive to Outdoors Niagara .com 
Back to home

By Mike Gillis

Mike Gillis is a lifelong resident, fisherman,  hunter and outdoorsman. His stories bring you true and daring bits of what he has experienced  or stories that have been handed down to him relating to the Niagara River Region. Fact or Fiction, you will find the stories on these pages interesting, some intriguing, and stories worthwhile sharing.

Back to Mike Gillis' Main Page and more stories!      

Coyote pouncing on its prey

Mike Gillis

 Listen to the coyotes howling here! Turn your speakers on

      It's a nice warm evening. You're sitting out on your porch taking in the serenity. There's a moon out tonight, creating shadows in the dark out on the lawn. There's a southwesterly breeze. You're taking in all of the sounds and smells of a Western New York evening. All of the sudden you hear an eerie sound coming form the distance upwind. You lean forward and listen carefully. There it goes again. Yes, you hear the howling again. It's coming from a pack of coyotes off in the distance. possibly a few miles away. Or maybe just about a half mile away. 

"Canis latrans"

      They are out there, coyotes. And there are a lot of them. Not everyone gets to see one. They are wily as there reputation suggests. They are mostly nocturnal, but sometimes active during the day. They can be elusive. With their keen sense of smell and hearing, they know where you are before you know of their presence. 

     They are predators. They primarily like meat in the form of field mice, mostly. But also included in their diet can be rabbits, ground nesting bird eggs, birds, rabbits, an occasional cat. Maybe the family cat which was left out all night. Snatched right out of your back yard while you were sleeping. They also like some occasional fiber in their diet in the form of berries. They also love your cat's or dog's food, which you left on the back porch. And they just love what you had for dinner in the form of leftovers in your garbage can that they're raiding while you sleep. You think that it was a raccoon or a skunk, or that darn neighbor's dog that spread garbage all over your back yard ? Maybe it was one of those. But there's a good chance that it was a coyote. If you live out in the country it could definitely have been a coyote. But guess what. If you live in the suburbs or even in the middle of a city, you are not immune. Chances are there are coyotes sneaking through your backyards too.  

     If you are a hunter, or a hiker, or someone who spends some time in the outdoors, Chances are that you have seen a coyote. Occasionally they are mistaken for a large fox. Or a fox may be mistaken for them. The identifying characteristics for coyotes are they are usually gray or a brownish gray. They have a bushy tail and bushy fur. They say that our eastern coyotes are larger than the western ones because of interbreeding with timber wolves in the Great Lakes areas. 

    Some coyotes suffer from an ailment called mange. It is a disease caused by a small insect called a mite. It causes severe itching of the animal's skin and hair loss. I've seen some of these poor critters that were totally bald, including their tail. It's a pitiful sight. 

    I'm one of the fortunate people who have seen coyotes on several occasions. One afternoon I spotted a large coyote running across the Robert Moses Parkway near Lewiston.

    While deer hunting in Wilson I saw a beautiful nearly white coyote on the edge of an orchard. I think it was stalking some pheasants. I saw a poor mangy one standing by Lake Road in Youngstown. I've heard numerous reports of coyotes being spotted out near the NRAA Walleye Ponds/Wilderness Preserve in Porter. I was out there one evening and they were howling from somewhere near the western edge of the preserve. I know a fellow who lives near Creek Road in the Town of Porter. He has a night vision scope. He tells me of numerous sightings of coyotes, right behind his house, with his scope. One hunter told me that he was in his deer hunting stand and several coyotes surrounded him. They must have thought that he was some type of treed prey. Hunters have told me of leaving their dead deer in the woods to go and retrieve their ATV to get it out of the woods, only to return to find their well chewed deer surrounded by coyote tracks. 

The coyote is about the size of a dog. Its fur is greyish-red. The tip of the tail is black. When a coyote runs,  its bushy tail stays down. It can hear very well with its wide pointy ears. A coyote's nose is pointy. It has a very good sense of smell. They usually hunt at night when animals that it eats come out in search of food. The coyote eats rabbits, hares, small rodents, berries, grass and insects.

It does not hibernate and needs to hunts for food all winter. The coyote's ears can hear mice and other small animals squeaking and running under the snow.

         The weirdest experience that I ever had was on a cold morning at the end of January. The temperature was in the single digits. It was semi dark, just before sunrise. I was getting on the Parkway near Fort Niagara. There was a coating of ice on the road, so I was driving my van very slow and carefully, maybe 25 to 30 miles per hour. I looked in my rear view mirror and I couldn't believe what I saw. A coyote was chasing my van. He chased it for at least a quarter of a mile. Poor thing must have been hungry. I think his eyes were bigger than his stomach. 

        Should we be afraid of coyotes? Except for rabid coyotes, there are stories, but no documented ones about coyote attacks on humans. There are many reports of coyotes attacking family pets, such as cats and dogs. I have personally been told stories of coyotes sneaking up on children playing outdoors. However, I have never heard of an attack on a human. However, like any wild animal, I'd be careful about cornering one. 

       Tonight, after dark, just before you go to bed, look out the window into the darkness. You can bet that there are some coyotes wandering around out there.

Listen to the Coyotes Howling

Make sure your speakers are on!

Coyote Tracks

The coyote was originally native only to the prairies and arid west but as settlers moved across the country, altering the landscape and doing away with wolves, a new niche was opened up to the coyote. They now thrive in the Western Hemisphere from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans.

Back to Mike Gillis' Main Page and more stories! 

Back to home 





Hit Counter