Coyote Taking A Stroll Along The Beach

A quick break from feathers to fur. And speculation about the reason for an apparent recent decline in the Antelope Island coyote population.

 

1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

A week ago I encountered this coyote on the causeway to Antelope Island only moments before dawn. It was headed west on the beach with the island as its apparent goal so I suspect it had been hunting the causeway during the night.

When the coyote reached this spit of rocks jutting out into the water it walked to the far north point and then turned to the east just as the sun was beginning to peek over the nearby Wasatch Mountains. It stared intensely in that direction for long enough that I was able to see the light change rapidly on both the coyote and the rocks as the sun crested the peaks.

I like to think the coyote was actually enjoying the sunrise and that wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It’s generally a spectacular sight and why wouldn’t a coyote appreciate a view like that?

 

 

1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1250, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

As soon as the orb of the sun was over the mountains the coyote continued its trek along the beach toward the island.

 

 

coyote 4759

For many years I could almost count on seeing coyotes on the island each time I visited but for the past two years or so I’ve rarely seen them and I don’t know why. Hunting coyotes on the island is illegal and a couple of years ago I asked a park ranger if the state park had been practicing some kind of coyote control. He said that they hadn’t.

Occasionally a coyote would even “smile” at me. I miss these coyote encounters a lot.

 

 

In previous years coyotes hunting voles was a common sight for visitors who really paid attention.

 

 

And the time of year didn’t matter. Coyotes always seem to be hungry and voles…

 

 

coyote 4635 ron dudley

were always readily available. I often used to see voles scurrying around in the grasses near my pickup while I was photographing birds on the island but in recent years that has been an extremely rare occurrence.

I can only speculate that the reason for the apparent recent decline in coyote numbers is related to a similar decline in the numbers of voles. Vole populations are naturally cyclic and that kind of boom and bust situation would have obvious effects on their predators, especially those who rely heavily or almost exclusively on voles as a food source as the island coyotes seem to do.

I just hope it’s nothing more insidious than that.

Ron

 

 

42 comments to Coyote Taking A Stroll Along The Beach

  • Jean Haley

    Fantastic pictures. We don’t see as many Coyotes here either, or hear them. It makes me nervous, as man kind can be so unfair at times.

  • Dick Harlow

    Sorry I’m late, busy day.
    Wonderful pictures of a healthy Coyote. Beautiful looking animals.
    Didn’t you have a fire on the island? Could that have injured the habitat for voles rather than just their population swing? Disease?

    • Thanks, Dick, Yes there was a range fire. But I can’t imagine that making any significant difference, especially this far down the road because voles are so incredibly prolific. Almost unbelievably so. And besides, the significant decline in coyotes began long before the fire. And the habitat rebounded very quickly – it was mostly a grass fire.

      I have no information on disease.

  • Laura Culley

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yet another spectacular series! Coyotes are gorgeous critters (when they’re healthy and thriving as this individual seems to be) and so enigmatic. That they star in so many Native stories is a testament to their audacity and cleverness, both of which help a lot in their overall survival. I hear them regularly here, only occasionally close. Every now and again, I see one jogging the dirt roads going from one place to another.
    The yeah, yeah, yeah is FIRLY tongue in cheek. I SO love your photography!
    Yes, voles are tasty treats if you’re into that kind of thing. Jack certainly thinks they’re delish and I wonder if he’s looking for a stash of them here in the desert. We’re certainly struggling for our first success here!! But that’s another story.
    My Edward Abbey books claim a shelf all their own in a place of honor, just underneath my falconry books! I miss his piss-and-vinegar style and believe the world really NEEDS to hear his words! I stumbled onto his work about 30 years ago. Looking for a new book to read in the trek from one race track to the next, the title “The Monkey Wrench Gang” appealed to me and I was hooked somewhere around the Oregon border (heading east to Watkins Glen, NY). Then, I had to read all his words, again and again!

    • Laura, I bought a copy of Desert Images by Abbey and David Muench that was signed by Abbey. My ex ended up with it so I got another copy but it isn’t signed. I have most of his other books too, including MWG of course.

      I also have about a half dozen MWG T-shirts, one of which says “Hayduke Lives” on the front. I once wore one of those T’shirts when I knew I was going to be visiting with Doug Peacock, Abbey’s old friend (the one who buried Abbey illegally in the desert) and the person that Hayduke in the book was actually based on. Peacock loved that I had it with me (I was camping in MT at the time) and said that he had one too. Made my day!

      Abbey was a crusty and cantankerous old fart but that’s part of what I loved about him. And damn, could he write…

      • Laura Culley

        Yeah, I GET how EXs end up with some of our treasures. Sigh…my most recent EX ended up with a box of my father’s slides. He trashed them just for fun. Oh well…such is life.
        Abbey’s words are just as good in the rereading as they were in the first read. I love looking at the desert through his perspectives and contemplating his point of view. Just wish I could scare up more bunnies at the appropriate times. There’s one bunny who has become the yard bunny. He shows up as soon as we arrive home and Jack has been fed. If it weren’t for all the transformers around here…(censored evil thoughts) 😉

  • I do hope it is cyclical. But my gloomy self would wonder. And worry.

  • Nicole

    they are beautiful creatures… I inherited a closet full of Ranger Rick magazines in 1983, and I read all summer long while my parents were painting the inside of the house… those magazines were a treasure for me, I loved them… I learned all about cyanide traps and other things, and have a love for coyotes that goes deep. Lots of outdoor cats are being eaten/attacked by coyotes recently in Berkeley, and I have to shrug, and say, there are probably more well-fed cats around than coyotes…

    • Nicole, I hate to admit it but I wasn’t even aware of Ranger Rick Magazine until they bought an image from me last year (maybe it was Ranger Rick Jr, can’t remember). Sounds like they’ve provided some effective conservation education for a long time.

      • Marty K

        Oh my goodness! I grew up with Ranger Rick and National Geographic World magazines. Dad always snuck me a copy of RR from the class sets he purchased.

  • Dale Lee

    First time here, Ron. I have also noticed a serious decline of coyotes on Antelope Island. Could last year’s fire have decreased the population of the voles? I was still seeing quite a few coyotes until a few months after the fire, now the sightings are rare. Your behavior with the Wildlife officer was certainly justified. Last year I was driving through the Salt Creek WMA and as I came around a bend in the road I encountered a mass graveyard of about 50 coyotes on the hill next to the road. It was disgusting, horrifying and made little sense. Don’t think I’ll ever drive through that area again. That aside, I greatly appreciate your work, ethics and time spent with this blog and in the field. I try to give a wide berth when I see the Harrier license plate so I don’t disturb the artists or their subjects. Thank you!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Wonderful action shots of a fascinating animal…even if it doesn’t have feathers. We live near a golf course and used to hear them a lot, but haven’t heard them much in recent years. Some people are afraid of them, esp. the city folk who are moving into our area changing it, so I fear for the worst. Here the coyotes control the deer, woodchucks and the rabbit population, which is also cyclic. I hope that’s the reason! We’re off to vote…..

    • Patty, like all coyotes those on the island are opportunistic and they’ll eat just about anything given the opportunity. I’ve never seen them even once harassing or chasing bison (for obvious reasons), pronghorn or deer, though they will scavenge their carcasses and I’ve only once seen a coyote with a rabbit (which it stole from a Golden Eagle).

      When it comes to live prey they seem to feed almost exclusively on voles with a few birds thrown into the mix when they can catch or scavenge them.

      PS – I documented that coyote/eagle/rabbit incident here if anyone’s interested.

      http://www.featheredphotography.com/blog/2015/01/30/coyotes-steal-a-jackrabbit-from-golden-eagles/

      • Patty Chadwick

        Interesting link…Poor eagle! I hope it caught something else and was able to eat it ib peace. When a Bald Eagle gets something, suddenly, more eagles seem to magically appear and try to steal it….just one of the reasons I like the Goldens so much more.

  • Susan Stone

    I hope you are right about the reason for the decline in the Coyote population of Antelope Island. This one is gorgeous, as is the one I occasionally see at our park. I have always liked them and have never understood why people dislike them. Ditto for Wolves. Of course, I have a habit of liking animals that others dislike, such as Canada Geese…

  • Dan Sedenquist

    Wonderful series of images, Ron. Just beautiful. I love hearing the coyotes sing here in Day Valley at night. Especially when my cats are all safely indoors…

  • Charlotte Norton

    What an awesome series Ron! Well done!

    Charlotte

  • April Olson

    I have seen them travel east along the causeway and with the low levels of the Great Salt Lake I have wondered if they have moved off the island and into the Wasatch front in search of food.

    • I’ve wondered the same thing, April, but with an unpleasant corollary. Once they’re off the island they’re “fair” game for anyone who wants to collect Utah’s despicable $50 bounty on coyotes…

  • That particular coyote is in beautiful-looking condition! I’m reminded of Edward Abbey’s assertion that the problem HE hd with coyotes eating sheep was that they didn’t eat ENOUGH of them !
    ( P.S.– I come from a sheep-ranching background , so I’m” allowed ” a laugh )………

    • I absolutely adored that rascally old Abbey and I quote him often. I miss having him around.

      He spoke once in the auditorium of South High School where I taught back then and of course I was in the audience. As always he was full of piss and vinegar and I loved it!

  • Marty K

    He’s a beaut! So fluffy! These are all such spectacular shots. I especially like the snow scene.

    I can’t stand the vilification of coyotes, wolves and mountain lions. They just do what any predator will do. Any negative effects on humans are because we’ve encroached on their territory. It is we and our domesticated animals who need to adjust and take precautions. And don’t get me started on “bounties”…

    • Marty, A couple of years ago I had a guy up near the Promontory Mountains ask me if I’d “seen any coyotes?”. I was immediately suspicious, partly because he had government plates on his pickup. Turns out he was from “Wildlife Services” (now there’s a deliberately and deceptively misnamed government agency! Obviously I didn’t answer his question honestly.

      I imagine your reaction would have been at least as negative as mine…

  • I miss seeing them. Like you said we’d see them often and lately….nothing.

  • Judy Gusick

    Great shots of the coyotes Ron. They are plentiful in our area. I do have mixed feelings about them having a few chickens around. Fortunately they tend to stay on the other side of the creek loop we live in tho every fall the “teenagers” seem to have to give it a go. They and the GHO’s are doing plenty of night time serenading at present tho the coyotes “talk” year round. 🙂

    • If I had chickens I’d have mixed feelings too, Judy. But personally I’d rather have coyotes than chickens if those were my only choices but I suspect it isn’t strictly an either/or situation.

      I envy you your coyote “companions”.

      • Judy Gusick

        No, it isn’t and either/or situation. We harass the coyotes a bit if they get on this side of the creek and they get the point. Clucks are locked up at night. Actually, we’ve had more issues with hawks/eagles as far as cluck predation than coyotes……..

  • Linda

    Since utah established a $50 bounty on coyotes, I rarely see them anymore….Sure, you are supposed to provide location where the coyote was killed, but…..

  • Wonderful photos, Ron. I hope the vole fluctuation is the reason for the current decline, too. I often hear coyotes at night around here, and welcome that eerie ‘surround sound’.

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