The Belle Meade Hounds in Thomson, Georgia will once again stage their annual Hunt Week—*Gone Away with the Wind*—this season from January 18 to 24. As before, the week will be fun-filled with hunting, parties, a hunt ball, and the camaraderie of the field. As a bonus, this year’s affair will feature a fascinating presentation by special guest Dr. Stanley Ghert, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and a Wildlife Extension Specialist at Ohio State University.
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Dr. Ghert, who has enthralled foxhunters at MFHA meetings over the years, will talk to Belle Meade Hunt Week attendees on Thursday morning, January 22, about his special subject of research—the coyote. This much maligned animal has survived and even flourished over the past hundred years despite the best efforts of the federal government to eradicate it.
Early in the twentieth century, at the behest of western ranching and agricultural interests that were losing stock to predators, the U.S. Government instituted program after program designed to erase the wolf, grizzly bear, mountain lion, and coyote from the landscape. The programs were mostly successful in their purpose. The wolf, grizzly, and mountain lion were driven nearly to extinction. The coyote, however, was the one predator that not only survived the pressure, but increased it population and its range, slowly expanding eastward and covering now the entire country. How it did that is one of the mysteries of the animal world.
Dr. Gehrt has been studying the ecology of the coyote for fourteen years. He and his team of students have monitored and marked nearly seven hundred coyotes in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, making his the largest urban study of its kind. Dr. Gehrt seeks to understand how coyotes are successfully exploiting the urban landscape, and how that success impacts people, pets, and other wildlife.
The coyote continues to surprise us. Here’s an animal that most scientists believe to be shy of human population centers, yet it appears to thrive not only in rural settings but in metropolitan areas as well.
For Dr. Geht it all began in 2000 when he was a research biologist for an Illinois wildlife foundation. In the 1990s, the foundation was increasingly inundated with complaints about coyotes taking pets and even stalking children. In the late 1990s, the Cook County Animal Control Agency asked Gehrt to investigate the coyote population in metropolitan Chicago.
Dr. Gehrt and his team soon discovered that the original estimates of the greater Chicago coyote population were pitifully low. In an area inhabited by nine million people, the animals were everywhere.
“We couldn’t find an area in Chicago where there weren’t coyotes,” Gehrt said. “They’ve learned to exploit all parts of their landscape.”
Some of the animals live in city parks, while others live among apartment and commercial buildings and in industrial parks. Their habits—diet, hunting, territorial, family groupings, reproduction—were all studied by Gehrt and his researchers.
While coyotes prefer to hunt alone, they will form packs to defend territories. A single coyote can cover ranges of fifty square miles or more, often in just one night. “The first solitary coyote we tracked covered five adjacent cities in a single night,” Gehrt said.
Coyotes were even found to provide benefits to those humans who share their habitat! Not only are mice and rats a dietary staple of the coyote, but they have reduced the Canada Goose population in metropolitan Chicago through their enthusiastic appetite for goose eggs!
Belle Meade Hunt Week attendees who hear what Dr. Gehrt has learned about coyotes are certain to be fascinated, entertained, and informed. And, of course, luncheon will follow!
We are extremely fortunate to have received this article from the States. The Coyote is a most fascinating animal in itself, and I think you will agree there seem to be certain similarities to our good friend Charles James. To hear American Huntsman talking about them is intriguing and there is no doubt they hold the species with the same respect as we do our vulpine pals.