Rambling Roads: Coyote Days

By George A. Hancock
runnergah@comcast.net

Coyotes are frequent visitors on my daily run. Hmm, maybe I need to rephrase that sentence. I’m a frequent visitor to the places coyotes roam.

Coyotes are everywhere in Pennsylvania. Coyotes have found a great home in western Pennsylvania. I live in the southeast corner of Cambria County. Johnstown is the closest city just a few running miles away. Coyotes freely range across my neighborhood. Coyote encounters are a frequent occurrence.

Coyotes have resided in Western Pennsylvania for decades. Many local sportsmen believe the Pennsylvania Game Commission introduced coyotes here to manage the white-tailed deer herd. The PA Game Commission strongly denies this allegation.

Now after intensive research by numerous journalists, researchers, and the simply curious no credible evidence of this point was ever uncovered. Sure, many folks know someone who witnessed a truckload of coyotes moving across Interstate 80 or the PA Turnpike. Some of these folks swear the trucks were driven by road runners. Beep Beep!

A few other folks hold the coyotes themselves drove here in Acme trucks. Their intent was to uncrate some diabolicical plan using the latest technology.

Nonetheless, there is no documented evidence, proof, pictures of coyotes being trucked into Pennsylvania. However, there is strong evidence coyotes simply migrated into the eastern region. Western Pennsylvania is a significant resource rich region. Coyotes were simply following their food supply.  

One coyote biologist, Roland Kays, from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has extensively studied the eastern coyote. Kays eastern coyote DNA research is ground breaking. His studies reveal eastern coyotes are 8 to 25 % wolf and 8 to 11 % dog. This point is due to western coyotes moving eastward and interbreeding with wolves and dogs along their eastern trek.

According to Kay this has resulted in larger coyotes around our region. Eastern coyotes 35 pounds or larger are not uncommon. Kay also believes there are one million plus coyotes across Pennsylvania. These coyotes live in the deep woods, suburban woodlots, and also near large cities.

This point is confirmed by the PA Game Commission. The Game Commission estimates that PA hunters and trappers harvest about 40,000 coyotes every year. These four-legged elusive creatures impact the deer herd and sadly backyard pets.

I’m a daily runner touring the local roads. Today 100% of my daily runs begin from my house. Every day I run in a different direction. The end result is I have frequent coyote encounters.

I live about one half-mile from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ) campus grounds. The campus is comprised of 655 acres. The bulk of this acreage is a wilderness preserve. I believe my coyote friends’ den is on the campus grounds.

A runner trotting along every day views numerous sights. Consequently, I get to see coyotes. So far, I’ve had five personal coyote encounters. I was within five to 10 yards on each encounter. I never felt threatened, scared, or worried. These coyotes simply crossed the road in front of me. And not one of them looked at me, or at least from what I could tell.

Those coyotes no doubt saw/heard me before crossing the road. I was no threat to them. So, they crossed near me.

I’m hearing from some Johnstown Running Club (JRC) members that coyotes are shadowing them on their runs through my neighborhood. Several female JRC members mentioned the coyotes got pretty close during their runs. I advise everyone to run aware of your surroundings. Run smart and stay safe along our roads.

I run in reflective gear while carrying a rechargeable running light. The light and my road footfalls often induce a coyote call or two. Sometimes I’ll wave the light towards the coyote call. That motion silences them for a moment.

Coyotes are here moving freely across our landscape. My advice is simple. Run aware of your surroundings. This means running without ear buds or headphones. Coyotes move day and night. These critters are elusive. Their senses are better refined than ours. Coyotes can see and smell you long before we see them.

Of course, never ever get between young coyotes and the mother. The maternal instincts are strong. Just remove yourself from that situation.

Now if a coyote does get close, a loud Get! or Stay Back! should move them away from you. Also, loud hand-clapping while yelling Get Away! Should diffuse that encounter.

A healthy dose of respect for wildlife helps in these encounter situations. The coyote is a beautiful creature. The fur coats I’ve seen are impressive. Of course, that means these four- legged wanderers are well fed.

One final point. Do not place small pets outside unattended if you reside near woods. A coyote can pounce and take your pet in a moment. I frequently run past signs depicting lost pets. My initial thought is: Uh Oh that was another coyote moment.

Run smart, run alert! 

Suburban Coyote (Western) (Photo submitted by George Hancock)


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