THE TF&G REPORT

TEXAS HOT SHOTS
November 25, 2017
LOOKING FOR LUNKERS
November 25, 2017

Coyotes Are Making Headlines

From numerous news reports of predation on pets and livestock to photos and videos posted all over social media showing the crafty canines everywhere from the deep woods to backyards, people pay attention to coyotes.

People are shocked these predators can thrive in the shadow of man, but as I have been writing for years, they are arguably the smartest animal in North America. In fact, the Navajo people used to say they would be the last animal on Earth.

While conducting some in-depth research on coyotes I came across a study that really sheds light on just how elusive and downright smart they can be when pressured.

This study called “Wariness of coyotes to camera traps relative to social status and territory boundaries” by Eveline S. Sequin, Michael M. Jaeger, Peter F. Broussard, and Reginald H. Barret give proof that animals can purposely avoid these devices.

“The primary objective of this study was to develop a better understanding of coyote wariness particularly as it related to social status. We determined that territory status (controlling alpha, resident beta, or non-territorial transient) affected vulnerability to photo-capture by infrared-triggered camera systems”.

Coyotes are, arguably, the smartest animals in North America.

“All coyotes were wary of cameras, leading to relatively low numbers of photo-captures, most of which occurred at night. Alphas (dominant animals) were significantly underrepresented in photographs and were never photo-captured inside their own territories. Betas were photographed inside and outside their territories, whereas transients were most often photographed on edges of territories.”

It goes on to say that alphas and betas were photographed more often on territorial edges when outside their territories.

“Alphas tracked human activity within their territories and presumably learned the locations of cameras as they were being set up. They did this either by approaching our location directly or by moving to a vantage point from where they could observe us. Betas and transients either withdrew or did not respond to human activity.”

Alphas use of vantage points is suggested by their moving to locations that were in direct line of sight of the human activity.

“The finding that alphas track human activity during the construction of camera stations and subsequently avoid photo-capture suggests that these coyotes were cautious of camera stations because of their association with humans and not simply because they were novel.”

There is an animal behavior condition called “neophobia.” It means the avoidance or extreme caution from encountering a new object, food, smell or environment. The researchers in this study were adamant these coyotes were not exhibiting neophobia with these cameras. It was a purposeful avoidance of humans that involved tracking their activity.

Unlike gray wolves which did not respond well to the purposeful shooting, trapping and poisoning that was aimed toward them in the 20th century, coyotes flourished and expanded their range. They are able to prey on species as large as mature whitetailed and mule deer but can do just fine with rats, mice and small birds. In fact, they have been documented gorging themselves on berries when they are in season, showing remarkable diversity.

It would be fascinating to see an official population study of coyotes in urban centers of Texas. Love or hate them, they are remarkable creatures. 

—by Chester Moore

Promising Prospects for Quail Season

The 2016 Texas quail season served as a renaissance reminder of how good hunting can be when all the right elements converge. Specifically, weather and habitat aligned to create a “super boom” year for quail production that led to exceptional hunts the likes of which had not been seen in many years.

Quail enthusiasts are hoping some of that magic will carry over this fall when the season gets under way Saturday, Oct. 28. For that to happen, a sizable percentage of last year’s birds will have to carry over as well, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,

This year’s quail production, although not as robust as last year’s, is expected to be adequate to sustain populations in areas having suitable habitat. Heading into 2017, average amounts of late winter and spring rainfall set up sufficient nesting cover, winter forage and enough insects to trigger nesting. A lack of timely rainfall during the summer, however, may have hurt chick survival.

“Portions of South Texas and the Rolling Plains regions were in moderate drought during mid-summer, which may have negatively impacted brood survival,” said Robert Perez, quail program leader with TPWD. “Hunters will likely see more adult bobwhites in the bag compared to more productive years.”

TPWD projections are based on annual statewide quail surveys that were initiated in 1978 to monitor quail populations. This index uses randomly selected, 20-mile roadside survey lines to determine annual quail population trends by ecological region. This trend information helps determine relative quail populations among the regions of Texas.

Comparisons can be made between the mean (average) number of quail observed per route this year and the long term mean (LTM) for quail seen within an ecological region. The quail survey was not designed to predict relative abundance for any area smaller than the ecological region.

A regional breakdown of this year’s TPWD quail index survey, including highlights and prospects, is available online.

Quail hunting season runs through Feb. 25, 2018. The daily bag limit for quail is 15, with 45 in possession. Legal shooting hours for all non-migratory game birds are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The bag limit is the maximum number that may be killed during the legal shooting hours in one day.

 

A RECENT STUDY by Canadian scientists shows macaque monkeys contracted chronic wasting disease (CWD) after eating meat from CWD-positive deer.

We want to give you all points from both sides on the issue. This study gives no reason to be alarmed, but it does give us reason to dig deeper into the topic. Expect more on it in print and at fishgame.com.

—TF&G Staff Report

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