Tue 11 Dec 2007
It seems that a fair number of coyotes are conducting their mating-season romances around Point Reyes Station this year. In the past three weeks, I’ve heard them howling almost every night right outside my cabin, typically with another coyote howling back. (This one along Limantour Road near the Sky Trailhead is the third coyote my houseguest Linda Petersen has recently seen and the second she has photographed.)
For some people, the influx of coyotes is bad news. Sheepmen, of course, hate the critters, and Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park three weeks ago wrote this blog that people had seen two coyotes grab a chicken in her neighborhood. Tony Ragona, owner of Windsong Cottage B&B on the north edge of Point Reyes Station, last week told me that the coyotes have taken to howling so loud and long outside his home that they sometimes keep him awake. When it goes on too long, Tony said, he shines a flashlight on them so they leave.
Paradoxically, the influx of coyotes is good news for birds that roost in scrub brush. Biologist Jules Evens of Point Reyes Station told me last week that when coyotes move in, the number of mesopredators goes down. By mesopredators, Jules said, he was referring locally to raccoons, opossums, skunks, and foxes. He might have added feral cats. In any case, they are all smaller predators that eat birds or birds’ eggs.
So what’s the connection with coyotes? Coyotes eat fox cubs, and they compete with foxes and cats for field rodents. In the main, however, coyotes reduce the number of mesopredators merely by their presence, Jules said. Foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks etc. don’t like to be around coyotes and stay away from their territory.
Raccoons perform a pas de deux outside my dining room.
When the coyotes first started howling nightly three weeks ago, this hill’s performing raccoons stopped touring for a couple of days. By now, their traveling troupe has resumed making its rounds, but showtime is earlier in the evening — well before the coyotes start howling.
On more than a few mornings recently, there have been numerous freshly dug holes in my pasture. They are usually only two and three inches wide through grass and a short ways into the soil. Unable to figure out what critter was causing them, I asked Jules, who immediately knew the answer: “Wild turkeys.”
That made sense. This hill has recently seen an influx of not only coyotes but also wild turkeys. Notice the holes in the grass downhill from this flock. I’ve had 25 turkeys in my pasture at a time, and neighbor Carol Horick last week spotted more than 50 outside her home.
Another neighbor, George Stamoulis, today told me that in the last day or two, he had seen the first wild turkeys on his property.
But the sighting that George really relished was of a bobcat hunting outside his window last week. The bobcat soon tired of hunting, George said, and it lay down to take a nap, spending altogether an hour or more just outside his door.
Last week I read in The West Marin Citizen that at this time of year, female blacktail deer form “clans” while the males are “solitary.” Apparently, the word hasn’t reached this buck yet because in recent weeks, he’s been grazing with the fawns and females on my property. Or maybe he considers himself above the law of nature.