Yellowstone Park Coyotes

I had never seen a coyote before visiting CeAnn’s Coyote Rescue Center. I was always very interested in wolves, but never gave the coyote much thought. For the past few years however I became more and more interested in the coyote. I knew they inhabited Indiana, but you will rarely catch a glimpse of them. I have heard their echoing yips and howls as many other people in the countryside have. The coyote in my mind had become something I wanted to get closer to. The coyote, while being one of the most successful animals in the U.S., is also one of the most hated. I wanted to learn more about the life of a coyote.

This past summer of 2006 I got the opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a job with the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center to research the coyote in Yellowstone National Park. My job was to monitor coyote locations, behaviors, and their overall involvement in the Northern Range ecosystem. We used telemetry equipment to get relocations on certain collared coyotes to determine territories for the fourteen packs in my study area. On other days we would hike to a set observation point with a spotting scope and watch the coyotes. I would document the specific coyote (if possible), who they were with, label their movement patterns on a map, and document behaviors such as successful predations, howling, and urination.

Another major part of the job was to determine pup numbers for each pack. From May to September I would watch certain packs’ pups. It was amazing to see the interaction between adults and pups for an extended period of time. One instance which was remarkable to me was a beta male coyote in the Jasper Bench pack catching and feeding mice to four pups. Those same pups three months later were all still alive hunting by themselves all throughout their territory. The coyote pack is a true family with every member helping to care for the pups. It was such a tremendous experience to be able to observe the coyote in a natural environment especially one where they are not persecuted.

After being immersed with coyote culture for an entire summer I came to see why many Native American tribes called the coyote the smartest animal on the planet. The coyote learns to live with what he is given and in turn surpasses all expectations. The coyote is a remarkable and spiritual animal which I will always hold the greatest respect for.

Leif Baierl 

Photos:  Wild coyotes in the Yellowstone Park and
Leif tracking radio colar coyotes with telemetry