, Newburyport, MA


January 10, 2014

Living with predators

Newburyport naturalist to lead tracking session after coyote talk


“Coyote, the same things, but as the snow gets deeper, they start taking white-tail deer. They need deep snow that inhibits deer movement.”

Trackers can’t always rely on pristine conditions, such as new-fallen snow, to help them recognize an animal, so they must learn to read a variety of signs.

“The pattern of the trail is important, the way feet are placed in the trail,” Metcalfe said. “Different patterns indicate not only what animal it is, but what speed they are moving at, loping or galloping. There’s a lot of information just in holes in the snow.”

Metcalfe often picks up animal tracks where they cross a hiking trail, and he has followed them through the woods for miles.

“It’s a combination of that magic from when I was a kid and saw a trail wind through the pine trees, and I had to know what it is,” Metcalfe said. “But the other things is learning so many things about the animals.”

For those who may not want to follow predators through the woods tomorrow, but would still like to learn about predators, the presentation on coyotes will be held in the morning.

An Eastern coyote was first tracked in New Hampshire in 1944, Schadler said, and by the 1960s, people started to hear them in the woods of northern New England.

“We never had coyotes here before,” said Schadler, who is a New England representative for Project Coyote, a national organization that promotes peaceful coexistence with coyotes. “It wasn’t until the wolf was exterminated in the East and West, which was about 1900, that the Western coyote began to be able to move.”

Coyotes moved in all directions, but as they moved east, she said, a new kind of animal developed.

“They migrated into southern Canada and bred with a red wolf type, and then came down through northern New England, Connecticut and so on,” said Schadler, who has taught conservation and wolf ecology at the University of New Hampshire. “There’s a good dose of wolf DNA in Eastern coyotes.”

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