Tracking coyotes

Brodie Thomas
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Hunters take aim near Burgeo highway

Coyote sightings are up on the Burgeo Highway, and a handful of local hunters are setting their sights on the animals.

Derrick Dominie got his first animal on Feb. 13. He had fired at three in the week leading up to his first kill. He was hunting in the area around Peter Strides along the Burgeo Highway.

Derrick Dominie shot this 33-pound coyote near Peter Strides on the Burgeo Highway on Feb. 13. The animal was wearing a satellite tracking collar. Submitted photo

Coyote sightings are up on the Burgeo Highway, and a handful of local hunters are setting their sights on the animals.

Derrick Dominie got his first animal on Feb. 13. He had fired at three in the week leading up to his first kill. He was hunting in the area around Peter Strides along the Burgeo Highway.

Mr. Dominie said his brother gets the fur from the animals. The provincial government offers hunters $25 for every carcass they turn in.

There are about half a dozen hunters from Burgeo who harvest the animals.

The coyote weighed about 33 pounds. Mr. Dominie said it looked healthy.

When he did retrieve the animal, he was surprised to find it had a tracking collar.

"I didn't see the collar when I shot at it," he said.

Mr. Dominie will get $50 for returning the collar on the animal in addition to the $25 he will get for the carcass.

Mike McGrath, senior biologist with the wildlife division at the Department of Environment and Conservation, said he hopes hunters will not fire on coyotes that are wearing tracking collars.

He said the information they provide while alive is valuable to biologists who are trying to learn about this animal in its relatively new island habitat. The collars provide information such as the animals' movement patterns, range sizes and mortality rates.

There are several separate studies involving coyotes wearing electronic collars in the area right now, said Mr. McGrath.

The collars have GPS tracking devices that record the animals position every couple of hours. Older collars require wildlife officials to get close to the animal to download the data. Newer collars are in direct communication with a satellite, so scientists can collect the data more quickly and effectively.

Mr. McGrath said with the GPS data, they can determine an animal's hunting range. Some Newfoundland coyotes have a territory of 250 square kilometers.

Thanks to hunters such as Mr. Dominie who turn in the carcasses, provincial biologists are also getting a sense of the coyote diet.

Mr. McGrath said coyotes on the southern coastal barrens have a different diet than coyotes in more wooded central areas.

He said animals in both areas primarily feed on moose carrion. In central, the second choice is snowshoe hare and the third choice is caribou. A lack of snowshoe hare on the southern coast means caribou is the second dietary choice for the animals in that area.

Mr. McGrath said the coyote population on the southern coast has been larger than in central for the past few years, but a natural spike in the snowshoe hare population is giving coyote numbers in central Newfoundland a boost.

Mr. McGrath said people who encounter coyotes in the wild do not need to fear them. It is coyotes who have become accustomed to humans and who are venturing into populated areas that need to be watched.

"Tame ones are the ones that are of concern - those are the ones we deal with," he said.

reporter@gulfnews.ca

Organizations: Department of Environment and Conservation

Geographic location: Burgeo, Newfoundland

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