I recently became an "expert" on coyote migration. It all started when someone asked me, "Why would 25 coyotes be all together on one field, sneaking up on two geese?"
25 coyotes - that's a lot of howlers!
Hard to believe? It was for me. The most I've seen together was six, and that was a family of juvenile delinquents beating up on grasshoppers and mice in a hayfield.
If you're like me, logic would tell you the questioner switched his numbers. So I asked, "Did you say two coyotes and 25 geese?"
"No - 25 coyotes; two geese." I didn't want to confess that I didn't know, nor that I didn't believe him. So I said, "They must've been hungry."
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A while later, I bumped into a famous expert, so I put the question to him. "If someone told you he saw 25 coyotes all together in a field, would you believe him?"
"Absolutely," came the reply. I didn't want to let go of what little expertness I could fake, but he must have seen "Why?" written on my face. So he continued. "Mass migration. They had depleted the food supply in the area and were moving to a new territory."
Aaah, yes. It's so simple - form some committees and make a plan. Here's how it works:
"OK, guys, I'm calling this pack to order. First, the report from the food committee. Rabbits and mice are getting scarce. A late hatch of turkey poults is forecasted because of all the rain last spring and the doe population is down so the fawn drop will be spotty. We've also had reports of more and more bears eating the fawns that should be ours.
"The elder dogs advise that 25 of us muster at sundown at the south pond on Cable Hollow Golf Course. We'll fill our stomachs on the last two Canada geese there. Don't be late or you'll go hungry. Then, say your good-byes. We head out at 21:00 hours.
"Those of you who have been hearing rumors about the bogus trap and transfer programs should listen up - we don't need no stinkin' game officials to cage us up and hire truckers to haul us to new areas. We'll do just fine on our own. Always have.
"So, be ready to go. The relocation committee has charted a course that will send half of us east and the other half south. As soon as the Allegheny Reservoir has frozen over, the eastbound pack has orders to cross into McKean County and spread out there and into Potter. Just follow your noses and your stomachs - they won't let you down.
"The southbound pack heads to Forest County. Stay west of the Allegheny. Some will go on to Venango and settle outside Oil City and Franklin.
"We have a month to reach those areas before mating season. Earlier migrations sent some of our kind into those territories in the 1930s, so you'll find new mates along the way. Those folk have taken some hard knocks, but they're good critters.
"If you find lots of red foxes and bobcats, spread the word. That means prey populations are high, and we'll want to take our share. And by the way, let's exterminate as many reds as we can. Those runts get under my hide - they steal our mice and I hate every last little one of them. If your wileyness can't outwit their slyness, the penalty will be severe.
"I passed around a flyer warning about taking over red fox dens. Some of the little stinkers are infested with mange, so be careful. It's a killer, especially in a cold winter.
"Now is a good time to remind everyone about our new strategy against the dog runners. If those traitorous canines get behind you, get em' tired and then get em' lost. They're probably owned by the Longs. Remember that name. It's the key - run straight, and run 'Long.' Never circle back.
"If you still think you can make it here, well, there's a two-legger named Darin whose traps are waiting for you. If you're lucky you'll get the guest treatment at Buckhaven Wildlife Art. Then you'll stand in a corner and never have to worry about your next meal.
"Someone asked if anyone will stay behind. To insure survival we've chosen the smartest and toughest volunteers for this assignment. When the food supply rebounds, these brave canines will find newcomers moving in. That means we'll flourish again. We always do."
Yep, that's how it happens. Now you know, and now you're an expert, too.