Conservation biologist to discuss coyotes in Maine
CAMDEN — The Camden Public Library will host conservation biologist Geri Vistein on Thursday, May 27 at 6:30 p.m. for a talk on coyotes in Maine. Vistein belongs to a network of conservation biologists nationwide called Project Coyote, which promotes educated coexistence between people and coyotes. Based in Maine, Vistein collaborates with state and federal wildlife biologists and nonprofits on behalf of Maine's carnivores. She will give an interactive and visual presentation, "Coyote: America's Songdog." Project Coyote is a fiscally sponsored project of the nonprofit Earth Island Institute. Its Web site is projectcoyote.org.
Coyotes have expanded their range threefold since the 1850s and now inhabit all of the Canadian provinces and every state except Hawaii. With the near eradication of wolves, coyotes have found a new ecological niche. Coyotes have adapted to living close to people and can be found in even the most urbanized places, including the megacities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
"But the coyote's knack for coexistence isn't always shared by humans," said Camilla Fox, one of the founders of Project Coyote. "For while coyotes have little trouble living in human-dominated areas, some people have little tolerance for the wild canines."
Opportunistic omnivores, coyotes take advantage of whatever foods are easiest to obtain: rodents, rabbits, deer, insects, reptiles and fruit. As scavengers, they provide a beneficial service by keeping ecosystems clean of carrion. Coyotes will take advantage of any accessible food, including garbage, pet food and the occasional house cat.
The very traits that have allowed coyotes to thrive and coexist with humans have also led to negative encounters with people and their domestic animals. Most wild coyotes fear humans. But those who associate humans with food may become habituated to their presence. The abundance of food, water and shelter offered by urban landscapes, coupled with unsecured garbage, unfenced gardens, and unattended domestic animals, can lead to conflicts.
"You will be invited to come along and learn of coyote's long history on the North American continent: coyote's relationship with Native peoples and the European Americans; coyote's complex relationship with the life of Maine's ecosystems; and coyote's relationship with us," Vistein said. "Come learn coexistence skills that will enhance your life. Come hear the songdog sing!"