What?! Coyotes in Harford County? Yes, indeed.

Most people do not think of coyotes living in Harford County, but they now can be found statewide. Populations are highest in the western part of the state and are lower on the Eastern Shore. While hard to spot, they are starting to appear throughout Harford County on a regular basis and, in some rare circumstances, in packs. Camera traps on the HLT “Gulch” property in Pylesville have proved that coyotes have been on the property for at least two years.

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Fossil records indicate their presence in Maryland in prehistoric eras. Because they vanished at least 1,000 years ago, the arrival of the coyote in Maryland does not represent a return of a species once present during historic times. Rather, it is considered a new species in the east.

Description

Coyotes generally resemble a small German shepherd dog. They have large erect ears, an elongated sharp muzzle, and a long bushy tail. Overall pelt coloration tends to be brown or buff interspersed with mottled gray or black. The chin, throat, chest, and stomach are usually a lighter shade of brown or cream. The tail has a black tip. Average adult weights ranges from approximately 30 to 40 lbs., with some individuals nearing 60lbs.

Behavior

Coyotes reach sexual maturity by one year of age, and normally remain fertile throughout their life. Breeding season is late January through March, with peak activities occurring during February. Gestation periods extend approximately 60-63 days and litters average 5-6 pups.

The coyotes' rapid range expansion thr

oughout North America substantiates their adaptability and ability to thrive in a variety of habitat types. In Maryland, coyotes occupy most of the state's habitat types. Highest densities currently occur in intermixed woodland/farmland areas.

Coyotes also have extremely diverse food habits. Dietary items range from plant material and insects to deer and small mammals (mice, rabbits, etc.) and birds.

Ecological Implications

Maryland and Delaware have the distinction of being the last two states in the contiguous United States to be colonized by coyotes. Maryland is quite fortunate to have the unique perspective of witnessing the ecological and social impacts of established coyote populations in other states. It is a biological certainty that Maryland will share many of the same experiences. Regardless of geographic location, eastern coyotes all possess the same basic genetic material and exhibit essentially the same behavioral traits and population characteristics.

Impacts on natural communities are also fairly predictable and can negatively impact various sympatric native species. Establishment in unoccupied regions of the eastern U.S., coyotes have assumed the role of top-order predator. Consequently, they tend to fundamentally alter existing ecosystem structure and function. Various species experience population declines as a result of their status as coyote prey, or from direct competition for existing resources.

 

Shedding Light on Harford County’s Venomous Snake

The onset of the warm weather in the spring and earlier summer seems to trigger the movement of all types of wildlife, including one of the most misunderstood groups of reptiles, the snakes.  Snakes are incredible animals that play vital roles in the balance of our ecosystems by controlling pests and disease, but they are simultaneously one of the most feared groups of animals in the world.  Much of this fear is undeserved, even for those comparatively few species that are venomous.

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Wild Action in the Dead of Winter

The expression “dead of winter” doesn’t describe what is happening in the fields, forests and waters of Harford County. The first wild flowers of the year, skunk cabbage blossoms, emerge from wet soils in February. The blossoms even generate enough heat to melt any snow around them.

Gray squirrels begin their courtship even before the dead of winter. Starting in late December, female gray squirrels lead one or more male squirrels in a courtship chase from tree to tree. She chooses the most persistent pursuer as her mate.

Wetland Functions and Values

In 1993, Harford Land Trust protected its’ first parcel, 103 acres of lake and stream bordered by marsh, shrub swamp and bottomland hardwood forest. The water from this wetland complex flows into the Bush River and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. Additional wetlands have been protected by the Trust since then, but why would a land trust work to protect “swamps”? Until the 1950’s, wetlands were generally regarded as wasteland, vile and treacherous places harboring dangerous people and haunted by evil spirits. Even words describing wetlands are homonyms with unpleasant meanings: bog, quagmire, swamp, muck and mire. Fortunately, scientific research over the past 60 years has clearly shown that wetlands and their ecological functions have great value to all of us.