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Coyotes are seldom seen but often heard

August 14, 2010
By Garry Brandenburg

The COYOTE is a dog-like mammal, thinner and much lighter weight than a true wolf. They are survivors from a time at least 1.8 million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch of earth history. Coyote body length is typically 30 to 34 inches. Its tail may be another 12 to 16 inches. Weights range from about 15 to 45 pounds. Coyotes in Canada may have bigger bodies than its southern USA cousins, an adaptation that helps the animal keep warm in colder climates.

For Marshalltown City home dwellers sitting on their patio decks in the early evening, the opportunity to hear coyotes increases when the Veterans Home whistle blows. The high pitch of the siren sound may cause area dogs to bark and howl. Listen closely for the yip yip of the wild coyote, either those living within the city limits or those in the river bottom lands immediately north of the city.

Coyotes feed primarily on small mammals, voles, squirrels, ground squirrels, mice, birds, eggs, deer and insects. House cats can be easily taken too. Fruits and vegetables can also be on the menu of this furry canine. If any word applies to coyotes, it is this: adaptable. A college professor of this scribe back in the late 60s at Iowa State University said ...."If world war III ever breaks out with unlimited atomic weapons being exchanged, there will be survivors. The survivors will include at least one insect species, the cockroach, and one mammal species, the coyote."

Article Photos

The coyote, Canis latrans, is an adaptable critter. We have more of this wild canine locally than most people realize, primarily due to its secretive nature and nocturnal habits. A species of North America, scientists think there are 19 subspecies, 16 of which are in Canada, the USA and Mexico. Three subspecies are known in Central America. Today’s photo is of a mounted specimen at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm.

Coyotes and wolves are not friends. Given a chance, wolves in the western mountain states will kill coyotes. However, wolf populations in the eastern United States dwindled quickly as settlement happened over the course of the last 250 years. Coyotes moved into those vacant niches. Coyotes inhabit every state and Alaska and all the provinces of Canada. Sea ice allowed the coyote to transplant itself from mainland Canada to the island of Newfoundland. They are now a major predator on woodland caribou.

Urban settings are home to some coyotes, even in downtown Los Angeles or New York City. Researchers estimate at least 2,000 coyotes live in the greater Chicago area. Even Marshalltown has a few coyotes; we just do not see them very often.

Hunters pursuing the coyote generally have the most success in the winter when snow is on the ground and by using a predator call. A coyote hearing the supposed distress of a wounded rabbit is thinking easy food, and may expose itself as it hones in on the 'rabbit.' One thing for sure, it is smart. It is a survivor. It will always be with us.


New for 2010 will be updates to the electronic hunting and fishing license purchase and recording system. The electronic system used since the year 2000 is now being replaced with the next generation for license purchases by fishermen, hunters and trappers. The new web-based technology will show real time license quota information, monitors licenses purchased and automatically adjusts to show which remaining licenses a customer may purchase. Customers will also see a record of all purchases. The paper printout receipt will fold down to the space equivalent to a credit card size.

Rich Smith, DNR licensing administrator, says the new system tried to accommodate what customers liked in the previous electronic system plus other improvements. Iowa has over 900 sales vendors for use as the main portion of deer, waterfowl and regular hunting license purchases take place in preparation for fall seasons. License vendors receive a fee for each privilege they sell. During the past 10 years, the full cost of vendor fees was not paid by the customer. Instead, the Iowa Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund subsidized the difference to the tune of $3.3 million! Starting this year, the new system will have all vendor costs covered by the purchaser in addition to expenses related to maintaining the electronic licensing program. The fish and wildlife trust fund will continue to cover costs related to harvest reporting by hunters for deer and turkey. The price tag on this service is about $190,000.


Good detective work closed the case on some poachers from Oklahoma recently. Three men from McAlister pleaded guilty to charges of illegal hunting in Decatur County. Christopher Kennon, 24, was fined $1,656 and ordered to pay $10,000 in liquidating damages for illegal deer hunting, no valid hunting license, no habitat stamp, no valid deer license, illegal taking of deer, illegal transportation of deer, and two counts of falsifying information to obtain hunting licenses. He also forfeited a deer mount and his bow to the state.

Jared Whitten, 24, was fined $1,179 after pleading guilty to charges of presenting false information to obtain a license. He too forfeited a bow and a climbing tree stand to the state. Keaton Alexander, 25, was fined $849 for using false information to obtain licenses for which he was not entitled. He forfeited a bow to the state.

All three individuals, in addition to the fines and forfeitures, lost their hunting privileges for at least two years in Iowa ... and 31 other states that are part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact agreement. Oklahoma, where the three men are from, is one of 18 states not part of the Compact. State Conservation Officer Dan Pauley, Iowa County Attorney Lisa Hynden Jeanes and state conservation officers from Oklahoma and Missouri plus US Fish and Wildlife officers cooperated to bring this case to court.


In spite of all the rain, this author has seen young of the year pheasants along area roadsides. And I've seen young wild turkeys too, body size being about the sixe of an adult pheasant. I'd call the turkey poults about 1/3 grown. And yes, they were flying very well. Now all they have to do is survive the elements Mom Nature is throwing at them, and us, as the fall seasons approaches.


DUCKS UNLIMITED will hold their annual trap shoot and fund raiser on Aug. 29 at the Marshall Gun Club located west of the Marshalltown airport. For a fee of $30, participants will have three rounds of trap, the first for practice and two for score. Lunch is included for the day's activities. The practice round will begin at 11 a.m. Scoring rounds will follow. This is just one way to help support the local DU chapter and to meet and greet new friends. Novice shooters and more seasoned shooters, male and female are all welcome.


City DEER HUNTERS for the coming archery deer season within the city limits can pick up a copy of the rules and regulations from the Park and Recreation office on State Street, the former library. The rules are basically identical to last year, with a few additions. The major addition is the ability for an authorized city bowhunter to purchase a tag good for a buck but only after at least three doe deer have been taken. A system of identifying the hunter, his or her license, and the deer from the city limits will be used. Doe deer must be taken to the Marshalltown Fire Department for ear notching and recording information. The hunter's name is then placed on a list.

A limited amount of antlered deer permits will be available from the DNR. Those buck tags will only be issued after Nov. 1. One carry-over doe from 2009-10 season will be allowed in addition to any doe deer taken between September 18th and Oct. 31. The buck tag incentive may be extended for future seasons at the discretion of the DNR. Still, the prime reason for the urban deer archery hunt is doe deer number reduction.Archers granted permission to hunt within the city understand this issue very well.

All city archers must take or retake annually the proficiency test in the presence of an instructor. This begins their short paperwork trail for 2010. The proficiency test will be Sept. 11 at noon at the Izaak Walton League grounds. Ten arrows at a standard target at 20 yards and 10 arrows at 15 yards will be observed by an instructor. Eighty percent or greater score is required with the equipment one plans to hunt with.

Archers wishing to obtain certification to hunt within the city limits must have taken the on-line IBEF course, successfully passed the test and have the proof of same in the form of a voucher printed off at the end of the on-line test. That voucher is the admission ticket to the IBEF field day to be held at the Izaak Walton League grounds in Marshalltown on Saturday, Sept. 11 from 9 a.m. until noon. There are no short cuts or excuses to this system leading to certification. Those who pass the field day training will be issued a certificate from DNR Recreation Safety Officer Jeff Barnes That certification, plus the proficiency test score must then be taken to the Park and Recreation office for a photo ID card, cost is $10. The ID card, with its hunter specific number, is the authorization required to purchase urban deer licenses from The General Store. The General Store is the only license outlet approved to sell City deer licenses. For 2010, 100 antlerless only tags will be available.


The regular HUNTER SAFETY COURSE for youth ages 12 or greater is Aug. 19 (6 to 9 p.m.) and the 21 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at the Izaak Walton League. As an update and slight correction to my data from last week, as of this year, all participants must pre-register on-line with the DNR at This is how the registration is going to work from now on, so if you call the Marshall County Conservation Board for information on this course, the above items will be given. The August class is typically a large class size of 60 or more students. There is a limit to class size. As fall approaches, other counties will offer classes. To find a class near you, check the DNR web site for locations and times.


On Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m., is the time for the next Preschool Story Hour at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. The theme for this session is "Pretty Prairies Life". Bring your little ones out for nature stories and a short walk outdoors.


"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." Alfred, Lord Tennyson, British Poet, as quoted for his birthday.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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