Coyote Calculations

The coyote population of Connecticut is on the rise. Or maybe not. Nobody knows because the state DEP’s Wildlife Division hasn’t tallied them:

Coyotes are difficult to count because they only settle down when they are giving birth during the spring, according to Paul Rego, also a wildlife biologist with the DEP. Rego estimates the population in Connecticut ranges from 2,000 to 4,000. The number of complaints about coyotes received by the DEP has risen over the last few years to around 400 a year, he says, though it’s unclear whether that number represents more contact with humans or a success in the initiative to encourage reports of a sighting.

Coincidentally, I did some preliminary research back in November for an article on coyotes before becoming distracted by my feature on Long Beach West. I interviewed Rego and at the time he had no idea what the coyote population of Connecticut was. He said that while sightings and complaints were more frequent, he felt the population was stable.

I asked him how he could justify this belief without having a head count, particularly in light of coyotes’ high reproductive rate. He replied that once coyotes filled available habitat (one estimate I was given by another source said coyotes prefer ten square miles for every mated pair), their numbers would be kept in check.

Yes — but there’s no reason to think they’ve reached that point yet. With abundant food — garbage, deer (another problem here in CT), small pets, rodents — and without predators, there’s little evidence to suggest coyotes have reached equilibrium between reproduction and mortality. Habitat only serves as a check on population when there’s too few resources, but by all accounts Connecticut coyotes are well-fed and thriving.

It would seem after my interview Rego collected himself enough to be able to provide the story’s author a more substantial answer than he could give me, though apparently he still couldn’t say whether their numbers were growing. That’s because only a study — not a gut feeling — can tell us if the population is stable or otherwise.

Photo of a coyote skeleton preserved in the brea. Taken at the Page Museum in Los Angeles.