Sunday, January 28, 2018

With wolf DNA in their genes, Eastern Coyotes may be taking on more ‘wolf-like’ traits

Coyotes have lived in the East since the 1930s, and recent genetic tests have shown they are actually a mixture of coyote, wolf and dog. That’s why Eastern coyotes tend to be bigger than their Western cousins, and how they may be growing increasingly similar to wolves.
The hybrid carnivore has expanded its territory and thrived over the past eight decades, and increasingly wolf-like traits are making it a larger, more adaptable animal equipped for survival on the East Coast, scientists say. The growing wolf-like characteristics mean humans must learn to better coexist with the adaptable predators, scientists and wildlife advocates said.
“We now have a novel, large canid to take over that new role,” said Robert Crabtree, chief scientist of the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center in Montana. “The right size is going to be selected for us by biological evolution itself.”
It’s especially bad news for deer. In becoming more wolf-like the coyotes might become more effective predators, scientists said. The genetic changes bode well for their ability to keep thriving in highly populated areas including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City, as well as deer-rich woodlands. And it could ultimately mean the coyotes graduate to top predator on the East Coast — a role played by wolves long ago but which is no longer occupied by a single dominant species.
The Eastern coyote is one of 19 subspecies of coyote -- adaptable predators that live everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to Florida swamps. Canis latrans, the Eastern variety, ranges as far west as Ohio. It is thought to have evolved quickly in lower Ontario and Quebec when Western coyotes mated with stressed Eastern timber wolves around the turn of the 20th century. Hybridization with wolves gave Eastern coyotes their size and weight -- they average about 35 pounds compared to the 25 pounds of the Western subspecies.
Coyotes expanded their range into the American Northeast some 80 years ago, sweeping southward through the Appalachians. Eastern coyotes no longer overlap with wolves, which are long gone from the East save for the rare and endangered red wolf of the Deep South. But the coyotes remain 8 to 25 percent wolf genetically, said Roland Kays, a leading coyote biologist with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. They are also about 8 to 11 percent dog due to past interbreeding with feral dogs, he said. The Eastern coyote remains capable of having pups with dogs, but it’s not common in part because their breeding cycles don’t neatly overlap.
Scientists see evidence that the wolf DNA is increasingly helping the Eastern coyotes survive, Kays said. And in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, they’re growing in number. Population estimates of Eastern coyotes are hard to come by, but Kays said there are likely more than a million.
Reports about coyotes living in urban areas from Boston to New York’s Central Park have accelerated in recent years. Unconfirmed glimpses have been reported in many of Pittsburgh’s 90 distinct neighborhoods, and the state Game Commission says the animals are likely to live in or near most city parks, and are confirmed in all Allegheny County parks.
In 2008 a woman walking her dog off-trail in North Park was terrified when a family of coyotes attacked the pet. In 2010 a coyote was shot on Mount Washington -- a legal kill by Game Commission standards but frowned upon at the time by Pittsburgh police. Municipal officials in the North Hills get routine coyote complaints, and in 2015 Ross held a community forum to discuss increased coyote sightings.
Just 25 pet deaths attributed to coyotes were confirmed in Pennsylvania in 2012, but a Game Commission source said the actual number is probably extremely high. In 2014 a state legislator attempted to create a $25-per-pelt coyote bounty after neighbors complained their outside pets weren’t making it back home. The losses were blamed on coyote predation.
But fears that coyotes could become a bigger threat, especially to people, are largely unfounded, said Camilla Fox, executive director of California-based Project Coyote. The animals are generally timid around humans -- the only documented fatal Eastern coyote attack occurred in 2009 in Nova Scotia when a 19-year-old Canadian man was mauled by coyotes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that the numbers of sheep and lambs killed by coyotes nationwide has actually tracked downward. Coyotes were responsible for nearly 59 percent of predator kills of sheep in 1994 and about 54 percent in 2014, the agency reported.
“If we leave them alone, they will self-regulate,” Fox said.
Eastern coyotes take a large number of white-tailed fawns in spring, but it’s believed their ability to take down mature deer is limited to the old, injured and snowbound. Coyotes will have a greater chance of survival if they gain greater access to the deer, said scientists. Abundant large food sources such as deer would give offspring a better chance of survival, leading to healthy new generations of large, wolf-like coyotes, Kays said.
“Are they going to get a little bigger? Maybe,” he said.
The wolf-like appearance of Eastern coyotes has motivated some people to dub them “coywolves.” Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wants them to be recognized as a separate species. But Gerry Lavigne, a retired state wildlife biologist in Maine, says Eastern coyotes are not genetically distinct enough to constitute their own species, although they have wolf genes and are very adaptable. And Kays, the North Carolina coyote researcher, said so-called coywolves are “not a thing.”
Pennsylvania’s liberal coyote hunting regulations include a year-round open season and no harvest limits. The 2017-18 coyote steel trap season extends from Oct. 22 through Feb. 18 with no limit, and the cable restraint season runs Dec. 26 through Feb. 18, no limit.
But coyote management through legal hunting doesn’t work. Few hunters target coyotes except during organized coyote derbies, usually held in January and February. The number of trappers continues to drop and the market for Eastern coyote pelts is fluxuates from $30 down to just $6. Game Commission furtaker biologist Tom Hardisky said in 2016 the coyote's density and range were "almost maxed out," adding, "They're everywhere. We're at the point where there's nothing we can do to change the number of coyotes out there."
Wildlife authorities are interested in finding what additional wolf-like traits will mean for the future of coyotes, said Wally Jakubas, mammal group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
“Whether these wolf genes are conferring some kind of advantage to these coyotes,” he said, “that’s where it really gets interesting.”

CWD TEST RESULTS CONTINUE TO COME IN -Over 50 Deer Tested Positive This Year So Far

HARRISBURG, PA - Pennsylvania’s statewide deer seasons have come to a close, and
within the next several weeks, final chronic wasting disease test results will return from deer harvested by hunters in the 2017-18 seasons.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from deer harvested across the state and tests them for chronic wasting disease (CWD), as part of the agency’s ongoing CWD surveillance.
Within the state’s Disease Management Areas – where the disease has been detected in captive and free-ranging deer – intensified sampling occurs.
This past hunting season, the Game Commission offered free CWD testing for hunters harvesting deer within Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Free testing offered hunters a way to have their deer tested prior to consuming it, and it provided the Game Commission with additional samples to better pinpoint areas where the disease exists, so specific problem spots might be addressed.
Successful hunters within DMAs dropped off heads from more than 1,500 deer in the boxes. About 1,000 of these samples already have been tested for CWD, with the results reported to hunters.
Additionally, Game Commission staff collected more than 3,000 other samples within DMAs to test for CWD. In total, nearly 8,000 samples were collected statewide. Slightly more than 5,700 whitetails were tested for CWD in 2016; 25 tested positive, all were in or near DMA 2, the only area of the state where CWD has been detected in the wild.
At this time, 51 deer from the 2017-18 hunting seasons have tested positive for CWD. All have been within the DMAs. Forty-eight were within DMA 2, in southcentral Pennsylvania; and three were within DMA 3 in northcentral Pennsylvania.
But the majority of samples collected still are being analyzed.
Wayne Laroche, the Game Commission’s special assistant for CWD response, said the agency will continue to assess the incoming test results to evaluate the best response to confront CWD where it exists. DMA boundaries regularly have been adjusted in relation to newly detected CWD-positive animals. And last year, the Game Commission teamed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's APHIS's Wildlife Services on a CWD surveillance effort where 30 deer were removed by sharpshooters and one CWD-positive deer was detected.
“By developing a control program where we go into these hotspots and remove the animals with a greater likelihood of carrying the disease, we might stand our best chance of controlling CWD on a larger scale, while minimizing the impact on the larger deer population or diminishing deer hunting opportunities,” Laroche said.
CWD is not a new disease, and other states have decades of experience dealing with CWD in the wild. It first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive deer facility, and it was detected in free-ranging deer soon after. To date in Pennsylvania, CWD has been detected in 98 free-ranging deer.
CWD is spread from deer to deer through direct and indirect contact. The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, and will eventually result in the death of the infected animal. There is no live test for CWD and no known cure. There also is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans, however, it is recommended the meat of infected deer – or deer thought to be sick – not be consumed.
For more information on CWD, the rules applying within DMAs or what hunters can do to have harvested deer tested for CWD, visit the Game Commission’s website, Information can be found by clicking on the button titled “CWD Information” near the top of the homepage.
Final CWD test results from the 2017-18 deer seasons will be released when available

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


HARRISBURG, PA - It might be cold outside, but you don’t have to leave your cozy
confines for a round-the-clock opportunity to view bald eagles at close range.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Eagle Cam is back online, offering viewers worldwide 24-7 access to live video and audio captured at a bald-eagle nest in Hanover, Pa.
The Eagle Cam is provided through a partnership among the Game Commission, HDOnTap, Comcast Business and Codorus State Park.
Once again this year, the Eagle Cam features two cameras, each equipped with a microphone, placed 75 feet high in a tree adjacent to Codorus State Park. Eagles have nested at the tree for more than a decade, and have successfully fledged young there many times.
While the 2017 run of the Eagle Cam at the same tree was successful, with two eaglets hatching in March and taking their first flights in June, there was some question whether the Eagle Cam would be back at the same tree in 2018.
The nest, which had partially collapsed and was rebuilt ahead of the 2017 nesting season, collapsed further since the Eagle Cam last was online. But once again, the adult eagles using the nest tree have rebuilt the nest, and appear to have it ready for another go in the coming months.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan J. Burhans said the uncertainty of what will happen next is part of why so many Eagle Cam viewers regularly tune in. As many as 1.5 million viewers have watched the Eagle Cam during a single nesting season.
“While it’s always a thrill to see a bald eagle in the wild, the Game Commission’s Eagle Cam allows viewers to see bald eagles in ways they never could through binoculars or a spotting scope,” Burhans said. “As we’ve seen in recent years, there’s no predicting what will happen next on the Eagle Cam. But while those eagles are in and around the nest, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll see something fascinating.”
Of course, the Eagle Cam wouldn’t be possible without the support of many partners.
Comcast Business and its technicians worked with the Game Commission and partner HDOnTap to provide a static IP address and provide 100 Mbps broadband service near the nesting site.
"Comcast Business is proud again this year to provide the fast, reliable internet service that helps make the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Eagle Cam a great educational tool for people around the world," said Toni Murphy, Vice President of Comcast Business for the Keystone Region.
HDOnTap once again is providing the livestreaming services that make round-the-clock viewing of the Eagle Cam possible. HDOnTap marketing director Tassia Bezdeka said the Game Commission’s Eagle Cam has been the most popular of any of the nest cams the service has streamed.
“HDOnTap is honored to participate in our fourth year of partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission in streaming the Hanover bald eagle nest,” Bezdeka said. “This is our most popular nest cam, and we, alongside the public, look forward to watching the eagles. Last year, viewers enjoyed over 6.8 million hours of 24-7, live HD video and audio from the nest, as well as daily time-lapse clips on screens worldwide. We can't wait to see what develops this season!”
The Game Commission also would like to thank the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Codorus State Park for making the Eagle Cam a reality.
Codorus State Park operations manager Deanna Schall said the project helps the masses learn more about eagles.
“We are happy to again be involved in a partnership that allows people from around the world to get an inside look at an active eagle nest,” Schall said. “We receive so many appreciative comments from people across the country, and teachers who use the livestream in their classrooms as a teaching tool. Visitors can also get a good view of the nest from a vantage point near our Classroom Building in the marina, using a binocular viewer installed by the Friends of Codorus State Park. Often times you can also find some of our very dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers with their scopes at this location, ready to share some information and the experience of bird watching through a scope."
To view the Eagle Cam, go to the Game Commission’s website, and click on the Hanover Bald Eagle Live Stream link in the Quick Clicks section of the homepage. The livestream can be accessed on the page that will open.
Twitter and Facebook users also can share the Eagle Cam with friends by tweeting #PGCEagleCam.
Even though there’s weeks to go before any egg-laying or incubating might occur, Burhans said the Eagle Cam always is worth looking in on.
“There’s no better way to observe eagle behavior and nature as it really is,” Burhans said.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2018 Winter Trap League Schedule

Fight the Winter blues by coming out for the Winter trap league every Sunday starting January 7th 2018.  

This league rotates between Frazer Sportsman, West View Sportsmen and Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club. Sign-ups are from 10:00AM to 3:00PM.  League fee is $10.00 per week to shoot 50 targets from 16 yards.  Practice is $7.00 and and junior shooters (under 18) are $7.00! To be eligible for the banquet you must make 9 of 12 shoots. The top 7 scores will be counted each week for team honors.

January 7th at Bull Creek
January 14th at Frazer 
January 21st at West View 
January 28th at Bull Creek
February 4th at Frazer 
February 11th at West View
February 18th at Bull Creek
February 25th at Frazer
March 4th at West View
March 11th at Bull Creek
March 18th at Frazer
March 25th at West view
April 8th Banquet at Frazer