HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife officials are gaining new information about wildlife movements from a State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry research project, as an eastern coyote was caught in a Commonwealth trapper’s cable restraint in East Stroudsburg, Monroe County. According to SUNY officials, this particular coyote traveled 150 miles from the site it was captured, tagged and released, near Oneonta, New York, in April of 2008.
“These types of long-distance movements demonstrate how eastern coyotes were able to rapidly colonize natural habitats throughout Pennsylvania during past decades,” said Dr. Matthew Lovallo, Game Commission Game Mammal Section Supervisor. “In the early 1990s, our own movement studies documented similar long-distance movement among yearling coyotes that were captured, radio-collared and tagged in northern tier counties of Pennsylvania. In fact, Game Commission biologists tracked coyotes in rural, forested parts of the state moving 35 to 100 miles from their initial capture site.”
William Fancher, of Marshall’s Creek, Monroe County, had set cable restraints for coyotes. On Jan. 8, he was checking his trap-line when he discovered the radio-collared coyote.
“At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the coyote I found in the cable restraint,” said Fancher, who has been trapping coyotes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for 44 years. “However, once I realized that this collar may contain valuable data for a study, I knew I had to turn it in, so I contacted the Game Commission’s Region Office.”
Christina Boser, of the SUNY research team, was extremely thankful for the return of the collar.
“This is the first GPS collar used, and it cost nearly $5,000,” said Boser. “More importantly, return of this collar will enable us to document dispersal movements of this coyote, as it records the animal’s GPS coordinates once every six hours.”
Game Commission biologists said that, while this may appear to be a unique situation, marked wildlife from neighboring states show up in Pennsylvania regularly, most notably bears from New Jersey.
“Each year, as part of our annual bear check station operations, we find that a handful of Pennsylvania bear hunters harvest bear fitted with tags or collars from New Jersey or Maryland,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. “Conversely, we have had reports of bears in New Jersey and New York being found with Pennsylvania tags in their ears.”
Such movements are natural and documented in a variety of studies, and reinforce the fact that wildlife do not abide by geo-political boundaries, such as state or county lines.
“In a Maine study, young dispersing coyotes traveled 25 to 225 miles from their initial capture locations,” said Tom Hardisky, Game Commission furbearer biologist. “This is nature’s way of mixing up the gene pool.”
Lovallo noted that dispersal studies – whether focused on coyotes, bear, deer, fishers, elk, turkeys, bats or any of the many other species that the Game Commission and other wildlife agencies track – enable wildlife managers to better understand wildlife needs, especially as it relates to habitat, as well as developing population models and understanding interactions with other wildlife.
The 4.5-year SUNY study, which began in 2007, has three objectives: produce a broad-scale, spatially-explicit estimate of coyote distribution and abundance across New York State and a survey protocol to assess changes in population status; identify the important spatial and temporal variables affecting the consumption of adult and fawn deer by coyotes; and, quantify seasonal diets, movements, and habitat use of coyotes in focal areas. As part of the study, which is funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through its share of federal Pittman-Robertson monies, the teams plan to mark up to 40 New York coyotes annually.