On March 3, 97 people attended another entertaining and educational talk in the Nature Lecture Series co-sponsored by the Town of Bloomfield’s Leisure Services and the Wintonbury Land Trust.
Paul Colburn, a Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) Bureau of Natural Resources Wildlife Division Master Wildlife Conservationist, shared his in-depth knowledge of the history, habitat and habits of the Eastern Coyote.
According to Paul, the coyote suffers from lots of myths. Ask anyone what they think of coyotes, and you’re likely to get one of two replies: they’re dangerous or they’re a nuisance. Admittedly, the coyote does have a shady reputation as a chicken coop-robbing, fawn-killing, garbage-eating, pet-snatching scoundrel (think Road Runner and Wiley Coyote cartoons) and as something to get rid of. In 10 year period from 1947-56, approximately 6.5 million coyotes were exterminated. Now about one per minute or 500,000 per year are killed, aided by U.S. Fish & Wildlife efforts to eradicate them to protect livestock. Despite all this, coyotes continue to thrive and have expanded their reach through process called dispersal.Read More ...
In reality the coyote is just a medium sized predator trying to make a living! It is among the most flexible animals, opportunistic, adaptable, and is extremely intelligent. Coyotes can run at speeds of up to 35-40 mph, are strong swimmers, have an excellent sense of smell, hearing, and eyesight, all of which they use to locate prey. They can be found in every type of habitat, including urban settings, hunting rodents, eating garbage, etc. They are by nature diurnal but adapt to being around humans by becoming active early and late in the day.
Coyotes, who are in the dog family, date back a very long time. They are not native to Connecticut but rather are recent newcomers filling a niche of other species exterminated, such as wolves. They were first found here in the 1950’s. They have a lifespan of 5-7 years and the population is now growing every year. It is estimated that there are 4-6,000 currently in the state. The coyotes in Connecticut are a subspecies known as the Eastern Coyote. At 48-60” long and 30-50 lbs, the Eastern Coyote is larger than the Western Coyote due to some interbreeding with wolves, as well as adapting to the available prey, notably deer.
They typically have a grayish coat but there is lots of variation.
Coyotes are very protective of their dens and young and will present and exert territoriality to protect them. Remember that if you are out hiking during April to mid-May and encounter a coyote on the path, it is just protecting its young. Try to get coyote to move off the path by throwing pebbles or rocks. Put dogs on a leash – and if it won’t move, just go around it!
They are extremely social animals that mate for life. They are not pack animals so the groups are usually just the nuclear family. Even thought their howling sounds like a large pack, it is just the 5-7 member nuclear family communicating. When a parent is out hunting, the family will howl when they reunite. They will howl when there is an intruder in their area or will use it to locate one another if the youngsters become separated from their family. In addition, the young will howl to exercise their vocal chords, something that is necessary to develop a good howl.
Coyote tracks are prominent, with four toes and a larger triangular heel pad and will always print claws. Bobcat tracks are similar but do not show the claws.
Coyotes range from 2-10 square miles depending upon the quality/quantity of the food supply. They are opportunistic omnivores whose favorite food is anything they can chew, including berries. Coyotes help spread native nuts and berries. They are very adaptable and can adjust their eating habits according to the availability of food sources. Acorns are important to their diets. They will eat mice, rabbits, chipmunks, and woodchucks as well as larger animals, such as deer, beaver, and roadkill carrion. They can take down a larger animal only if it weakened, e.g., deer being chased. They will also take small pets, and livestock such as fowl. Birdfeeders may draw them to your home and put you on the food map… Be careful of garbage and use ammonia to dissipate smell. Keep cats in at night (should be in at all times!) and be very watchful of smaller dogs (25 pounds or less). We can all work to adjust our behaviors to avoid conflict with this wild animal who is just doing its job of providing for its family!
Fencing can be helpful at keeping coyotes honest but if you do install fencing, make sure it is six feet high and several feet underground with rotating PVC or horizontal fencing on top to prevent coyotes from scaling the fence and going in over the top.
Coyotes live in dens, or in an abandoned woodchuck or fox burrow or under trees, etc.
Breeding season is in late winter and they give birth to 1-12 pups in April – mid-May. They are helpless at birth and nurse for the first 6-8 weeks at which point they are weaned and the young are out hunting with their parents at 3-4 months. They grow rapidly and are nearly full grown by their 9th month. They disperse in fall or early winter and a male coyote may go 50 miles or so to find new territory, which is usually an exclusive territory. They won’t tolerate foxes and see them as competitors. They do co-exist with bobcats and bears.
DEEP has a detailed coyote management plan to preserve the species and minimize conflict between humans and coyotes. Populations are managed through hunting and trapping. The goal is to cull about 10% annually, or about 400 per year.
There is lots of information on the DEEP website (https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Fact-Sheets/Coyote) about living with coyotes, e.g., keep dogs on leashes, don’t feed coyotes, and if you do confront one, don’t turn around and run. If coyotes are hanging around your house, try to frighten them away by throwing rocks, spraying with hose, making noise, acting larger, and report any dangerous kinds of behavior to DEEP. Spaces under porches should be blocked off to prevent animals nesting there. Coyotes are rarely dangerous to humans despite hundreds of millions of encounters. Children should be instructed to recognize coyotes and to retreat to shelter and report the sighting. They are infrequently rabid but strange behavior should be reported. There is no need to report sightings unless acting aggressively or strangely. Be sure to educate your neighbors to keep easy food sources such as garbage away or coyotes end up paying with their lives.
Coyotes are here to stay, and their population is expected to grow. With a few sensible accommodations, we can live harmoniously with this beautiful, intelligent wild animal in our midst.
More information is available on the DEEP Wildlife Division website on all types of wildlife and how to get involved. https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Wildlife-in-Connecticut Consider taking out a subscription to the CT Wildlife magazine. At $8 a year it is a great deal! https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Wildlife/Connecticut-Wildlife-Magazine
Paul Colburn has a website with presentations and contact information. https://paulcmwcpinct.wixsite.com/website Be sure to click on the “Learn More” link.
For a brief video of coyotes in action, visit WLT’s YouTube Channel for a recommended video, Getting to Know Coyote: Into Their World.
Updated: We had snow! A small group of intrepid explorers donned snow shoes to enjoy the wooded winter wonderland under the sun. Photo credits: Paula Jones.
Join us for a free winter outing at the Land Trust’s Speer Preserve. This upland forest surrounded by open land and MDC Reservoir property is more reminiscent of winter in the Vermont woods than just minutes from the city. (Photo credit Dale Bertoldi.)
The route is easy-to-moderate and will last 1.5-2.0 hours. Please come with snowshoes if we have snow, waterproof hiking boots if not, and seasonal outdoor clothing. Wearing a face mask is required, and maintaining social distance is expected.
Come early, ready to be on the trail at 9:30 a.m. Meet at the cul-de-sac at the top of Juniper Road in Bloomfield. Rain date is Sunday, February 21.
Updated: Master Wildlife Conservationist Paul Colburn’s knowledge of and appreciation for the majestic White-Tailed Deer who share our neighborhoods was evident throughout this incredibly informative webinar. Acknowledging the frustration many feel as deer devour our plants and decimate our vegetable gardens, Paul began by asking, “What we can do to coexist?” But before answering, he taught us about our neighbors:Read More ...
White-Tailed Deer are native to Connecticut and today can be found across southern Canada and the United States (except California, Nevada, and Utah). They also have colonized throughout Mexico and down into South America. Yet the population was decimated by unregulated harvesting by Europeans in the 1700-1800’s and the forest cover decreasing to about 20% by the 1850’s. Laws to protect the remaining herds enabled the population to rebound in the 1900’s.
In 1975 Connecticut held its first firearm deer hunting season to help prevent crop damage, and today’s hunting license fees support wildlife restoration and outreach. The population has continued to increase as they adapt to open spaces of urban and suburban environments. So hunting helps keep the population under control, prevents crop damage, provides meat, and draws people into the outdoors. (More information on allowable deer hunting is available on the State’s website.)
They get their name from the white tail that shows like a white “flag” warning as they bound off when alarmed. The deer have distinct footprints that are narrow-heart shaped. They typically move in single file creating deer runs and then split up to browse. Creatures of habit, they can be seen coming around at the same time of the day and year. You may see signs of bedding areas where they rest for a couple of hours or scat that resembles raisins or pellets.
Deer are non-monogamous, social animals, with the family unit comprised of does with fawns and/or yearlings. Males stay together with little contact with females until mating or rutting season from late October to early January. Each Spring males grow spreading, branching, bone-like antlers for sparring that drop off after mating season.
Deer can birth up to four fawns each year in June, and twins are common. Fawns nurse very rich milk 3-4 times a day to grow rapidly from 4-5 pounds at birth to 60-70 pounds by fall (they’ll reach 110-150 pounds as adults). Females born in Spring can produce in their first Fall. They disperse just before next year’s young are born and will be forced out if they don’t leave voluntarily! Their average lifespan is approximately 8 years.
Fawns are left on their own for significant time and will sit motionless if approached. They are well camouflaged with spots on reddish brown fur and have no scent. They do not need your help, and it is illegal to remove a healthy fawn from the wild. To assist an injured fawn, call the DEEP Wildlife Division for the name of a licensed rehabilitator.
White-tailed deer spend more time feeding than any other activity. They browse grasses and flowers in Summer and fatty nuts such as acorns and fruits in Fall. In Winter they switch to hardwood twigs and conifer leaves and can lose 20-25% of their fat reserves, risking starvation. Deep snow also is an enemy, especially if it has a soft crust, as walking in it will wear them out.
While white-tailed deer elsewhere must contend with mountain lions and wolves, locally the primary predators of fawns and vulnerable adults are coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. Deer are masters of not being seen when they don’t want to be, can rear up to use their sharp hooves, and are good swimmers. Other causes of deer mortality are cutaneous fibromas, chronic wasting disease, hemorrhagic disease spread by biting insects like midges, mange, other infections, and of course humans. For example people trying to be helpful in Winter by feeding them corn are more likely to cause starvation because they cannot digest corn properly.
So back to Paul’s question: What can we do to coexist? As beautiful as they are to watch, deer can be a problem if they are too prolific. In addition to eating our prized landscaping, they are a significant vector of Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases, can destroy forests and crops by over-browsing, and are involved in 9,000 deer-auto accidents in Connecticut. The State has a wildlife plan with hunting limits and managing habitat so we and future generations can enjoy them, but these can be difficult to implement in densely populated areas.
Paul recommended several approaches for vexed homeowners. Ornamentals (preferably native) that are unpalatable to deer should be planted in areas subject to deer damage, e.g. persimmon, lilac, boxwood, jasmine, holly, pepper tree, wax myrtle, century plant, and narcissus. Home remedies such as coyote or bobcat urine or hanging soap in orchards are used with limited success, but Bobbex works if resprayed after each rain. High-value crops should be planted away from woods, shrub rows, or other deer cover. Stake and wrap plants with fishing line as a first step to control unwanted munching. Fencing is most effective, but a woven fence needs to be 8-10 feet high with a barrier such as PVC pipe along the top to prevent climbing.
Visit the DEEP Wildlife Division website for more information on all types of wildlife, including how to subscribe to the Connecticut Wildlife Magazine and opportunities to assist with research projects. Paul Colburn’s website provides additional resources as well. And to view deer in action, visit WLT’s YouTube Channel for a recommended video, Time Shadow: Encounters with the Whitetail.
Updated: Approximately 166 attendees tuned-in to master wildlife conservationist Paul Colburn’s presentation on the bobcat’s natural history in Connecticut. Even if you thought you knew everything about bobcats, Paul quickly demonstrated how much more there was to learn and what researchers still are learning about this amazing cat.
They punch way above their weight when it comes to hunting and can bring down a 150-pound deer, even though the bobcat is only 2-3 times larger than a domestic cat! They’re very patient hunters and rely on a thick under-story in their preferred habitat of mixed forests with wetlands to stalk their prey. They’ve been known to go into the water after food. A bobcat can leap a 7 foot fence from a dead stop and will use its eyesight and ears more than smell when it comes to hunting. They’re carnivores and eat a broad range of species from rabbits – which make up the bulk of their diet – to squirrels, birds, muskrat, small rodents, beaver, porcupine, and mink. That headless rabbit you saw half-buried under leaves by the side of the trail was probably cached there to keep it fresh and safe from other predators, and it’s likely watching you from a safe distance! Bobcats are also known to fancy the odd domestic cat or fowl.
Once thought a threat to agricultural animals and hunted for their fur, they were slaughtered almost to extinction. Hunting was banned in 1972, and it’s estimated there now are ~1,000 in the state. They continue to flourish, although their population fluctuates with the abundance of prey. They’re believed to have a range of 8-29 square miles, and research shows they’re comfortable in urban and suburban environments as well as the rugged, more isolated terrain of their traditional habitat. They don’t have too many predators once grown, but young can be taken by Great Horned Owls, coyotes, and adult male bobcats. They can – rarely – contract rabies, so any bobcat behaving abnormally or aggressively should be reported to DEEP.
There is a lot of research going on at DEEP on bobcats, and the Farmington River Valley is a focus area. The public is encouraged to report sightings (including roadkill) so DEEP can learn more about their diet, home range, size, mortality rates, reproductive rates, and juvenile survival. For details, visit DEEP’s bobcat page. To view bobcats in action, visit WLT’s YouTube Channel for a recommended video, The Mystery and Magic of Bobcats.
UPDATED: Thanks to everyone who turned out Thursday ahead of the rainy weather! You got enough done that we’re cancelling Saturday and Sunday’s work parties.
Volunteers of all ability levels needed! With the weather about to turn, we’re jumping at the chance to get a few more things done at Hawk Hill Farm. Can you lend a hand one or more afternoons?
- Thursday, December 3, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
- Saturday, December 5, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
- Sunday, December 6, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Please wear sturdy shoes and gloves, and bring tools if you have them. In fresh air and with good company (socially distanced), we’ll spread out to work on various tasks:
- Clear growth next to the barn with weed whackers.
- Sever vines around Champion trees above head height with loppers and/or hand saws.
- Move miscellaneous debris from behind the barn to the front for pickup.
Please contact us to RSVP with your name, chosen day(s), and phone number so Pete, our Hawk Hill Farm volunteer steward, knows who to expect. Thank you!
Braving the fall chill and snow from the previous day, a diverse and dedicated group of 12 hardy hikers (and dog Tucker), met at the Oliver Filley House, which Sharon Mann had decorated for Halloween. They explored the new trail that runs north-south along the east side of the park linking two beautiful ponds. This ADA-compliant Universal Walking Trail was created by Ironwood Community Partners (ICP), Duncaster Retirement Community, the Land Trust, and the Town of Bloomfield. They then continued northward along the LaSalette Trail to the upper meadows offering stunning views of Hartford valley to the south. Thanks to our guides Vikki Reski and Dale Bertoldi, photographers Paula Jones and Sharon Mann, and co-sponsor Bloomfield Leisure Services.
Thirty-three hikers participated in a four-mile loop hike from Old Saint Andrew’s Church through Bloomfield’s Wilcox Park (pictured), along a portion of the New England National Scenic Trail to the Bartlett Tower ruins in Tariffville, and back. Everyone enjoyed the hike, socially-distanced fellowship, and that neighbor’s Tollenberg goat!
Thanks to Kevin Gough and Paula Jones for guiding the hike through this patchwork of town- and land-trust protected spaces. Paula Jones and Sharon Mann shared the photographs below. Also thanks to Bloomfield Leisure Services for co-sponsoring this event.
When our Wine & Dine Committee had to cancel the 5th annual fundraiser in April because of the coronavirus, they went to work finding another way to have a safe event: A Take-Home Harvest Dinner from our Farms to You.
Chair Sharon Mann recruited Gillette Ridge Golf Club’s manager Jordan Stein and executive chef Jeremy Archer. Our partners Newgate Farms and the 4Five Farm provided locally-sourced organic foods. Soon BackEast Brewery, Lost Acres Orchard, Petersen’s Flower Farm, Avery Beverages and Gillette Ridge Wine & Spirits joined in!
The weather was beautiful when 137 people picked up their delicious meals packaged in beautiful peach baskets with assorted beverages, wine, decorative cloth napkins, and handpicked fall flowers. In keeping with our sustainability efforts, food was packaged in recyclable containers, participants used their own dinnerware, and extra chicken was donated to a local food kitchen.
This sold-out event raised over $17,000 … more than last year!
The funds raised will support the Land Trust’s normal operating expenses and efforts to preserve farmland, conserve natural resources, and promote recreational use of our protected spaces. Learn more about where the money goes.
We could not have accomplished our goals without the support, involvement, and enthusiasm of our sponsors, donors, and volunteers. If you want to help continue the important community work of the Land Trust, consider becoming one of next year’s leading sponsors or voicing your support as a business or individual in our event program. (See last year’s sponsorship info and program for reference.)
Thank you for joining us to eat well and do good.
Mary-Beth Kaeser and staff from Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation & Education in Ashford presented a webinar on the extraordinary features of owls, including their exceptional eyesight, hearing, and ability to fly silently. Over 33 people attended and were treated to a live Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Barred Owl, Barn Owl, Great-Horned Owl, and two Eastern Screech Owls!
The most important take-away message was to avoid using rodenticides to kill mice. The mice can take up to ten days to die and are easy prey for the owls. The poison can kill an adult owl and even wipe out an entire nest if the adult takes it to its young.
Horizon Wing’s mission is to rehabilitate birds of prey for release into the wild in order to maintain their population and to educate the community to enhance awareness of the environment. “Asha” (pictured) is one of the Barred Owls in their care. This webinar was part of WLT’s on-going Nature Lecture Series with Bloomfield Leisure Services.
Peter Picone and Ron Pitz provided a guided tour of Hawk Hill Farm’s beautiful, gently sloping trails. Peter is an urban wildlife biologist at the State Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, and Ron is the former executive director of Knox Foundation (and regular volunteer at Hawk Hill). They discussed the property’s many champion trees, native plants, and efforts to identify and control invasive plants.
(Co-sponsored by the North Central Conservation District, and rescheduled from their April 25 plant sale weekend.)
(L-R: Meadows provide habitat for wildlife such as Purple Martins hunting insects. Ron Pitz and Peter Piccone. A champion White Oak. Bittersweet vines overtaking Cedars. Credits: Paula Jones and Sharon Mann.)