Coyote: A Keystone Carnivore

| 12/4/2015 12:01:00 PM

Tags: healthy ecosystems, carnivores, livestock protection, biodiversity, conservation, wildlife, coyotes, Geri Vistein, Maine,

“Your land is an ecosystem.” I will very probably write that statement on every one of my blog entries, because it is vitally important to understand its true meaning.

Every member of an ecosystem community needs to be present in order to keep your land healthy and vibrant. That includes the carnivores - both terrestrial and avian. But one carnivore affects that ecosystem community more than the others: the keystone carnivore. And coyotes play the role of the keystone carnivore in many of the landscapes of North America.


Coyote by Forest Hart

So what is a keystone carnivore anyway? As I stated above, a number of carnivores share landscapes across our continent with each other, each filling important niches in their own right. However, the keystone carnivore has the greatest positive impact on the community of life within a landscape. Whenever that carnivore kills another species in order to survive — most often their prey are herbivores — they keep the numbers of that species’ population in check, and by doing so help that species to maintain robust health, genetic vitality and protection from widespread disease.

By controlling these same herbivore populations — like rabbits, rodents, deer and elk to name a few —the keystone carnivore protects the habitat of important species like birds, butterflies, bees, salamanders, frogs and fish (to name a few) from being eaten and destroyed by the hungry mouths of herbivores. As a result, the landscape that is so balanced by these interactions is biodiverse, a term that expresses the presence of many different species. When the landscape is enlivened by many kinds of species, they all participate in their own way to create a healthy, balanced landscape on your land.

12/8/2015 2:03:57 PM

Thanks for this article. I've never understood our society's disdain for coyotes. My brother shot one for coming on to his property years ago, and when I complained he said that he didn't want these dangerous animals coming anywhere near his kids. When I asked if he had ever heard of coyotes attacking children, he didn't have an answer. Same goes for wolves. I friend of mine that has a large tract of land once told me that his grandfather taught him that, "the only good wolf, is a dead wolf", when I asked if he'd ever heard of anyone having a bad encounter with a wolf, he didn't have an answer. I guess the nice thing that came out of our conversation is that years later my friend told me that he never forgot that conversation and has left the wolves on his property alone. Even my brother has become a bit of a pacifist. Something I didn't see happening. Never underestimate how voicing your opinion or questioning long standing opinions can change things for the better.

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