- Noah Keller
The eastern coyote is an animal very common to Massachusetts, yet the public knowledge of this animal is very limited, and as a result they are often viewed as a nuisance that should be eradicated when in reality they are a an incredibly amazing species that deserves the admiration of the community. To rectify this, over the course of the past three years, the Newburyport GOMI team has been engaged in an outreach program whose goal is to educate the community and foster an appreciation for the eastern coyote. This is done by setting up motion sensored Cuddeback Scouting Cameras on the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and gathering footage of the coyote family that resides there. Every week we go to our two strategically chosen locations on the Refuge and check the cameras and replace the Secure Digital (SD) cards within the cameras that store the footage. We then place a new can of catfood down at the cameras location to bait the coyotes to come back again, which is especially effective in the winter when food is scarce. After the SD cards are collected, all the footage gathered is uploaded to a laptop and sorted for later use.
By following this procedure, we are able to gather amazing pictures and videos that demonstrate the different habits and behaviorisms of the coyotes on the Refuge. For example, the male and female on the Refuge had entirely different personalities from each other three years ago. The male was extremely timid in front of the camera, constantly stalking around and then eventually summoning up the courage to grab the baited cat food. The female, on the other hand, would boldly walk up to the food and take it without hesitation. Through this project we have learned much about the coyotes on the Refuge, and through that knowledge have gained a deep admiration for this fascinating species.
One of the most significant aspects of this project is to use the pictures and videos of the native coyotes and organize them into formalized presentation to help the community gain an appreciation for the beauty of the species and be intrigued enough to want to learn more. From that we are able to educate locals on the eastern coyote's extremely important role in the ecosystem and why the horrible public perception of the coyote isn’t justified. We also try to educate the community on the common misconceptions associated with the eastern coyote. One such misconception is that they are actively aggressive towards people, when in reality they want to avoid people at all cost because of their size, and would only stand their ground to protect their pups. Another example would be how people commonly believe coyotes are bad for bird species, but they actually are beneficial to birds because they outcompete the red fox. Fox are much more commonly known to predate on birds than coyotes. Over the duration if this project, the outreach component has been achieved through a plethora of presentations given at different locations including STEM day at the Bresnahan Elementary School, the Parker River Refuge Visitor Center, and more.
Having the opportunity to conduct actual scientific research and present those findings to the community is an absolutely amazing opportunity. This is something that would not be possible without the support of GOMI and the Parker River Refuge. Over the course of this project, I have obtained first hand experience on conducting actual scientific research that has an effect on my community, and the skills I learned will be invaluable to me when I eventually go into a scientific field of work. The guidance of John Halloran, John Terry, Domonic Noche, Nancy Pau, and many other mentors from the Parker River Refuge and GOMI have been instrumental in the creation and continuation of this project, and I am extremely grateful for all the help we have received along the way. We hope to continue our research to further develop an appreciation for this largely misunderstood animal and share our findings with the community for years to come.