At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
[ Member listing ]

Ant watching season!

Today I saw that the ants decided that summertime had finally come again.  They are out looking about for food (and ants are rarely hungry, they are not picky eaters), and doing some repairs to their home.  Pretty soon, once their home is in good order again and their pantries are full, they’ll give a thought to the dances of mating season and the externally antisocial colony will make friendly contact with other colonies. 

Peace will reign – briefly – in Ant Land, as the ants remember that they have more in common than different.  A Queen will be made, her Prince will die, the loyal subjects will accompany Her Majesty to a new home, the mother and father colonies will bring gifts of food and workers.  For a while, a tenuous alliance will exist, and then, the New Colony will assert itself, rebel and in independence revel in its new homeland that it subjugates to its will.  It will face wars and struggles for survival, invaders, expeditions and adventures, its thousands of millions and billions of members will do remarkable things.

Life is long for a colony, and worth reporting on.


Free land?

Saw an interesting article on free land in the AARP Bullitin:

Small farmers ought to work together, no matter where they are!


Building a better dam

Water is so important to the wellbeing of an ecology, and while sometimes it is doubtful whether dams improve an ecology or not, they remain a fundamental tool of at several species to improve a local environment.

Learning from beavers, water rats and other dam makers, we understand that a good dam is one that retards water flow rather than slows or stops it entirely.  A beaver dam does not significantly change the rate of water flow, but it does retard the direction enough that a pond develops without robbing downstream of more than its fair share of water. 

Humans make dams too.  Some of our dams imitate those of our favorite water rodents, but others are our own invention entirely.  Our dams typically reserve water (in a “reservoir”) for our agriculture, stealing water from downstream for use at the dam – or in a distance from the dam by way of canals.  But some other human dams – many of which can be seen in Elbert County and throughout Colorado – are constructed by farmers who use the water on site at the pond, and are made in a similar way that rodent dams are made.

When water is retarded in its flow, more trees will grow, and these trees increase the amount of rainfall, gradually changing the environment to have more water.  They immediately reduce the evaporation of groundwater, and encourage the biodensity required to improve ground retention of water.  They increase biodiversity, and generally are useful to the improvement of the land itself into a healthful climate for human life.

Deserts can be made to bloom without water, as has been shown by Dr. Masanobu Fukuoka and others.  By simply increasing the amount of plant life, we increase the amount of soil fungus and microorganisms, and improve the water retention of the soil; we increase biodiversity and biodensity in our fields to increase our yields.  Greening deserts needs no dams, if you have the hundreds of years to wait.

But good dams can be made to green the desert, or at least reclaim the lands creeks and rivers may again flow.

Coyotes play hockey and eat pizza

At dusk the coyotes were singing so loud I could hear them inside.  I went out and listened to their songs.  I guessed they were having dinner, but I am still not sure what kind of pizza they were sharing.

Coyotes are very picky eaters.  Contrary to popular belief, they are little threat to agriculture, and in fact are a beneficial predator for your farm and ranch.  Even if you have chickens.  Or baby calves.  Or dogs and cats.  Coyotes will not break into coops or barns, or into your home.  If you want to keep animals safe, give them shelter.

But even still, coyotes do not prefer to eat our domestic animal friends.  They prefer to eat rodents, insects, rabbits, small birds, eggs and other things that are smaller than they are.  They only rarely hunt in packs like wolves, and therefore do not hunt things larger than themselves.  When they do hunt in packs, they try to wear out their prey by exhaustion, dehydration or other siege tactics.  Voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels and mice are their favorites, but coyotes will also eat snakes and other lizards, too.

Like most animals, they do like human garbage.  Especially pizza.

Like most members of the dog family, they are omnivorous, and do not rely on meat.  They also eat quantities of fruit (when in season, or in the garbage), some vegetables (seasonally), and have learned to like human-processed grains.  They are scavengers, and will eat dead or decaying matter, too.

Occasionally, it is true, they have attacked people.  But domestic dogs have attacked – and even killed – more people than coyotes.  For that matter, domestic cats have attacked people too.  When an animal attacks a human, it is usually out of desperation, and some level of antagonism (however unintentional). 

We humans are very big creatures, comparatively speaking: we are some of the largest animals that walk the earth in terms of weight and size.  While not as big as the biggest animals, we are bigger than some equines and bovines, and quite a measure bigger than the antelope and deer.  Coyotes also fear us because they easily learn that we have extraordinary powers, we can hurt them if we want to.  Most animals will even fear a human child.

Coyotes fear lions, bears, and other large predators that eat them, but most coyotes die more natural deaths.  Though coyotes share their food with older members of their community who are less able to hunt, it is not often that there is enough food to share and many coyotes will die of starvation when they grow too old to hunt.  Or of exposure to the elements.  They usually live 10 years in the wild, and can live twice that in captivity.

Coyotes like to live in old badger dens, but can dig their own.  They are naturally active during the day, but have learned to avoid humans and are now active at night. 

Female coyotes are monoestrous, and remain in heat for 2–5 days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. Depending on geographic location, spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days, and occurs between January and February. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from 1 to 19 pups; the average is 6.  50-70% of the coyote pups will not live to adulthood. 

More than 90,000 coyotes are killed each year by the United States government. This is done supposedly to protect cattle and other livestock.  More coyotes are killed by recreational and professional hunters, hired by farmers and ranchers to rid them of this terrifying beast.  Yet the number of coyote kills of cattle and other domestic stock hardly warrants this slaughter.  Especially when they are such a benefit to farmers, keeping down the vermin that would waste a crop: coyotes only destroyed about 2.2% of the total number of destroyed sheep in 2004.  Ranchers would do better by focusing on the greater threats to their flocks.

Coydogs, a hybrid of dogs and coyotes, are more a threat to livestock than coyotes.  And the numbers of coyotes killed is sometimes confused with the population of coydogs exterminated.  Coydogs have become a problem in warmer regions of the United States.

Coywolves are less common – wolves and coyotes generally hate each other – but do occur.  These are responsible for the only two recorded deaths from coyotes (true coyotes were not at fault).

Coyotes in Phoenix have learned how to play hockey.  Or at least a team is named after them.  It is disputable whether the Phoenix Coyotes play hockey well.

RSS feed for At Home in Nature blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader