Fish & Feathers: Predators

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>This Alaskan brown bear has its feathers ruffled, as evidenced by the hair on the neck.

Seldom seen, but always around, is the coyote. North America's most abundant and widespread predator, with approximately 4 million living in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

While driving to work, down Sandridge Road at 4 a.m. in the morning, not a week goes by that I have not seen a coyote at some point in the drive. I have seen them chase our cat right up to the back porch on the beach and stand there in brazen defiance. They will eat mice, insects, moles, fawns, sheep, nesting birds, pheasants, lambs and calves. They will also eat your cat or small dog. There is currently a rash of missing cats in the Sunset Sands area and those are attributed to the frequent coyote sightings. If you value your cat or small dog, it is not advisable to let them run free, especially at night.

Coyotes and wolves can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. In fact all members of the genus Canis (dogs, wolves, coyotes and jackals) are interfertile.

Coyotes attack a sheep or goats by biting the throat just behind the jaw and below the ear, causing death from suffocation and shock. Most attacks on people occur when a coyote has become comfortable around people, often as a result of feeding them. "Tracking and the Art of seeing" author Paul Rezendes has substantiated approximately 10 attacks per year and 500 in the last 50 years in the U. S., mostly children under the age of five.

Recent Shark AttacksThe Florida Panhandle, as reported by the Florida Museum of Natural History, in 2004 suffered 12 shark attacks in Florida waters; almost one-half of the 30 reported attacks in the U.S. Since 1990 there have been 12 fatal attacks in the U.S.

On June 27, Craig Hutto, 16, was mauled while wading in waist-deep water, 60 feet from shore. This follows the death of Jamie Diagle, 14, who was fatally bitten by an 8-foot bull shark, in Florida, just two days before.

Alaskan Bear AttackA 300-pound grizzly bear that killed an Alaskan couple in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in early July 2005, was a normal 9-year old male with no signs of health problems. An examination at the University of Alaska found the animal, which had been killed by authorities, showed no signs of illness, weakness or injury. The bear was more than six feet tall, and its footprints matched those found at the campsite. The Huffmans' campsite was clean, with food stored in bear proof containers and an unused firearm in the tent.

Nearly 500 bear attacks, mostly in southern Alaska, were recorded between 1900 and 2002. Fewer than 60 were fatal, according to a study.

"If bears really wanted to kill people, they could at any time," a researcher said. "They have thousands of opportunities every year but they don't."

God help the people that they do.

Ron Malast is owner/operator of the charter boat Big Dipper through Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco 642-3466.

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