Carrie called me the other night and said "Can you hear that?" I listened carefully. Very faintly, I could hear static and the familiar beeping of a radio collar signal on a receiver. I said "Yes, where are you?" "That's Jack's signal! I'm on the park."
Obviously I'm confused at this point. We were just told hours earlier that Jack, a male collared coyote, had been shot in Ohio over the weekend. But that couldn't be Jack's signal.
I told Carrie that ten years ago a hunter tried to tell me he shot three coyotes on Presque Isle during deer season. (This would have been illegal, of course, because coyotes are protected on Presque Isle.) It obviously drove me crazy, until rumor flew around so much that finally I found out who the prankster was, and confronted him face to face.
But my hopes for trickery were dashed when Carrie explained that, no, it had been the collared female's signal that had disappeared only a few weeks ago. I had hoped that the female was preparing her den and maybe Carrie wasn't getting a signal because she was underground. But the way things were sounding, it was the interior resident female who is now lost to us.
I must say I am very impressed with the individual who shot the coyote. Not for his trophy, but rather for his honesty. He bothered to call Edinboro University's phone number that is listed on the collar. Today, we make that journey to collect the collar and to trade stories about the coyote research for his experience of hunting them on his property.
This is one of the main stumbling blocks of doing radio telemetry with coyotes. They are protected in very few places. And like any wild animal, they don't recognize our boundaries--they regularly go in and out from the area where they are protected into the vast area where they are not. In Pennsylvania, a hunter can shoot as many coyotes as he wants any day of the week (with the proper license, of course). So this makes keeping your research animals alive more a game of chance than prevention. All in all, though, an entire year of data is far beyond anything we have had on Presque Isle's coyotes yet. I'm hoping that "Jack" now decides to stay.