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World domination

Posted: January 21, 2019

The coyote’s scrappy cousin is mounting his own continental bid.
CC0 - http://pixabay.com

CC0 - http://pixabay.com

Coyotes – the canid that humans love to hate.  They are intelligent, resourceful, and unwavering.  I am a big fan.  I will always root for them.  They are the physical embodiment of the lesson our species has yet to learn – we cannot determine the fate of all species, no matter how much we try.  Coyotes continue to exist and thrive in spite of everything.  That is something to be admired.  

Duane recently shared with me a New York Times article on the golden jackal.  The golden jackal (Canis aureus) is a medium-sized canid native to southern Asia and the Middle East.  They bear a striking resemblance to our own medium-sized canid, the coyote (Canis latrans).

Like coyotes, jackals don’t have a favorable reputation in the public eye.  Merriam-Webster defines jackal as “any of several small omnivorous canids (such as Canis aureus) of Africa and Asia having large ears, long legs, and bushy tails” ora person who performs routine or menial tasks for another.”  Not very complimentary.  I like them already. 

I don’t know about you, but when I picture Europe I don’t think of anything green, there aren’t any trees, and there certainly isn’t any wildlife.  This, of course, is completely wrong.  

Brown bears, grey wolves, artic fox, pine martens, Eurasian lynx, chamois, alpine ibex, red deer, roe deer, reindeer call Europe home – all of which are regarded as species of least concern.  So these species aren’t threatened or rare on the landscapes in which they inhabit.  I really need to change my perception of Europe.  

The golden jackal came on to the scene on the southern edge of western and eastern Europe about 8,000 years ago according to fossil records.  And there they stayed until the 19th century when they started to slowly expand their range.  

Coyote range expansion began around 1900, a hundred years after the jackal started to dabble in Europe.  Prior to that, he was confined to the Great Plains and the arid Southwest.  At the turn of the century, he decided to storm the forests.  Well, he didn’t really decide.  He was given an opportunity… by us. 

Forest fragmentation and the incessant need of humans to live in a predator-free environment (i.e. organized campaigns to extirpate larger predators on the landscape) paved the way for the coyote.  Coyote “world domination” was completed in 2010 when they colonized their final state, Delaware.  

It took coyotes about 100 years to conquer the continent.  This apparently didn’t sit well with the jackal.  Not to be outdone by its American cousin, the jackal said, “Hold my beer.”  That expansion became an explosion about 20 years ago.  In Bulgaria, the jackal population went through a 33-fold increase from the early-1960s to the mid-1980s.  They moved into Italy in the 1980s.  There was a roadkill jackal in Denmark in 2015 and a camera-trap sighting in the Netherlands in 2016.  They had made it to France by the end of 2017.

It appears the golden jackal is on their own track to “world domination” at a much faster rate.  But like the coyote, the jackal is just taking advantage of the opportunities we have given it.  Wolf eradication, habitat shifts (less forest, more scrub), and climate change (they don’t like a lot of snow) granted its EU citizenship. 

This success has brought about the disdain you might expect.  

Like the coyote, the golden jackal is probably there to stay.  Take our advice, don’t waste your time trying to scrub it from the landscape.  It is one battle you probably won’t win.

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PGC Deer and Elk Section

 

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