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How far will coyotes go?

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By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor

From city-dwelling parrots to suburban turkeys, wild animals are learning to adapt to life amid sidewalks, high rises, and garbage dumps. One in particular seems to be more adaptable than most: the wily coyote. Coyotes have spread all the way across North America, and it’s only a matter of time before they break through to South America, writes senior animals editor Christine Dell’Amore.

Their fast spread has also made them among the most persecuted animals in North America: We kill about 400,000 a year, mainly to protect livestock. And this is despite scientific evidence showing lethal control of coyotes tends to backfire, leading juveniles to mature faster and females to produce bigger litters to fill the gap.

“The more we try to keep them down, the more they succeed,” Christine says. So why are coyotes thriving when so many other species are in trouble? How far will they spread? How can we help humans and coyotes coexist? There is still so much to learn about—and from—coyotes.

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No fear of humans. A motion-triggered camera captures two Arctic wolves feeding on a musk ox carcass on Canada's remote Ellesmere Island. Explorer Ronan Donovan followed a family of 10 wolves (six adults, four pups) for more than a month. “I wanted to tell a story about wolves in a wilderness without competition with humans,” Donovan said. "Wolves ... exist in nearly the same family structures as humans and engage in many of the same behaviors: play, mourning, social learning, and hunting strategies."

Related: Nat Geo's best animal photos of 2019

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Today in a minute

Arrival: Off a Costa Rican beach, tens if not hundreds of thousands of female sea turtles mass before hitting the shore to lay their eggs. On one November day in 2016, biologist Vanessa Bézy launched a drone and filmed the greatest ocean gathering of turtles ever recorded. “To this day I’m still blown away by the video. They look like bumper cars out there,” Bézy told Nat Geo’s Douglas Main. See it!

Dog or wolf? It’s a puppy. It’s 18,000 years old. Russian researchers found it in permafrost in eastern Siberia. Even with data, the inability to distinguish its species is a canine mystery, David Stanton of Sweden’s Centre for Paleogenetics tells CNN: The fact that we can't might suggest that it's from a population that was ancestral to both—to dogs and wolves.”

Feral hogs: Introduced by hunters for sport, feral hogs killed a Texas woman on her way to work, Vice reported. The hogs cause roughly $1.5 billion in damage each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but attacks on humans are rare.

Saving vultures: Seven African species of the big bird of prey are endangered, so the poisoning of 10 of them in Kenya prompted a swift response. Some were saved. They likely scavenged from the carcass of a hyena, itself felled by poison in retaliation for killing livestock. Vultures have lost nearly two-thirds of their numbers in the past three decades, in large part because of poisoning.

Move over, giant tortoises: There are three newly identified species in the Galápagos Islands, one of them living on a remote volcano. The leaf-toed gecko was found by a team of herpetologists on the northern part of Isabela, the largest island in the Ecuadorian archipelago.

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Overheard at Nat Geo

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Don’t blame the beavers! The water-loving, dam-building critters are making themselves at home in the warming tundra of Alaska and northern Canada. For the beavers, the thawing permafrost is ideal. But melting permafrost releases methane, lots of it, and the new lakes created by beavers are hastening the melt, permafrost expert Katey Walter Anthony tells our podcast, Overheard. She reminds us that people created the conditions for the beaver migration, so it’s not the beavers’ fault. To hear other behind-the-scenes Nat Geo stories, subscribe to the podcast here, or, if you are spontaneous and close by, get tickets to our live podcast in Washington, D.C., tonight.

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One last glimpse

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Polar return. A helicopter carries a sedated and blindfolded polar bear mom and two cubs in a net from a holding facility in Churchill, Manitoba, to return to the wild. The bears are marked in green to notify Native hunters not to shoot them.

Related: Climate change finally caught up to this Alaskan village

This newsletter has been edited and curated by David Beard, with photo selections from Eslah Attar. Have an idea or a link? We’d love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . Have a great day, and thanks for reading!