Saturday, December 26, 2015

365 True Things: 272/Coyote

This afternoon we went for a long walk in the local BLM lands, over rolling green-grass-covered hills. Along the way we enjoyed watching the herd of lawn-mower sheep, annual temporary residents, course down a distant hillside, no doubt with heel-nipping encouragement from the Basque shepherd's sheepdogs. We observed small hawks (kestrels?) "kiting": flying in place as they scoped out the hunting possibilities. We heard meadowlarks singing their melodious tune.

Coyote by HyraxAttax
As we descended the last hill, a ways out in front of us I noticed an animal shape on the trail. "Is that a coyote?" I asked. We leashed Milo just in case. Soon a second animal shape loped onto the trail, a redder color. Together they moved out into the long grass. The redder one started running, and flushed some ground birds back toward its partner. The birds got away, easy.

This is exactly what ours did!
The first coyote saw us and headed back across the trail toward a depression—probably a pond, once the rains come in earnest. As we reached their level, we looked over, and there it was, not a hundred feet away, staring fixedly at the ground. Suddenly it rose into a great arcing leap, and scuffled with something. Yank, yank—and it was off, with a portly ground squirrel in its jaws. Dinner!

It was beautiful to witness.

This is not what ours did . . .
When I think of coyotes, I think of Wile E. Coyote, of course; I think of the trickster character in Native American folklore; I think of their yipping, howling, barking song, which I happen to love. Their Latin name, Canis latrans, means "barking dog." And yes, they are able to cross-breed with domesticated dogs and with wolves.

Fascinating map
They are very resourceful and intelligent, which plays out both in their New Age "medicine card" symbolism (jokester, adaptability, revealing the truth behind illusion and chaos, playfulness, paradoxical nature) and in their very real journey throughout North America. Today they are well adapted to life on the fringes of cities and suburbs.

We lost at least one of our cats (probably three) to local coyotes, when the Ford Ord army base closed and the animals expanded their range. I don't begrudge them their need to make a living. We should have been more careful with our kitties . . . Our current two cats come inside well before dark, and don't get to go out—despite their mighty beseeching—until well after sunrise. We've learned our lesson the hard way.

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