Our Eastern coyote Canis latrans var., is a good bit larger than its cousins out west. This handsome beast has wolf Canis lupus lycaon, genes – 300,000 years old at least – meandering in its warm blood mix. Some scientists believe that the endangered red wolf Canis rufus, met up with a coyote moving east, where others state that the Eastern wolf is the sire of the coy-wolf.
To make things more confusing the red wolf is thought to be part coyote and part eastern wolf.
Whatever the name or combination, wolves have been brutally attacked and pushed to the edge of extinction numerous times and now by gray wolves being removed from the endangered list and states allowing
hunting slaughter from planes . . . they are in great danger. Wolves were in trouble even before, then governor, Pallin took aim . . . we all need to remain vigilant in calling out for their protection.
There is much myth and hatred revolving around and towards the stealthy wolf.
Steal thy sheep they may well do . . . but wouldn’t you too, take one or two . . . if you were a wolf? Actually, there are studies showing that even with higher numbers of wolves there are not more killings of domesticated animals.
Coyotes have more success in their survival . . . though they too are looked upon with a great deal of disdain and treated horridly. They are very important predators but unfortunately do come into conflict with farmers and pet owners at times.
But this is an anecdotal article . . . though true . . . I have a story to tell.
The stories of beasts from my Bestiary continues with the somewhat mysterious and unpredictable, Eastern coyote.
I do find it inspiring and exciting when hearing the sounds of a few coyotes calling out from the forest, fields and gardens. Together the cacophony of sequential coyote howls and yelps may cause one to believe there are a dozen in their smaller family pack. The alpha male and female are either calling out to one another and their pups or letting other coyotes know this is their territory.
When I hear coyotes close by within the gardens or fields, I cannot help but hope . . . that they have not caught a weasel or woodcock . . . but would be happy to share a free-range rabbit, field mouse or vole. Being the generalist that they are . . . they would favor any of the above and a great variety of other food.
Whatever I may be doing . . . I usually stop and go nearer to a window to hear the deep vowel o’s drifting within the dark shroud of night covering the landscape. That is, of course, unless I am already out in the night landscape, as I once often found myself after a meal, just taking in the feel of the darkness and layers of black forms. The night garden and landscape are of a most uniquely enchanting and alluring beauty.
The wind is very still, on the evening I walk down to the lower southeast garden and without hesitation place my tired shell within the hammock that freely stands between four apple trees and a weeping cherry, just above a blueberry field and the forest edge.
Marveling at the bright near fully endowed moon and the quiet . . . with exception to thousands of insects and wild turkey wings brushing boughs, while balancing high up in hemlock and pines . . . I gently sigh.
After some time passes, as I lay floating . . . suspended . . . between earth and sky . . . feeling privileged and thankful for being alive and able to live intimately with the land . . . beneath the huge canopy of brilliant, shimmering stars, planets and the large, voluptuous, milky orb casting soft luminous light over wildflower meadows and shrubberies holding nests of birds while also painting shadows of charcoal . . . black beneath trunks of trees . . . out of that darkness and peace . . . I shudder . . . when hearing a nearby piercing growl that tears through the silky mediative fabric of stillness.
At first, I freeze in fear of the thought . . . ”What was THAT??” and listen more intently than before. With the ending of the second snarl, seemingly directed towards me, hesitation is thrown off and I leap from the hammock to my feet and begin yelling with all my might, while clapping hands and stomping feet to the ground.
I am trying to make it seem like I am more than one truly frightened woman alone . . . too far from the house or anyone who might help me. I then look over in the direction of the beast and with great relief notice its good-sized form running away from me. Then as beasts often will do . . . it stops and turns to stare back at the creature who spooks it. I am slowly backing up towards the stairs, inching my way up the hill towards the house . . . yelling all the while. I think this creature is a bear but cannot be certain.
In any case, my lingering in sheets of dark night comes to an abrupt end.
The moon once again lures me out into the garden the next night. I am sitting at a table on the leach mound, surrounded by wild carrot, in the north field watching the beginning moonrise . . . this time equipped with flashlight and a two pronged hay fork. The night is lovely while soothing and softening to the mind.
Once again I feel enveloped in the black silken serenity of air and land, when suddenly that familiar frightful growl enters from about twenty feet away at the bottom of the leach field . . . snatching the creamy cloth of calmness and summoning self-preservation. The beast’s severity clearly is directed towards me . . . of this I have no doubt and of the possible danger too. With a tad less fright than the previous night, I stand and shout at the beast, who seems determined to shattered my tranquil days ending. Or am I distressing the beast?
I see a dark form, I cannot identify, running away. I quickly walk down to where it was previously standing and point the flashlight beam north . . . in the direction which it is running. Sure enough, the animal stops, turns around and I catch its eyes glaring back at me in red uncertainty.
I still imagine the fairly large form to be a black bear and so the next day, having had enough, I call the fish and wildlife folks and ask to speak with a bear biologist. The biologist kindly comes out a day later and carefully examines the area where I had seen the beast and the location it ran towards. He finds no black bear tracks but did see clear coyote tracks. Later, after speaking with my neighbors, I learn that they have, of late, seen a rather large female coyote about their land.
The biologist has a theory that the coyote was not so much growling at me, as a warning, but more the snarling may be from suddenly coming upon me without expectation. There was not a breath of wind both nights I was out, and my being so quiet may have startled and surprised the coyote, when he/she finally sensed my being so close by. Normally an animal will know of our being in their environment long before they come upon us. I would like to believe this, but for now, I am giving over the night to the wildlife and will only go out when not alone.
Encountering wildlife is always thrilling and this experience being rather spine-tingling feels all the more WILD. Encounters in daylight are easier to understand . . . being able to see the body language of an animal.
I will never know exactly what was going on in the mind of the beast but feel better knowing that there have been very few ever reports of coyotes attacking humans. The experience was all the more chilling, as I had read about the killing of a young woman singer (see link) by two coyotes a couple of years earlier.
Coyotes and other wild creatures are part of our ‘earth community’ and we need to know how to coexist for the well being of all. I am grateful for the eastern coyote and hope that we can come to an understanding of knowing and respect for each other’s presence within the land we share. I do want the coyote and other wild beasts to fear me so that we all remain safe. Last fall, I did see two coyotes together (perhaps an alpha pair) in almost the same place as the one above.
An added note regarding the coyote photographs here. I have only seen one other coyote on my land before this sighting, though I hear them all the time. The first coyote I was lucky enough to see was a beauty . . . all lit up by the sun with a gorgeous tail but I had no camera, which was a pity as I was very close. He was smaller than the one above and just stared at me before leaping away. The coyote above was over one hundred feet away, about to go into the edge of the forest and it was getting late in the day, so the images are not as good as I might wish. I had a strong feeling that the coyote was looking right back at me, though very far away and through a field of flora.
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