Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oh, it's you

One of the trails I frequent has a resident pair of coyotes this summer. I see them once or twice a week. They must have a den in the area but I haven’t seen any sign of pups, though there is a third adult that joins them sometimes, possibly their offspring from last year. They fled the first few times I came across them, as coyotes generally do hereabouts. Ours are not bold, suburban coyotes—not yet, anyway. But I’ve become a routine presence to this little family now. When I walk by they look up, check me out, and then go back to the business of ferreting around under the trees in search of snacks. Coyotes will eat nearly anything, from lizards to persimmons. Right now the wild black cherries are falling in abundance, so I’m sure they’re eating a share of those. I eat a few myself.

The coyotes have stopped taking much notice of me but I always take notice of them. Encountering them has become the highlight of the day. I love that they don’t run from me anymore, though I wouldn't attempt to approach them. That would be a breach of etiquette that they’d never forgive, and on the off chance they decided they didn’t mind me getting closer, it would be a bad thing. If they failed to avoid other hikers they’d be doomed.

I'm a little embarrassed my sentimental attachment to these critters. Coyotes are really nuisance animals. They are aliens in this part of the country, 20th century invaders who arrived and thrive thanks to land-clearing development. Aside from their bad habits of killing livestock and munching on house cats, they wreak havoc on the native wildlife, especially foxes. Wherever coyotes move in, the fox population declines. Bobcats, too, suffer by the presence of coyotes, which is a particular shame because the bobcat is the only wild cat we’ve got here anymore and they have enough problems dealing with the destruction of their habitat.

Still, I can’t resist this particular little group, so tolerant of me invading their space. (They occasionally leave a pile of scat right in the middle of the trail, just so there won’t be any doubt about ownership of the territory.) When the sun shines through the trees and dapples their fur they are breathtakingly pretty, and no other animal moves with the slinking grace of a coyote.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons


Michael Sims said...

Very nice. A beautiful, appreciative post, nicely written as always. We can't blame the migrant species for their hardiness, so we might as well appreciate their beauty and get beyond the slinking Wile E. Coyote mental image.

jmcleod76 said...

Mountain lions believed extinct, huh? That's news to me. There are a couple of rescues living at the Maine Animal Park, a refuge for injured and otherwise human-dependent animals managed by our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

BitterGrace said...

Thanks, Michael. I like to speak up for the underdog--literally in this case. Of course, if/when one of my pets falls to a coyote it'll probably temper my enthusiasm...

Are they really wild Eastern cougars, J, or escaped "pets?" The issue of the Eastern cougar is hotly debated, it seems. People keep reporting mountain lion sightings around here, but with the exotic animal trade being what it is, who knows where they came from? It's nice to think that there might still be a population of Eastern cougars that could restore itself.

jmcleod76 said...

Good question, Maria. I don't know their origin. I could ask a staff member next time I go. They know the sad stories of all of the animals there, but unless you look for them or it's feeding time you don't usually see the people who care for the animals. I do know that most of the baby animals they have there don't actually need to be there. Well-meaning people find "abandoned" babies and don't realize that their mothers are most likely nearby gathering food. The park keeps them in as wild a state as possible until they're old enough to be released. Every summer people bring dozens of fawns and even a few moose calves, and the DIF&W guys lecture people about it during feeding time.