November 9, 2014
185 Nogal Canyon Road
Bent, New Mexico
Late this afternoon, but well before darkness fell, Coyote howled, and the packs’ ensuing laughter echoed across the canyon. I had to laugh along; Coyote is one of my favorite neighbors regardless of his poor reputation. In spite of their furtive nature this pack has been emboldened by their perceived safety and they go unharrased except for the occasional gunshot. The herd of horses which graze the pasture they inhabit offers them a sound buffer also, they make for difficult targets because of them. I think they take pleasure in harassing the dogs also as they have proven themselves to be the superior canine and even if their howls are answered by fierce barks there is little other response.
Coyote, the Heyehokah of Native American lore, the ancient trickster. He has long been reveled by mankind as the symbolic rascal, the sneaky and unethical presence who takes and gives as he pleases and reeks havoc at every opportunity. It is he who will come as a pack and kill an entire herd of sheep and leave the spoils behind for the sheer joy of killing. It is he who will follow the cow herd and murder the young calf who was so carefully instructed to be still and quiet. It is he who will run the fresh young colts through the fence for the same pleasure of simply being able to do so. He is despised for all the same reasons. I sympathize fully, and will join in the hunt as quickly as anyone, but I still love him also.
It is his call, his announcement of his presence, which assures me that nature is still well and strong. Coyote is the substitute for the wolf, who sadly and in my humble opinion, no longer belongs anywhere near either man or beast. Not that I do not get a thrill from hearing the long deep song that only the lobo can let loose but it chills me also. I too wander these hills as do cattle and horse, and the lobo is fiercer than Coyote. So is the lion who has yet to be hunted to extinction but is in short supply, he too is a threat to all of us.
Coyote on the other hand, while also being a danger to livestock and domestic pets, is a lesser threat, and a more devoted survivor. For just this very reason it seems less adverse for him to be hunted and still remain a constant presence in our lives. He thrives even on the edge of the major cities and he lives in New York as well as New Mexico. In his absence, in places where he has been hunted out of existence, the rabbits are as bad as grasshoppers. If you don’t believe me drive through Wamsutter, Wyoming where the roads are covered as deeply in rabbit carcasses as there are grasshoppers in Roswell, New Mexico. I think even the sheep herders in Wyoming might welcome Coyote back, unless they like to eat jack rabbits.
Coyote also offers avid sportsman a lively adversary and I have heard that the fox has become so scarce that Coyote is the new target of these hunters. The trouble with Coyote though is that he holds not set pattern and outruns the horses so there is no bounty or final reward as there was with the fox. Shame on the hunters for living within fences and boundaries, coyote recognizes none of these. In Oklahoma they use helicopters to hunt the rascals but the power lines get in the way. In New Mexico they use traps and poison but he still thrives, even if they thin the ranks also. In the end Coyote still wins as it is the smarter individuals who survive. Books have been written about these superior individuals who will trip traps and leave their mark behind to make sure the trapper knows he has been outsmarted by his prey, leading him to try all the harder to succeed. I have had pack rats do the same and leave me thorny sections of cactus in lieu of flowers when I set out to reduce their numbers. And we think animals are stupid!
Coyote made me laugh today, as he always does. The Native People know him for who he is and we Anglos should be mindful of that. We have this false perception that nature should bend to our every whim but the Natives know better. Even as we thin the packs of the coyotes and leave the superior individuals to pass on their blood lines so Coyote thins the herds of other animals and does the same. He controls the lesser varmints also and keeps them from overrunning us, all as nature intended. He also brings laughter to us who hold ourselves closer to the earth than others, a much needed respite in a world which has come to take itself too seriously. If Coyote should ever disappear we should all take heed, we will be in deep trouble then. He may well be the canary in the goldmine, a symbol of the presence of things we all need to survive, and the last to go if we cannot. Ahh wooh! Hah, hah, hah!