Archive for Thursday, April 3, 2008

Coyotes are our newest neighbors

April 3, 2008

A recent article in the Kansas City Star reporting a coyote problem in Leawood gave me reason to worry about our big gray cat, Shadow, who manages to escape on occasion. It seems that the coyotes were hunting small pets. It's true that the pets being stalked were mostly small dogs, but I know that cats are high on the menu for urban coyotes. I was somewhat mollified to read that most of the dogs serving as an entree for coyotes were well under fifteen pounds or so. My cat is more than twenty pounds of mean snarling fur, but there's always the chance that he'd be caught off-guard. I know there are coyotes near our house in a suburban division of Bonner Springs. There's a field of grass with a pond that is used to pasture various animals, from cattle to horses to a mule or two.

At night, we can often hear the characteristic high-pitched howling and yips that belong to coyotes talking to each other and the moon. I grew up with that sound accompanied by the barking of a dog. At night our border collie spent many nights barking back at the coyotes. She was large enough that coyotes wouldn't pose a threat to her. She considered it her business, however, to keep them away from the farm place.

I just wish the two collies we owned when we lived on a 10-acre country place were as diligent in their duties. The male collie, Prince, was protective, but his female companion, Taffy, no doubt considered coyotes to be little cousins. She probably would have shared her food bowl with one of them if allowed to do so. She would have only considered coyotes a threat if one of them had become aggressive toward one of our children. As far as Taffy was concerned, the chickens and ducks were on their own with the sly coyotes. The coyotes didn't hesitate to take advantage of her collie laissez-faire attitude.

When coyotes operate in stealth mode, they seem to melt into the landscape. One can appear and disappear in an almost supernatural way. A coyote can find a hiding place to watch every move of a potential prey, otherwise known as dinner. Then when the moment is right, he or she strikes and runs away with the unfortunate creature. Then it's usually too late to do anything about the process. Several times, we heard a loud squawking and ran to the window or out on the deck to see a chicken being born away into the trees. My husband in frustration once tried to shoot one of them with an arrow belonging to our son. The coyote could be heard laughing as he trotted toward the brush line with a fat hen safely ensconced in his mouth. However, it can be said for the wily coyote that he only takes what he intends to eat. A neighbor's dogs once went on a wholesale slaughter of some ducks we kept. They killed and left the bodies strewn about - something no self-respecting coyote would have done. He would have left all alive except the one marked for a meal, which he would taken with him.

Coyotes once inhabited mostly the southwestern part of the United States, but it seems they adapt very well to human population areas. Now they are spread throughout the country living in shouting distance from our back doors. I don't think they're a threat to anything but small pets. They mostly prey on rodents and other wild creatures which would multiply much quicker without them. Frankly, with a little caution, they are probably good neighbors, so we ought to accept the fact that they're here to stay.

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