Monday, January 3, 2011

A Handsome Visitor

Our neighbor snapped this picture of one of the more elegant inhabitants of our neighborhood stopping in our front yard this morning.  This may be the same coyote Joe and I saw a few days ago standing by the street sign at our corner.  Where I grew up in Idaho the more vocal ranchers weren't fond of coyotes and many shot and trapped them, which always made me sad. I tend to agree with Ed Abbey, who said in Desert Solitaire that he worried about the coyotes too - he worried if they were getting enough to eat. They are so beautiful, but sometimes they get pretty thin and scruffy-looking.  Right now, for instance, we're not seeing many rabbits around, which means slim pickings for this fellow.
     Other people get upset because the coyotes will take cats or small dogs. I'll never forget driving home one night and seeing a coyote saunter across the road in front of me with a kitten hanging from its jaws. That upset me, of course. I have three cats and love them all dearly.  That's why they are indoor cats. I think I posted some time ago about seeing a bobcat carrying a big black house cat into the brush, though that cat got away, and I was happy to see it, but I don't begrudge the coyote or the bobcat their meals. They have to eat and they are doing what nature has programmed them to do.  We have moved into their habitat, and if we value our pets, we'll protect them by keeping them indoors or letting them out only under supervision. It's that simple. Wild animals are not evil, they're just hungry. And I have tremendous admiration for animals like the coyote and bobcat who manage to adapt, survive, and sometimes even thrive in spite of what we have done to their world. They show more intelligence than some people.
      A woman wrote to our local newspaper several years ago, deeply irate because she had just seen a coyote vanish over her fence with her toy poodle.  She seemed to think someone should do something about it, though I'm not sure who or what that would be.  Another woman tried to sue a local golf resort because she had been frightened by a rattlesnake on the course; that case was thrown out, in a triumph of common sense, but what kind of attorney would even take her on as a client?  More media attention was given to the case of a young woman bringing suit because she'd been attacked by a bear up on Mt. Lemmon while camping; that case was also ultimately thrown out. It's very sad that she was injured, and yes, she was an unfortunate victim, but what do these people expect? Do they think all wild animals should be in zoos, or somehow trained not to do things that upset humans? Are we really so important that the rest of the world needs to be managed solely for our comfort? I'm afraid some people would say "yes" without batting an eye.
      Our son brought his two children for a visit between Christmas and New Year's and one afternoon he and I took Dante, who's five, for a walk along the trails at nearby Feliz Paseos, a lovely and fairly new park off Camino de Oeste just north of Speedway, for those of you in Tucson.  We often hear coyotes singing at night, but that afternoon there was a group performing nearby with great enthusiasm. Dante's big brown eyes got even bigger than usual; it was a treat for all of us.  As we drove out of the park a big coyote, very much like the one in the above picture, preceded us through the gate and then turned to look back at us before we turned one way and he went the other.  It was, as such moments always are, a little bit of magic.

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