Coyote Stories I

The coyote, Canis latrans has been as much a part of my family life as my brothers and my sister.  I spent my childhood in Southern California during and following the Second World War.  Early in my Middle School years my family relocated to the San Gabriel Valley at the base of the San Sierra Madre Mountains.  Things were much different in the LA Basin at that time.  There were fewer of us and much more open land.  From the back of our bright new post-war home to the base of the mountains were hundreds of acres of orange groves and thousands of acres of oak scrub and brush.  There were dove and quail, and rabbits and raptors.  There were also the coyotes.  I learned to listen for these little wolves and to watch for them along the sides of the dirt roads that, at that time, still crisscrossed the fields and orchards of Southern California.  During high school others things captured my attention, and imagination, and I didn't think so much about the coyotes.   But they were never far away and I would hear the yips and howls of what author Jack Couffer calls the Song of Wild Laughter on my way to an early morning college class or to my job washing dish and bussing tables in a small, local restaurant.   

My work with federal natural resource management agencies brought me East and along with me came the coyotes spreading across land they have once occupied.  From Washington, DC, to Florida, to Georgia, and now to North Carolina, this ubiquitous little wolf has only been a walk at first light, a full moon, or a shadowy glimpse away.  

For several years I served as Steward at Bat Fork Bog Plant Conservation Preserve,  a small native plant preserve almost in the center of Hendersonville, North Carolina.  It did not take me long to realize that coyotes were among my companions at the preserve.  The Preserve is located only a kilometer, possibly a bit more, from downtown Hendersonville and only a few blocks from the main fire station.  The coyotes liked the fire station; they especially like the sound of the sirens as the large red trucks lumber out of their barn-like shelter and roar-off on their missions of mercy.  The coyotes often accompany the sirens with their high-pitched howls.  I remember one of the neighbors living on the high ground to the west of the Preserve asking me if I was afraid of coyotes.  I told him I wasn't and he said "good, cause you sure have a lot of them in there," gesturing toward the boggy lowlands below us. 

(Image courtesy of Google)

(Continued in the next post)


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