That same day, in response to safety concerns when a 14-year-old had to fight off a coyote in the Denver metro area, the Greenwood Village City Council passed an ordinance allowing coyotes to be shot. A contractor will be paid $60 per hour, or $200 per day, to cull the habituated coyote population.
Two years ago, a disoriented coyote was found huddling in a Chicago Starbuck’s next to the drink cooler, perhaps the closest thing to a cave he could find. More than ever before, we are being asked to explore what it means to co-exist – with one another, with the land, with the animals.
When the Louis and Clark Expedition first encountered a coyote, they called it the Prairie Wolf. To many Native Americans, Coyote is known as the Trickster. The coyote is both scavenger and hunter, opportunist and predator.
Ranching West of the 100th Meridian (Island Press, 2002), I wrote these winter entries about coyotes:
JANUARY: “Eighteen below zero when feeding the cows this morning, the air crisp and clear with four inches of fresh snow on the ground. The Bear Lodge appears black and white, snow layered on the branches of the stark oak trees. The cows’ breath rise in vapors. When I feed the horses, their long eyelashes are white with ice. Coyote tracks, traveling fast, try to outrun the cold, but Winter has everywhere marked his territory. Embrace me, or die trying, he seems to say. Finally, he claims Romie, my beloved old mare of thirty years.”
FEBRUARY: “We visit the black Angus ranch of close friends. A.R. shows us a Lakota horse stick he has made from a single-bitted ax handle. Three raptor claws hang, with feathers attached, as decoration. The stick honors the Lakota tradition of honoring their war-horses, while ornately painted skulls speak to the transciency of the flesh. He tells about rescuing a coyote from a trap (not his) that the animal had been dragging on one hind foot. The trap became snagged on a barbed wire fence, painfully tethering the coyote. A shovel kept the coyote’s head pinned down while A.R. freed the animal’s leg. “I had a long talk with that coyote,” he tells us with dry humor while holding the horse stick. “I spun him around five times, then kicked him in the rear and said, ‘Go get the neighbor’s sheep, but don’t let me see your ass back here.”
And then this final winter entry: “It’s night. My son stands on the deck and howls at the coyotes. They howl back. In the morning, a brazen coyote follows the cows and calves in off the hay meadow. He is so brazen he doesn’t run off when he sees Mark, just crouches in the grass and watches. Matt howls again that night, warning him off. We don’t shoot the coyote, but we do claim the calving pasture. The ridges and ponderosas and grasslands we share.”
Now, it is not only the grasslands, but the parks, greenbelts, and watersheds that we humans must learn to share. Ironically, at a time when many of us seek out the wilderness, the wilderness seems to be seeking out us. We are reminded of the delicate balance between predator and prey, between grazer and grass, between the need to co-exist and the perceived need to dominate.
Read Living with Coyotes by Stuart R. Ellins
Read Denver Post article "Greenwood Villages wages war on coyotes"
Read Rocky Mountain News article "4th elk culled in park"