Coyotes & Folks

Just past dawn, one morning, a coyote hopped over our garden wall and settled in under a bush for a nap. We had heard coyotes yelping from time to time during the night, so perhaps this one was part of that pack. We had seen them while hiking, but having one snoozing just outside the kitchen window was a new one for us. This picture of a coyote was taken in the Rio Grande Bosque.

They are intelligent and curious creatures who shadow hikers apparently to see what humans are up to in their territory.

A coyote’s territory varies widely. In rural areas of the southwest and south, where resources are scant, a coyote might roam over forty square miles. With an urban environment or in the northeast, food sources are more plentiful and the range is much less. Coyotes now encroach upon Central Park in New York City from time to time.

Here is a pack of about nine coyotes trotting along a path in the Bosque. The hind feet of a coyote settles in the print of the front feet. An entire pack might trot along a path and leave only one set of footprints.

Coyotes (canis laprans) are descended from the wolf line of canids, and are cousins of the domestic version, the dog. Like the dog, which adapted to exploit human waste dumps after our species settled down after learning to produce food with in agricultural technologies, the coyote is very adaptable.

Humans evidently encountered coyotes in the American southwest, and the Aztecs referred to Coyotlinauatl as the god whose faithful wore coyote skins. The Aztec moon goddess, Coyolxauhqui, was known as one who bays at the moon. Link

Over the last hundred years or so, coyotes have spread their range to New England and the South. The DNA evidence is murky and still being worked out, but northeastern coyotes are larger (befitting a lusher prey environment) and southern ones are smaller. And, there is evidence of repeated inter-breading with wolves and dogs. Today’s coyote is a mix master slush of canine DNA.

Regardless, listening to coyotes bay at night and glimpsing them observing you in the brush is an exhilarating experience in nature.

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