The Wily Coyote

The city of Tucson, Arizona’s ever-growing interloper of the plains, stretches out across the curious Sonoran desert. Its reliable sunshine and warmth, so kind to aging joints, has called to seniors across the nation, its subsequent accommodating buildings of home and hospital creeping relentlessly out across the desert. It has encroached on the wildlife, ergo has its share of ferals. They were here first.


Of the desert menagerie, to humans coyotes probably are the most obvious. The scruffy dog-like hunter slyly slinks around housing developments. Dog-like maybe, but not our kind of dog. Beware – he’s not looking to merely riffle through your garbage – he’s searching for meal-sized cats and dogs.


Few pets are equipped to match this hunger-driven ur-dog. Our neighbors guard their fluffy yappers carefully. If one should sneak out, its fate would be written. Canis domesticus has a sad instinct to rush into the chase of a prey… to its doom. Especially frenzied lapdogs. We have, in our eco-protected area, a few handsome tawny coyotes who brazenly patrol our yards and driveways, occasionally catching a human’s eye before fading into the pucker brush. They are fearless, but non-confrontational. And then some are leaner and hungrier, more determined?


One evening, not long ago, a friend’s smallest member of his pet trio, a sleek dachshund, naughtily whizzed out between his master’s legs, joining his larger buddies for a night’s prebedtime widdle. He normally was never ever allowed out off-leash; he saw a gleeful chance at liberty and grabbed it. His buddies were big German shepherd bruisers, well-fanged males capable of conquering any feral encountering. (Well, maybe not a puma. We have the odd puma, too.)
Joyful, brave, naive and foolish little dachsie. He did not return.


At four in the morning, his master was slowly searching the streets by car. Suddenly a coyote trotted across his headlights’ beams. To our friend’s horror, he saw his feckless pet’s body-less head and chest gripped in its bloody fangs.


They are surely there, eyes gleaming and focusing in the underbrush, looking and awaiting the careless move of an untended pet. Thus the wily coyote survives.


They roam nationwide, this wild dog. Years ago in San Antonio, place of my birth, the local paper’s police log reported a call from a woman in an upscale residential area. She, a warm-hearted animal lover, was not having success feeding and bathing a homeless dog and could the police come get him. “He is just so uncooperative,” she said.

The police snickered upon their arrival. “That ain’t no dawg, lady – that’s a coyote.”

Similarly, in rural Massachusetts, I was idly motoring home when suddenly a dog hurled itself off an embankment, just missing its opportunity to cross safely, whanging itself into my right front wheel. It spun through the air and landed, twitching, roadside. I quickly stopped, everyone stopped, and we looked at the handsome beast as he convulsed his last breath. No collar.


“You’re going to have to call that in to the animal control, lady” said one oh so helpful bystander.

“Hell, lady – that ain’t no dawg, thassa coyote,” authoritatively pronounced another.

The woman in the car right behind me said, “Coyote? Can I have it? My husband is a taxidermist.”

Nonplussed, I shrugged and said “Be my guest.”

She snatched a large trash bag out of her trunk and with bystander help, stuffed the corpse in. He was thick-coated, handsome, muscular and deep-chested. No wonder we figured him to be a pet.


The excitement over, the kerfuffle resolved, the dead animal pulling away in the taxidermist’ wife’s car, I too departed.
What an odd day.


From New England to Texas, from there to Arizona and beyond, the wily coyote prowls our neighborhoods for morsels. They eat our mice, rats, squirrels – and our pets. Don’t even think about trying to woo and tame one. They are not our kind.