Saturday, September 1, 2012

Howling at the Blue Moon

There was a pack of coyotes behind my barn last night.  They were at the pond the night before.  They are very noisy this time of year as they call their pups out to water and start teaching them to hunt.  I have always liked coyotes, even when I lived out west and they were common, brazen and numerous as leaves on a tree.  I am in awe of their resiliency and adaptability.  They are the only species I am aware of that has responded to all attempts to eradicate them by growing their population and spreading out instead of dying off.

Coyotes respond to hunting pressure by breeding faster and more abundantly.  Left alone, a coyote pack reproduces much like wolves.  A single female has a litter of 3-5 pups each year and the whole pack raises them.  If that pack is hunted, all of the females will have pups.  They can go from raising 3-5 pups a year to raising 20-25.  The pack splits up and disperses, they find new territory.  Twenty five years ago, there were no coyotes in the Northeast, now they are in every state and are moving into Canada. 

I can understand the atavistic need to kill them off.  I remember vividly, turning the flood light on at my barn in California and seeing hundreds of glowing eyes staring back at me from the fence line.  When they start their eerie, frenzied yipping and howling right outside the window or, even worse, behind the barn where the baby donkey is dreaming, I can feel why people kill them.

Instead, I put on my boots and headed outside.  I watched Emma, on super high alert, hustle Ramsey out of the barn to the middle of the big field, far away from any tree lines or hiding places, ready and willing to take on all threats.  I watched Gabe and Tessa come galloping up from the lower field and charge out behind the barn, just itching to find a coyote to chase.  I walked out to the fence line and told them to leave me be and I would leave them be, just as I did years ago in California when I faced a hundred pairs of glowing eyes.  They melted away twenty some years ago just as they melted away last night. 

I smiled and went for a walk under the brilliant light of a blue moon.  The air like the softest whisper of silk, the most beautiful night we've had all summer.  After a while I heard the far off singing of coyotes farther down the ridge.  Another pack answered from the other direction.  Three years ago, there was one pack on this ridge, a neighbor told me he was going to "clear them varmints all out".  I counted four packs singing last night.


  1. The food chain at work!
    If they would only leave the domestic animals alone and find plenty of rabbits and squirrels! I live in the suburbs of Atlanta and we have them here. My school is in a highly populated area with trees around the back play ground and we've had to have someone come in and trap them for fear of the kids playing. I saw one walking up our street early one morning this summer - spooked me, but was in awe!

  2. This is my first time here. And I feel so lucky because I too really like coyotes and admire their ability to survive against all odds. I live in the desert mountains of California and we have them here, not by the hundreds though. I wonder where that was. I discovered donkeys when we moved here six years ago and I got a desk job at a donkey rescue next door. I was out on the ranch all the time with my camera and got to know many of them personally. I don't like to say I love one kind of animal more than another, but donkeys are just so great. The rescue has moved to Texas now and I only see donkeys in bloggy land.

    1. Welcome Inger, the area I was referring to in CA was about half an hour outside of Redding, about 40 minutes from the OR border. I know the rescue you are talking about and I am sorry that you no longer get to work with the donkeys. Glad though, that they feel like they are no longer needed in your area. I think they do still ave a satellite center in the area, perhaps you could hook up with them???

  3. This is a beautiiful post, Kris. I love the image of Emma taking Ramsey out into the open..this would be counter intuitive to us. She must be very confident of her abilities to foil her foe! I love that you admire coyotes. They are admirable.

  4. Really nice post :-) important to remember that if we work in harmony with nature things are often better for everyone. Love the vision of Emma with Ramsey in the middle of the field, a donkey mama is NOT something to mess with!