The trickster

A bill now awaiting the governor’s signature banning “coyote hunts” (sponsored by my own addle-pated Sen. Mark Moores) was the subject of an opinion piece in today’s Journal, authored by a pair who title themselves “Ambassador” and “Founder and Executive Director” of a northern California outfit called “Project Coyote.”

Wile E. Coyote makes his appearance in the lede, when a biologist sights a coyote “joyously toss a sprig of sagebrush in the air with her mouth, adroitly catch it, and repeat the act every few yards.” Instead of studying “the arch-predator of our time,” the scientist is instead discovering that Wile. E. is an “intelligent, playful creature,” according to Project Coyote.

Wrong. You see “the arch-predator of our time” in the mirror every morning as you brush your teeth. Notice those sharp ones prominent on either side of your jaw? Why do you suppose God (or Darwin, if you prefer) put them there?

The intelligent and playful Homo Sapiens rules the planet and we literally fought tooth and nail for the title. For also-rans check your local natural history museum for the remains of Canis dirus and Smilodon. We’ve cleared the ring of these, but Canis latrans remains a formidable challenger. Intelligent, resilient, adaptable and increasingly aggressive, it profits us not to underestimate him.

The Apaches and other indigenous inhabitants of the land knew him well and understood him better than the folks at Project Coyote ever will.  At this weekend’s Book Fair I picked up a copy of American Indian Myths and Legends, which lists 15 stories capturing the coyote in his many different incarnations.


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