Lions, oh my!

This is not a wildlife site, but since I have been adding posts about coyotes, it’s only fair to add this one on cougars. Just outside the womb of urbanization the world is a dangerous place, a truism unrecognized by too many young people today.

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Trickster 2

I don’t want to beat a dead coyote, but I  have a couple comments about this article and the folks who wrote it. I don’t know when we decided as a society that hunting coyotes was a bad thing. We have bass-fishing tournaments back East and we used to have rattlesnake roundups out here (I can’t recall when I last heard of one, but can’t recall anybody protesting them).

One of the more irritating ad hominems from the coyote-huggers is to characterize hunters as “beefy, middle-aged men in camouflage, guns in hand and dead animals no one is ever going to eat piled in trucks.” In fact, hunting coyotes is a highly skilled and challenging sport.

Also, re the “animals no one is ever going to eat” crack. If we don’t eat them, we compete with them for our food. We eat chickens and so do coyotes; we eat beef and lamb, and coyotes kill both. If Coyote Project’s biologist observed the cute and playful side of Don Coyote, a quick search of Coyote Killing Sheep will show another side of Canis latrans. Another, less sentimental way to look at that pickup full of dead coyotes is as critters who won’t be killing your neighbor’s cat or some rancher’s lambs next week.

The Coyote Project people undermine their own case against hunting by emphasizing that the coyote is under no threat of extinction. “Coyotes can withstand as much as a 70 percent yearly kill rate without suffering any decline in their total population.”

Ironically, by hunting him we are enabling the coyote to pursue his “Manifest Destiny,” according to Coyote Project. By killing off the slowest and dumbest, we’re forcing a rapid evolution of the species. We’re breeding a super-coyote that’s spreading across the continent.

Logically, Coyote Project should thus be in favor of hunting them, since it’s producing a bigger, faster, smarter coyote. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the California crusaders are just against hunting in general and see the coyote as a useful pawn in a much more ambitious campaign. NM was just one of six states that introduced nearly identical anti-hunting bills this year, all backed by the Humane Society. It’s not clear from Project Coyote’s website what its relationship is with this campaign, but I’m betting it’s kissing-cousin close.

Finally, it burns my biscuits to have condescending, virtue-signaling Marin County effetes and Santa Fe dudes lecturing me on the “morality” of rural New Mexico. Much as I would like to, I wouldn’t presume to return the favor.

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.

 

Wile E. vs. Dudley

I continue to collect stories of human/coyote interactions, and I’m still unclear as to whether such conflicts are becoming more common as the urban/suburban/exurban interface encroaches on the habitat of Canis latrans (or vice versa) or I’m just paying more attention. Latest I’ve come across is from our neighbors to the north, where the RCMP (love the uniform, guys!) was called in to deal with an especially bold coyote in a town just north of Calgary.

HSNM Conference March 28-30

The 2019 N.M. History Conference is scheduled for March 28-30 in Albuquerque. As always there are some interesting topics on the agenda — witchcraft at Isleta Pueblo, Imperial German spies on the border, the career of our state’s most famous madam, Sadie Orchard, and much more. Full program is at http://www.hsnm.org/conference-2/

More coyotes

Ever since my own close encounter I’ve been accumulating random coyote stories. Many, like this and this, and this make ominous reading. Latest is the sad story of a 77-year-old woman attacked and killed on her early morning walk. Contra the odds in elder assault, the predator (or predators) who took her down were not bipedal but quadruped. Investigators are unsure whether the animal involved was a dog, a wolf or a coyote, but they’re confident it was canine. The environmentalists determinedly re-introducing wolves, not just in the Appalachians but all across the continent, are doubtless hoping DNA tests will eliminate the Red Wolf as a suspect. Odds are on canis familiaris. Uncontrolled and aggressive dogs are a familiar hazard to hikers and joggers; feral packs are not unknown in rural areas nationwide; I’ve encountered them myself on the fringes of Dine’ and in northern Mexico. But a coyote kill of a human would be a significant development in our relationship with the species.

 

Desert Wildflowers

This week’s storm dropped 3.5  inches of snow in Albuquerque, 3 feet in Flagstaff,  lots of rain and snow all over the Southwest. That’s good news for a colorful bloom this spring. DesertUSA is tracking developments.