Little Brother of the Wolf
“Next to God,” goes the Mexican saying, “the coyote is the smartest person on earth.” Even if this is exaggerated, the fact remains that the coyote, if not the most intelligent of all animals, is certainly the cleverest. He would have to be.
For two hundred years, the coyote has faced a steadily increasing campaign to eradicate him from the face of the earth. Many animals have faced such campaigns, but against no other animal has the campaign reached such heights of cruelty.
In the old days, the coyote was hunted for his pelt. When pelts dropped in price, he was hunted because he was supposed to be a cattle killer. When it was proven he wasn’t a cattle killer ; he lives almost exclusively on mice, moles, rabbits, insects, snakes and even eats fruit for dessert ; he was hunted because
he was supposed to be a sheep killer. Finally, when it was proven he wasn’t a sheep killer, he was hunted because ; well,
he was supposed to hunt what man wanted to hunt.
As such, there is no season for hunting coyote. For him, it is always open season. He is hunted by land and by air. He is hunted in the winter and in the summer. In such situations, the coyote’s only hope lies in his cleverness. There are many stories of coyotes outwitting hunters. They have even been known to jump on automobiles and flat cars to escape dogs. And they have also successfully resisted bombing. Once when a favorite coyote haunt in Texas became a practice range for bombing, the coyotes left ; temporarily. Soon they were back to investigate and found that the bombing kept people out. They decided to stay. Meanwhile, they learned the bombing schedule and avoided bombs.
From some hunts, of course, there is no escape. In the Autobiography of a Hunter, there is a description of a typical
hunt in the sandhill region of Nebraska. It was “a well-planned
military move,” with a plane overhead to spot the coyotes and hundreds of hunters “came in trucks, armed with shortwave radios, powerful engines, clinging snow tires...each nervously
fingering high-powered rifle with telescopic sight.”
When the coyote is not hunted, he is trapped. For the coyote, there are especially horrible traps ; to match his ingenuity.
Once the coyote is caught, he has been known to chew off his own leg rather than remain in the trap. Actually thousands of coyotes have existed for life on three legs. Also, amazingly, there are thousands of two-legged coyotes. One female coyote
she ran like a in Michigan had only stubs for front legs ;
kangaroo ; and yet, when killed, was bearing five unborn pups. In New Mexico, a coyote got along somehow with both feet missing from his right side, and still managed to raise a family.
Once two government trappers spent weeks tracking down and trying to kill a whole coyote family. First the nursing mother was trapped, then released after the trappers had fastened a chain to her. By the trace of the dragging chain, the trappers expected to follow her to her den where they could then wipe out the pups.
But for two weeks the mother coyote did not betray her family. Her mate brought food to her at night and kept the pups fed. And so, after days of frustration, convinced the mother would never endanger her young, the trappers tracked her down and killed her.
Later, however, they did get a chance at the pups. The trappers came upon them playing at the far side of the dam. At this moment, however, the father coyote suddenly appeared and, acting as a decoy, managed to divert the trappers’ attention until he was shot. His young had safely disappeared into the brush.
I have on my desk something called a “Humane
Coyote-Getter,” which is advertised as the “Marvel of the 20th Century.” Humane? It is actually a whole trap gun. A bait is soaked in urine and covered with a jacket, then placed over a bullet cartridge, the whole being set in the ground. When the coyote investigates, the bullet is set off by a spring and shoots the coyote in the mouth with sodium cyanide. This in turn, on contact with the moisture in the coyote’s mouth, or eyes, or
wherever it hits him, releases gas and the coyote gases himself to death.
This Coyote-Getter is, by coyote-getting standards, actually humane ; at least compared to the more general way of killing coyotes. That is, plainly and simply, by poisoning them. All kinds of deadly poisons have been used on coyotes, and the United States government has poisoned more than a million coyotes on public land.
Finally, after years of effort by the Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon, the Fund for Animals and other societies, President Nixon issued his now-historic Executive Order 11643, in February, 1972, banning the use of most predator poisons on public lands. The order continues to be opposed by the National Wool Growers Association and others. Coyote hunters, meanwhile, seemed to be redoubling their efforts.
The hunters who have hunted and trapped and poisoned the coyotes cruelly have outraged coyote friends. The Fund for Animals announced a reward of $500 for prior information which led to the stopping of any such hunt, and also announced that it would back any group engaged in breaking up such hunts by any means short of actual violence. One such group, the Defenders of the Coyote, already includes more than a hundred college and high school students as well as businessmen and housewives.
In the long run, some coyote friends believe the only answer is to make a pet out of him ; and there has been signal success
in this regard, the coyote’s charm and loyalty overcoming all difficulties. Others believe that the answer is to meet the coyote halfway. Have him, in other words, as he is, half pet and half wild. One who believes this is Los Angeles’ Gerald Coward, a man who, on a lonely walk up a canyon a few years ago, managed to make a lasting friend of a coyote. Every day for two and a half years, he walked up his canyon. And every day, for two and a half years, his coyote faithfully met him. All day they played and explored together, learning about each other ; and
then at the end of each day, they said good-bye. When the coyote mated, he even brought his companion to Coward at the same rendezvous. It was a remarkable period that existed until
the terrible Los Angeles fire ; when Mr. Coward saw his
coyote no more. “The coyote,” he said, “is the greatest animal