Saturday, March 7, 2009
The area where we live is more than ten square miles surrounded by secondary town roads. One seasonal road, no snow plow service, cuts across these wilds. Human homes and a few working farms are scattered alongside of the town roads. Our land has not been farmed for decades. Wolves and mountain lions did live here when the first Europeans arrived. Local legend has both mountain lions and wolves still here. There are reports that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has released mountain lions in the area hoping for a self sustaining population. It is likely that the wolf lives on only in legend.
We acquired this land in 1994. Our initial activity focused on establishing a garden. Our second year here brought the garden bench. We were sitting on the bench following a days work when an Eastern Coyote crested the high meadow and started down the hill in our direction. The coyote quickly sensed our silent presence and retreated back to the high meadow. Shortly it reappeared moving forward while pressed to the ground. He gave us a good long look before disappearing. Subsequent coyote sightings have been rare. Coyotes simply avoid people.
Our most common contact with coyotes is at night. Their calls and howls sometimes fill the night air. Echoes from the hidden valley near the ridge multiply the howls. It can sound like we are surrounded by a very large group of scary animals. Literature describes the coyote as a solitary creature. Solitary creature and the night chorus seem contradictory to me.
Admiration has to be a response to the adaptability of the coyote. Not all wild animals can flourish adjacent to man's activities. A coyote will eat a grasshopper or the grass it hops in as well as the deer mouse or a deer. A willingness to eat almost anything makes it unlikely that one would ever meet a hungry coyote. In reality the likelihood of a hostile encounter with a coyote is extremely small.