A day or so ago a coyote kept staring at me.
He looked like a skinny German shepherd dog with a big bushy tail.
He had a noble confidence about him.
The animals you meet most often in the desert, like rabbits, pocket mice and ground squirrels, get these scared looks on their faces whenever they see a human. They run away or else they freeze like statues and hide in plain sight. They understand the importance of not being seen. But not this coyote. This coyote had confidence and nobility. He looked at me without fear, and I thought he was beautiful.
In all the Native American legends, coyote is a trickster or the Wise One. He’s usually a mischievous prankster who doesn’t pay any attention to any rules. He’s smart, crafty, selfish and conceited. In the one and only Anglo legend about coyotes, he’s called “Wile E. Coyote.”
I never believed how really smart these animals are until I watched one cross Oracle Road. This is a big, six-lane highway with a 50 mph speed limit and a meridian. This crafty fellow took his time, looked both ways, and crossed with his head up in the air, as dignified as a Londoner on a Sunday morning.
Like so many desert creatures, coyote sleep in the day and come alive at night. They have this magnificent howl –it’s loud and extreme and pierces through the darkness like a terrible scream. And yes, sometimes they do look up and howl at the moon.
People used to think coyote eat only meat, but now we know that they eat anything they find: seeds, human trash, saguaro fruit, roadkill, and yes –roadrunners. Their only real enemies are mountain lions, wolves, and us. Maybe because they’re so smart and eat everything, coyote are not on the endangered species list. They are classified “least concern” which means they”re multiplying and thriving. They’re moving into big cities like Chicago and New York, and I think they’ll do just fine there.
If you see a coyote, I hope you take this advice from Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh and make his acquaintance.
One thing to remember is to talk to the animals.
If you do, they will talk back to you.
If you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.
– Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh (1899-1981)
If you want to watch a coyote howl and hear his nighttime sound, try this little video by KB Bear: