And the Coyotes Howl


Today was clear and wintery, a light coating of ice skimmed the pond and the ground was hard underneath Zelda’s hooves. The last of the geese stood on the thin film of ice, threatening to erupt into a whirling dervish of wings and honking, but managed to stay quiet, huddled together while we passed.

Later, when I returned to feed, the night air cut sharp but still. A tiny sliver of moon and millions of stars bright against the night sky. The song of a coyote pierced the night, punctuated with staccato yips, yaps, and barks. The notes were thin and musical, floating through the air. Unlike the call of the barred owl, who I often hear at dusk, this had a higher pitch, a more varied melody.

I stood and listened for awhile which the horses munched on their hay. To them, the song was not unusual. It didn’t strike them as eerily beautiful. The coyotes walk through their pasture frequently and without disturbance. One has been known to wait by Freedom’s feed pan, presumably to nab the bold chipmunks who steel mouthfuls of grain.

But to my ears, the call of the coyote is another reminder that in this suburban setting, the wildness is just beyond sight, waiting out in the darkness. Of course, coyote’s no longer just inhabit the wilderness. Several have been apprehended in New York, with three caught in Central Park in the past few years. Many live in San Francisco’s park system (although they are smaller than our Eastern coyotes) and more than 4,000 coyotes purportedly live in Chicago.

We occasionally see them behind our house, but I’ve never heard them call in  our woods. More often I see foxes than their larger cousins. How about you? Do you come across coyote where you live and ride?

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5 thoughts on “And the Coyotes Howl

  1. Here in Denmark the talk of the fields and woods are about the invasive raccoon dog. These 40lb dogs have established on mainland Jutland from China and Russia. They eat everything small and slow and are becoming a big problem. With each litter of puppies counting up to eleven and no one above them in the food chain other than the gray wolf, they spread real fast.
    In the spring we found three dead once in our hayfield ( not good), and if the winter turns out to be heavy, we will likely find more.
    We do have golden and red fox as well as wolfs in some part, but we never see them. Enjoy the wild

  2. Oh, yes, indeed, we have coyotes. I love hearing them at night, although some folks don’t see it my way. An English friend of mine once referred to their calls as ‘hideous cries’. She just didn’t appreciate that here in the US, we still have predators and wildlife.

    I’m certain you know that coyotes, unlike wolves, do not form packs. A mated pair will raise a litter of cubs every year and then kick the kids out of the family territory in the fall to find their own territories and mates.
    They provide some very valuable services, like killing rats, and I like them.

    From the 1920s on to almost the 60’s, raccoon dogs were released in western Russia with the intent to establish a new species to trap for their fur. But their fur is worthless (and personally, I think it unethical to wear the fur of ANY wild animal). Thus the success of the raccoon dogs can be attributed (or blame laid, if that’s your feeling) directly on the Russians. As as you note, they’ve become established throughout Europe. They’re also the only canid that hibernates…although, with lots of food available and warmer winters, I bet they don’t hibernate as often.
    If wolves are re-established in Europe (I hear the Germans are really contemplating it) they will take care of the raccoon dogs, just as gray wolves control coyote populations here in the US.

    1. The coyotes near me are looking more and more like wolves. Last year a female had a den near one of the riding trails. She bit several off leash dogs that came too close. I came across her standing in the middle of the trail looking, well, huge. I was riding Zelda, who basically had the attitude of, “that’s the big dog that lives down the hill”, but I decided to go the long way home and not challenge her.

      The racoon dogs are very odd. I’d never heard of them until Anders mentioned them. They do look like raccoons. As for wolves in Europe? My aunt as a Cashmere goat farm in Italy. She was losing so many goats to wolves that she started breeding Livestock Guardian Dogs. The wolves don’t bother her flock any more.

  3. That’s interesting! I’ve heard a lot about dogs…and other animals…that protect their home and flocks from wolves. For instance, here in the “West”, some goat/sheep owners keep a donkey in with their herds. Apparently donkeys don’t take no shit from wolves…
    I’ve also heard of folks using llamas!
    There’s a breed of dog called a Tibetan mastiff…they are ENORMOUS…that were bred by the Mongolians specifically to protect their herds from wolves. The problem is they are can also be so overprotective that they harm people.
    I think, if I needed one, I’d use an Anatolian Shepherd for protecting my livestock. However, I don’t have any livestock so!

    I am not surprised that your E. coyotes are getting bigger. When an apex predator…(such as the wolf, who (as in Yellowstone), considers the coyote a competitor and will readily kill them) is vacant from the ecosystem, the next ‘guy’ in line, so to speak, steps up. THus your coyotes are 1. now the apex predator as there are no wolves, 2. have ample food, habitat and room to spread. The larger a predator, the better it is at taking down large prey, such as deer. I know you have a ton of deer out there, and I’m betting my boots the coyotes are responding by growing larger in order to take them down.
    Just make sure your dogs, cats, and horses!are vaccinated for rabies. While coyotes usually don’t contract it, they ARE a mammal and a canine, so there’s always that possibility of rabies. The most common carriers of rabies are raccoons, possums and bats.

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