Every evening, the local coyotes that inhabit my off grid neighborhood break into song. I like to think they are singing about something, sharing stories, letting the world know of their joy. Listening to the coyotes sing----their yip, yipping---is comforting to me. An exhilarating comforting experience, a simple pleasure, much like listening to the pitter of rain on my tin roof or watching the flames (and feeling the heat) from my woodstove.I sometimes capture one or two of them on my trail camera that I set up on this ridge. Handsome critters, always caught during the night. They are incredibly smart animals. Once on a hike, a coyote ran in front of me and my dogs, taunting us, making the dogs give chase. While chasing after the dogs (and the coyote), I looked over my shoulder, only to see another coyote slouching away, protecting their den and pups. We were too close to their home so a diversion had to be created. It worked.
As long as we don’t raise chickens, the coyotes mostly leave us alone, content to do their job of keeping the rodent population down in this semi-wild community. An important task, what with the hanta virus and bubonic plague making a comeback. They are welcome neighbors. Beneficial.
A neighbor raises goats. She has guard dogs that protect the herd. She hasn’t lost any goats to the resident coyotes. There is a gentle balance of wild and domestic here in these woods. Co-existence.It is hard to believe that anyone would kill coyotes for the sport of it. For pleasure. That “killing contests” would still exist in this modern age. It is hard to believe that contests that gave extra points for killing pregnant female coyotes would be an acceptable part of our culture. Nor would anybody believe that a killing contest would be a reasonable management tool for ranchers. I wrote a story once about such a contest. I traveled to Adin, California where hunters hid their mass kill from my prying eyes.
Last week the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4 to 1 to end such killing contests. Once again, just like the mountain lion hunting ban that passed by citizen initiative back in 1990, California is leading the nation. We are rethinking our relationship to predators. And we are a better state for doing so.
When the coyotes in my neighborhood sang for me that night after the ban was established, I like to think they did so in celebration of the Game Commission’s ban. And to share that joy, I howl with them.