Monday, August 29, 2011
These are not my best photos, but they are what's in the camera this week -- an opportunity caught from my doorway in all its fuzzy glory.
The amount of livestock and ranched fowl lost to coyotes across America is estimated at 10-20%. I haven't seen figures for numbers of pets lost to them.
We have packs of coyotes around us. Their yip-yip-yipping howl is part of the night. They are the primary reason I make sure to lock the chicken coop at dusk and bring the ducks into the backyard. They are the reason I closed up the barn at night until the filly Bonita was old enough and big enough to join the rest of the herd. It's at night the packs hunt.
It's during the day that they'll catch you by surprise. Rogue males, young adults forced out of their pack by the alpha male, roam by day, looking for lunch. Some years there seems to be a lot of rogues, some years hardly any at all. There were a few years when my coworkers got quite used to me shouting "Coyote!" during a conference call and rushing off to chase one away.
Sometimes I'd see the coyote come up nearly to my porch, hunting for the free-ranging chickens that hang out under it. Sometimes I'd hear the loud fussing of the guineas and know there was something afoot that shouldn't be. Sometimes the dogs would see it first and I couldn't hear anything else but their anxious cries.
I lost a few chickens that way. But I also had a few saved though the dogs' heroic efforts. While I would NEVER send the dogs after more than a single coyote (and I NEVER let them roam at night), when they do chase a coyote, the unencumbered coyote has enough of a headstart to easily outrun the dogs. Occasionally, though, the coyote may need to drop a chicken to be able to run fast enough.
The flock leaders -- the first and second in command -- are quite brave roosters. Both have been carried off by coyotes and lived to tell the tale. I have no doubt Big Red, the standard-size roo, reminds the ladies of his exploits every chance he gets. Scooter, the little bantam roo, is more modest, but even the standard-size hens seemed to admire him a bit more once he showed them the scar left by his encounter.
I snapped the guy you see at the top of the post and below in the early morning as he wandered through before the chickens had been let out and while the outside cat was safe under the porch. The horses were unruffled and even the coyote didn't take my shouts for him to move on very seriously. He'd trot on a bit, then stop and look back at me. Once he was far enough way, I sent the dogs after him. A warning only because I time it so neither the dogs nor the coyotes will be cornered into any fights.
If I didn't have vulnerable ducks and chickens and guineas, I'd be much more tolerant of having coyotes around. I like coyotes. I don't begrudge the fact they're trying to live just like the rest of us and that it's getting harder and harder for them to eke out a living the more we encroach upon their habitat. When I hear the occasional rifle shot in the pre-dawn hours, though, I realize not everyone feels the same.
I don't know what the answer is out here on a neighbor-wide scale much less a county-wide or state-wide one. All I know is that we have to all figure out how to live together somehow. And be understanding when nature does as nature will.