Friday, May 22, 2009


In contraposition to the mule deer, which I saw lots of in Utah growing up, but then have seen very few in California; I never saw a wild coyote in Utah and see them regularly in California.

As a boy in Utah, I do recall hearing coyotes howling in City Creek Canyon on an early morning walk toward Little Black with my cousin, Pat Barnes, and his Irish setter, Red. I was mesmerized by the haunting, eery, high pitched howl. I also recall seeing baby coyotes in a pen at a home near our ranch near Oakley. They were very cute and I harbored the desire for a long time to have a coyote as a pet.

At our home in Redlands, California, right off Live Oak Canyon, we hear them howling almost nightly. For several years I took an almost daily morning walk into the canyon (before the housing development took over). I saw them so often that it became almost routine. I became familiar with their trails. I saw them in bunches, including as many as five at a time. We often heard and still do hear, them in choruses, with an occasional soloist yip, yapping a different tune. In the summer, sleeping with our bedroom slider open, and only a screen, I have heard a chorus on the street beyond our backyard so loud that it has woken me up. And last year, for the first time, I watched a coyote wander from our front yard into our backyard and then down our hill.

I believe the first coyote we may have seen in California was on a Saturday morning trip in 1989 to Joshua Tree National Park. A car in front of us was stopped, then we saw the coyote and stopped, much like we used to do for bears in Yellowstone National Park. As bad park tourists, we tossed the coyote some Danish sweet roll. The kids named the coyote "Joshua."
Over the years in visiting Joshua Tree, we have come to view the coyote there much like the bear in Yellowstone. They are very tame and you usually see them. One afternoon, we were having a picnic lunch in the rocks in Hidden Valley and had several coyotes come so close we could almost touch them.

In August 1994, we camped in Round Valley with the Haws family on a Friday night and hiked to San Jacinto Peak the next day. Friday evening as we ate, we had coyotes strolling through camp. That evening we were treated to a chorus of coyote voices within 50 yards of our tents. We had more coyotes streaking through camp in the morning. See below.
Another Round Valley coyote.

The coyote below was nonchalantly hunting mice in a field across the street from our church on Wabash and Fifth Avenue in Redlands. It was fun to see it hop in the air and pounce on the mice, seemingly oblivious to our presence.

In March 1996, I took a group of young men to Corn Springs. Early in the morning, with Gregg Palmer, we went off some distance and hid in the rocks while Gregg used his predator call, the sound of a squealing rabbit, to try and call in some coyotes. I figured there was no chance any coyotes would respond, particularly with a group of about 10 antsy boys waiting in the rocks. I was completely shocked when, within about two minutes, two coyotes came running in. Gregg had his bow and shot one of the coyotes with an arrow. It looked mortally wounded, as it was bleeding heavily. See below.

We tracked it quite a ways, following the blood, but eventually lost the trail, after looking for several hours.

Lots of people are troubled by the coyotes wandering our streets at night, and sometimes even brazenly during the day, catching the occasional cat and small dog for a meal. We too, have lost a couple of cats, likely to coyotes (our outside cats learned to sleep in the protective sanctuary of our garage rafters at night). I personally love to have them nearby and view the loss of an occasional dog or cat as the price we pay for the privilege of having wild neighbors.

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