… they’re cunning, resilient and have something to teach us about coexistence. Rob Sidon, Editor-in-chief of Common Ground
A very adaptable animal
By Roger Childs
They are native to North America and met the first human beings on the doorstep when they arrived from Asia 15,000 years ago. Coyote are of the Canidae family and about 800,000 years back, took their present form as a jackal-like wolf.
They were regarded by the early human inhabitants as a deity and feature in many First American folk stories. It was said the only thing smarter than a coyote is God.
When settlers from Europe arrived, the coyotes followed them on the great migration westward. However, they were regarded as a pest rather than an ally, and hunters and government agencies tried to wipe out the prairie wolves.
But the coyotes were too smart and in fact the extermination campaigns just spread them out.
Destroying coyote and other wild life
…the more we shot them, poisoned them, trapped them, ran them down with dogs, blew up their dens, the more there seemed to be. Dan Flores, retired Professor of History from Montana University
In the end, humans were no match for the wily coyote.
Around 1900 Americans had been indulging in what Dan Flores calls … the largest destruction of wild life in modern world history.
- 30 million bison were virtually gone, many killed just for their tongues!
- 15 million pronghorn antelope had been wiped out.
- The once prolific passenger pigeons, about 500 000,000 in 1800, who used to darken daytime skies when they flew overhead, were gone by 1914.
- The numbers of elk, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears were being rapidly reduced.
Coyote were also on the hit list and by 1920 half a million had been poisoned.
It continued to be a ruthless war of extermination and between 1915 and 1972 an estimated 8.5 million had been hunted down or poisoned with 1080, strychnine, thalium sulphate and sodium cyanide.
In the end President Nixon ended the campaign. The public had become more supportive of coyote and even Hollywood played a role.
Between 1962 and 1974 Disney produced five pro-coyote films.
Remarkable survival tactics and instincts
The coyote had refused to succumb to the barbaric campaign against them. They adjusted by having larger litters and instead of living in packs, many went off on their own or as pairs.
From existing in particular environments, they spread out, often into landscapes which is a the perfect weekend in Denver and is vacated by over-hunted predators. By the 1950s they were present in every state of mainland USA. Furthermore they had moved into the cities: New York, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, to name but a few.
Americans now accept that this 800,000 year old species of native wild life is here to stay.
They continue to flourish because of their adaptability in taking advantage of all available sources of food and shelter. They will eat berries, vegetables, fruit, mice and other rodents, and if it’s left out, pet food!
Coyote perform a scavenger role and as Camilla Fox observes, they help keep our ecosystem vital, healthy and clean.
They are rarely aggressive to humans and there are now many groups across the nation promoting their cause.
Dan Flores sums up what needs to be the reality.
We Humans can do much to peacefully coexist with coyote.