Moving back in with family is always exciting! You get to see them constantly after years of separation, you get to re-learn everything you knew how to use in high school (the microwave), you get to remember all the things to avoid (certain subjects, some kinds of food) , but mainly you get to experience their daily life, daily.
Part of this daily life in my parent’s neighborhood is coyotes and bunnies….lots of bunnies.
We found a baby bunny hiding beside a neighbor’s rock wall this past summer. Adorable!
Anyway back to the coyotes. My parent’s do not live in the country, they live in the city, in a version of suburbs, but a more open version of a suburb. Right beside a reservoir. Which translates to, urban yet open. There are walking trails and lots of prairie grasses, it is all very nice and pretty and a little bit of a break from the usually urban housing. However, urban yet open does = coyotes. They thrive in this environment, as fellow omnivores without any overbearing predators coming after them (it used to be wolves, but they left when we got rid of all the trees and evaded their ecosystem), there are plenty of bunnies to eat, as well as family pets, foxes, trash, litter, gardens, etc.
Coyotes aren’t bad though and they are not a problem, they are just a new part of suburban living, as are many animals that live in the city that people never see. Coyotes though, can be a little intimidating, what with their packs and teeth and howling. Especially their howling, which brings me to why we learned about coyotes. Every night Snug would wake up horrified because of the coyotes howling. We would sooth her back to sleep and the next day all she could talk about was coyotes. As a three-year old, she of course came up with suggestions to help her through her fear of coyotes, “if I sleep with this stuffed animal I am sure the coyotes won’t wake me up” or “I think I will yell BOO out the window and scare those coyotes away”. Things like that. Mainly boo, she would say it so aggressively too, “I have to SCARE those coyotes, so they are quiet.” I posed to her, the idea of learning more about coyotes and why they make so much noise at night. She thought it would be a good idea, so off we set to find out more about coyotes and find a way to make them less scary for all of us.
(I was getting a little nervous also, I had to walk the dogs. There was also a time in college I came home for a visit, exceptionally late, 3am, and stepped out of my car to see a pair of gleaming eyes starring at me from the backyard, I panicked and ran for the front door. Nothing happened of course, but still).
Here are the books we found!
Coyotes in the crosswalk- true tales of animal life in the wilds—of the city! by Daine Swanson.
Coyote: North America’s dog by Stephen R. Swinburne.
On the Trail of Colorado Critters by Wendy Shattil and Bob Rozinski.
Coyotes by Sherie Winner
(I am sorry I do not know what the middle book on the right is, I apologize, for some reason this theme I took awful pictures and didn’t write anything down).
Coyotes by Diane Swanson
Coyote raid in Cactus Canyon by Jim Arnosky- Peaceful Cactus canyon gets a rude interruption when a group of boisterous coyotes pass through. Simple story, with a good introduction to a multitude of animals you can find in canyon/desert type areas.
Isabel and the Hungry Coyote by Keith Polette- A southwest version of little red riding hood. Adorable! One of my favorites.
Maii and Cousin Horned Toad: A traditional Navajo Story by Shonto Begay- Lazy coyote has been free-loading all of his relatives but things change when he gets to his cousin horned toad’s farm. Good, Snug and I liked it okay.
Coyote Steals the Blanket (Ute Tales) by Janet Stevens- Some coyotes never learn to leave the enchanted rocks’ blankets alone. This is no different. A very fun story, Snug and I really liked it.
The three little Javelinas by Susan Lowell- A southwest version of ‘the three little pigs’, this adorable, fun tale has a different sort of pig and a coyote instead of a wolf. It is a fantastic book.
Harley by Star Livingstone- A farmer takes a risk in getting a llama to protect his sheep herd from coyotes, it takes a little bit, but Harley proves himself more than worthy of the task. I really liked this one, Snug thought it was okay, but this did a great job exemplifying the issues how farmers can protect their livestock without taking too harsh of action on the surrounding environment. Of course I told snug that, but not in those same words.
For the next part of our theme we went to a local nature center to learn more about coyotes. They have a great display and another book.
Here we could see up close what a coyote looks like and the size of him.
We also got to talk about their teeth. The different kinds they have which helps in their diet. Sharp ones up front for meat and duller ones in back for everything else.
Snug had a good time looking at the skull and checking out the taxidermied version. Most importantly though, she got to understand them and started to be a little less afraid.
Here is the book they had, it is great and huge. We read a couple of times, it has real, useful information complied about coyotes. My favorite part;
This page. Things you should do when you meet a coyote. Not if, when. We reviewed this page many times. I did meet a coyote a few months after this and while I remembered all the tips, I didn’t need to use any of them. Thankfully the coyote was alone, walking on the sidewalk, (apparently we have the good mannered more proper breed of coyotes) and even more thankfully my dogs had no idea what they were looking at and both stopped and turned their heads in confusion. The coyote and I looked at each other and agreed, before my silly dogs could figure out what he/she was we should just go. So the coyote turned and walked away and I did the same, my dogs still wondering what that thing was. We had literally been less than 20 feet from each other. I am glad he didn’t have friends with him.
This is about it from coyote week. There are some more things that I wish I would have done; coloring pages, cutting out an environment example of a coyote or all of their food options, busy work, etc. However, I think Snug got all she needed to from this theme. While she may not exactly remember how to “haze” a coyote, she is a little less intimidated by them. Enough so that after this theme she stopped getting so upset about the coyotes howling. They still wake her occasionally, but she can go back to sleep on her own. She doesn’t like them enough that she would go up to one to make friends though.
So why do coyotes howl?
Many reasons for different howls, but mainly for communication. A family member can call to his pack after hunting to get everyone together again. One pack can howl at another to intimidate and set boundaries. It can, trust mean, happen at any time of the day, coyotes do not just howl at the moon. Actually they may not ever be howling at the moon. Coyotes also yip, yep, yap, make shrill calls and the pups have the cutest little singing voices I have ever heard.
Coyotes Howling At the Moon.
Above is a link to a video that I “made” one night when the coyotes were particularly exuberant.