Monday, October 24, 2011

Coyote Coincidences

On Saturday (10/22), I saw my first coyote in quite some time.* Up close and personal, he stood behind my car as I was leaving the office at 9:30 a.m. Big, beautiful, and apparently bold, he looked back at me from the rear-view mirror, then calmly ambled off to watch me from a different angle before disappearing in the brush along the creek. (Yes, our office location is really neat!)

The camera was there, but wildlife photographer I'm not, so it didn't cross my mind until later. We'll have to make do with my old illustration. Unfortunately, it also didn't occur to me to do more than quietly observe him!

If my haphazard blogging can be trusted, it's been almost three years since we've seen coyotes around the homestead, 3.5 since we've lost a cat to one, and only in April 2004, I think it was, did we lose chickens to them. With the cats we're never sure; they just disappear and we make assumptions. (But other possible culprits include great horned owls, foxes, and maybe even mountain lions.) The chicken event (15 chickens dead and dying in one afternoon) provided direct visual confirmation of the perpetrator.

But my sighting Saturday turned out to be timely. The day before, Cat Woman lost her cat and heard from a neighbor that there was a big coyote in her area. Putting one and one together, she found the sad evidence, confirming the cat's fate. In her rural area, residents routinely kill coyotes, so she didn't expect one; she worries more about mountain lions.

The week before, my sister—far down in the southwest corner of the state—also lost a cat. Suddenly, coyotes are back on my mind, and apparently, back in business.

Coyotes have had a lot of press lately in the Denver metro area; this recent article serves as an example of the concerns and the lethal response too often being applied locally. (Although, in California, one neighborhood is taking a less belligerent approach.)

They are truly our urban/suburban wild dog: we provide excellent habitat for them and have created a new breed of this canine with the wily reputation. Eons ago in grad school, I researched coyotes for a wildlife class, and learned that there was evidence that, when persecuted, coyotes produce larger litters, and also grow smarter, stronger, and faster. Killing them isn't necessarily going to help! Nature... vacuum... you get the drift.

With decreasing wild land for habitat, coyotes have been quick to learn to live with us. They have to—after all, we're everywhere these days! We have not been as quick to learn to live with them. Some people don't understand the concept of "wild" and insist on feeding whatever cute animals they see in parks or neighborhoods. That doesn't help, especially when dealing with medium-size predators.

Denver has posted lots of information online to help citizens learn appropriate behaviors toward wildlife in the city.** In the case of coyotes, active hazing programs are important to teach them appropriate behaviors toward humans. Now I have a better idea of what to do when I see one—for the coyote's sake!

More personal thoughts on living with predators over at Small Wonders.

Two more coincidences. * Actually my previous recent coyote sighting was when I flew back from Indiana, just a week before this sighting. Carl the Coyote was the whole 'nother animal that graced the tail of my Frontier jet.

** Thanks go out to Ashley DeLaup, wildlife specialist for the City of Denver, who created all that great material I linked to above and conducted educational programs for Denver's citizens. This fall, Ashley was laid off. Go figure.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

First Frost

May their seeds be safely scattered
As the annuals hang their heads
May the snakes all safely find their paths
Back to their winter beds.

May next year's buds be safely wrapped
In shrouds of green and brown
And watch from higher branches
As this year's leaves drift down.

With their fledglings safe about them
May birds find a southern home
May bears be fattened, safe in dens
As once more they cease to roam.

May scrub jays find they've safely stored
Enough ripe seeds away
To last them through the season
Til another bright spring day.

In the meadow on the mountain
Where the elk are bedded down
May the grass be always lush and deep
As they rest on mossy ground.

The hummingbirds have scattered
Before the cold front's blast
In Argentina's flow'ry fields
May they find safe food at last.

May the little frogs find safety
In deep mud and warm
In the pond amid the forest
May they winter without harm.

May lichens soften in the mist
And softening, turn to green
In dampened autumn weather
Their best days will be seen.

The aspen is a spendthrift
Dropping leaves of trembling gold
May its forests prosper likewise
As this year grows old.

May the bluestem on the hillside
Shining ever in the sun
Glowing red, embrace the frost
Minding not that summer's done.

May the big skunk in the henhouse
Stealing our eggs
Scuttle safely 'neath the coop
On short, fat, little legs.

May the stars again gleam brightly
Once clouds have cleared away
Orion's winter's in the sky
And Scorpio's gone to stay.

Autumn is upon us
Winter's icy breath we feel
May all beings greet the coming year
As again we turn the wheel

May all here on the homestead
Prepare to do their parts
To welcome winter's shelt'ring snow
Holding summer in their hearts.

The Coming Post

Yes, there will be another post. As of this morning, it looks to be coming soon. My absence here has not been a dearth of things to write about, not even a spidearth. Perhaps we can attribute it rather to an EXCESS of things to write about. Much to say, little time to say it. Or, as another blogger tells me "time, discipline, and motivation." Or we could blame it on the tablet, and free downloadable books. (I have 14 draft posts sitting out there in limbo, and 6 of them were created this year. Good grief!)

Tsk, tsk... an entire month without a post! There goes my 2011 record. I've failed to announce the latest Berry-Go-Round, and even the one before that! September's edition of the plant carnival was posted at A DC Birding Blog (yes, plants and birds are related), and August's was nicely handled by Dave at Osage Orange.

Osage Orange tells me October 6 was Poetry Day. Well, missed it by a couple. By way of explanation, the coming post is part Irish blessing, part catalog of the summer's experiences and encounters, a quick review of all the things I'll probably never get around to blogging about. But wish I would...

Today, this morning, frost is creeping up on us, and there's this weird white stuff in the air. We're perched on our usual line between places that only get wet and places that get actual accumulations. No wonder I'm blogging; I always seem to be motivated by that weird white stuff. Because of the weather, I'm finding myself in a reflective mood, perhaps almost a depressive one. It's not a cheery day out there or in here, but after many many many perfect bright-blue 80-degree Colorado days, we're due for a change.

Back soon! Promise!