Coyotes

 

A coyote from some years back.

A coyote from some years back.

Fall and winter are the times of year when many outdoor pets disappear.  I’ve blogged on this before, too. ‘Teenaged’ coyotes, hungry (just like human teens!), bolder and less cautious will come closer to homes and people to grab food.  If there is pet food outside the house, coyotes will take it if they can. If you have small pets outside, even chained, they can be killed by coyotes.

This doesn’t make coyotes evil.  They are predators, a very necessary part of the food chain.  Look up ‘trophic cascade’. That is how preditors in a wild environment cause prey animals to keep moving in natural patterns.  Unthreatened, not only can prey animals reproduce to extremes, but also they will linger over feeding areas and eat plants down to the ground rather than trim them and move on.

Coyote pawprints by the pond where they stopped for a drink. Dog pawprints have nails; cat (mountain lion!) pawprints don't because their nails retract.

Coyote pawprints by the pond where they stopped for a drink. Dog pawprints have nails; cat (mountain lion!) pawprints don’t because their nails retract.

Coyotes are intelligent, loyal, family-oriented, playful animals.  They also make very scary sounds when howling and yipping in packs.  Coyotes are no threat to humans unless the coyotes are sick, or if a child comes close when a coyote is eating outdoor pet food and is frightened.

Now that our last dog, Sophie, has passed away, coyotes are jumping the five-foot chainlink fence nightly and hunting in our yard.  They have been unable to breach the Fowl Fortress (the hens are also locked into their coop within the FF for double protection).  Unfortunately on Halloween I let the hens out of the coop about 45 minutes before dark.  They had just gone under the Mock Pavilion, and I went into the FF to give Belle some of her special mash when there was a wild clucking.  A coyote had come close and grabbed Chickpea our Americauna, and they were gone.  My daughter saw it running away, and I dashed after, losing my slippers on the way, and hunted all over the neighbor’s yard but there was no sign of her. 7-10-13 M's camera 060

It was tramatizing, and I kick myself because I should have known better, even though I was just yards away and the hens had been released only minutes before.  It was a lucky chance for the coyote, who  must have already been in the yard but hidden by plants.  At least it was a quick death for our darling Chickpea.  It hurts us both that she is gone.  No more ‘outies’ for the girls, even with a hensitter.

The coyotes leave scat in our yard and we can tell what they’ve been eating.

Sorry.  Yes, it is coyote scat.  Notice the seeds.

Sorry. Yes, it is coyote scat. Notice the seeds.

Tiny seeds show that they were eating figs off of some volunteer fig trees down in the barranca.  Larger seeds and skin in the scat shows that they are eating the red Eugenia berries in our yard.  There is never much fur in the scat, so these omnivores have to scavenge to stay alive.

On the funny side, one day a few weeks ago I saw some fuzzy green thing in the yard.

A coyote-delivered squeaky toy.  It has since had its squeaker removed, and been slowly shredded by visiting coyotes.

A coyote-delivered squeaky toy. It has since had its squeaker removed, and been slowly shredded by visiting coyotes.

It turned out to be what looked like the center of a plush sunflower dog toy.  It squeaked.  It wasn’t ours.  Some young coyote found it in another yard, carried it over the fence and played with it down by our pond.  Over the next week it was moved around each night.  One morning I found it next to a veggie bed I’d recently planted.

Where is my snake??

Where is my snake??

Then I realized that the rubber snake I put down in the bed to discourage birds was gone!  My daughter and I looked everywhere for the snake, even for pieces of it, but it was gone!  Some neighbor is going to have a real bad moment one of these days when walking through their property and they come across my rubber snake.

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