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Living happily with coyotes.


I was amused by your September/October coyote story (Wild GRIT, "Coexisting with Coyotes"). Here in southern Idaho, our populations of large carnivores--wolves, bears and cats--are increasing rapidly.

Gray wolves and grizzlies have done so well that federal managers are removing them from the endangered list. Black bears and cougars are often seen in Boise, Idaho's capital, and coyotes (we say cay-yoot-ays) sing nightly in every community.

The big predators are thrilling to see, but coyotes symbolize the spirit of the West. Their personae of rugged individualism and indefatigability define the best of the cowboy spirit. Despite what civilization has thrown at them, coyotes thrive where other species are failing.

A hundred years ago, Western homesteaders removed the big carnivores. The new West with canals, roadways and hedge rows extended rodent and bird habitat. The adaptable coyote capitalized on these new niches and flourished.

Coyotes also do well on the sagebrush-covered deserts, but these desert dogs are dependent on the cyclic nature of their natural prey--jack rabbits.

On our ranch, we have two dens of the grey desert ghosts. They seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear as quickly. We seldom see them in the summer, as crops and weeds are easy avenues of escape.

Through the winter, they hunt mice nearly continuously in the harvested fields. It is comical to watch a mama coyote poke her nose into a mouse hole, snuff air into the tunnel, lift her head attentively to listen and then pounce.

The mouse thinks the coyote is in the tunnel and escapes, only to be caught by the coyote's trick. I guess it isn't comical for the mouse, but from a distance these hunters appear silly as they leap stiff-legged in their ancient mouse-hunting dance.


Shoshone, Idaho

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Title Annotation:Mail Call
Author:Tews, Rusty
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2008
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