Coyote Settles the South

The poet and environmental writer John Lane is captivated by the mystery that is coyotes, he expresses this by recording his observations and interactions.


| September 2017



John Lane

Author John Lane of the book Coyote Settles the South.

Photo by The University of Georgia Press

Coyote Settles the South (The University of Georgia Press, 2016), by John Lane is a personal story and real life observation. Traveling through the South of the United States, Lane begins to understand the perplexing animal that is the coyote.  

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Prologue: Redemption Song

The coyote is a coyote anywhere you find him.

—J. Frank Dobie

We first heard them behind our house in upcountry South Carolina on a warm Halloween night after we thought the trick-or-treaters had passed. My wife, Betsy, looked up from reading and said, “It sounds like the hounds from hell out there.”

JulieMcKay
12/9/2017 2:50:18 PM

I live in a semi-rural area of Central Virginia. I had heard that coyotes had been sighted in areas nearby, but not in our area. Around the end of the Summer, our two normally sedate and sane indoor 9-year-old indoor cats began acting really freaky. They were like two war veterans with PTSD: one became extremely fearful and hid all the time, and her sister alternated between being hyper-vigilant, camping out by windows incessantly, night & day, and hiding in her litter box or anywhere she felt she & her scent were hidden. Nothing in our neighborhood or our environment had changed, so we were totally flummoxed. A medical issue might cause such behavior to suddenly surface in one cat, but both? Highly unlikely. After a week or so of watching their behavior & a little google-fu, I theorized that coyotes had come to our neighborhood. A news article cited a rare coyote attack on a human at the other end of the county a few years back. (The coyote was rabid, but rabies in foxes & skunks is not uncommon, so its having spread to some coyotes would make sense.) My husband scoffed at my theory, only to have if definitively confirmed by our neighbor within the week. Coyotes had been seen three times in our immediate area recently; one had been trapped and shot (legal in VA as they are considered a “nuisance species) right down the street from us. We also learned from the same neighbor that a bobcat has been seen in the nearby woods. We have yet to actually see or hear the coyotes, but it’s quite clear our kitties are acutely aware an apex predator has moved into their ‘hood. (And several hundred dollars in vet visits later, we now know the only effect of Prozac is to make them resent us for giving it to them, and eat a lot.) I have mixed feelings about the arrival of these critters, their negative impact on my life aside. These are not the small coyotes from the southwest: as they have migrated eastward, they have crossbred with both wolves and domestic dogs, making them much larger, and therefore more dangerous to pets & small children. I personally feel both dogs & cats live longer lives if not allowed to roam free. Unfortunately even a six foot privacy fence is not a barrier to a large hungry coyote- they are proficient climbers, and (like raccoons) have lost enough of their natural shyness to have begun rummaging through garbage for food. But, on the other hand, Central-Eastern VA has been a perfect example of how nature can get out of balance without apex predators: many areas are so overpopulated with deer that car accidents are extremely common, and in some situations (like gated communities) the deer get extremely overpopulated, and it becomes a serious problem both for the health of the deer and the safety & sanity of the humans. The addition of apex predators back into the biome would seem an easy solution. Ironically, I suspect what has pushed the coyotes toward our particular neighborhood is the recent clearing of a huge tract of woodlands- to build a huge solar farm! Sometimes you can’t win, no matter which way you turn....


JulieMcKay
12/9/2017 2:50:14 PM

I live in a semi-rural area of Central Virginia. I had heard that coyotes had been sighted in areas nearby, but not in our area. Around the end of the Summer, our two normally sedate and sane indoor 9-year-old indoor cats began acting really freaky. They were like two war veterans with PTSD: one became extremely fearful and hid all the time, and her sister alternated between being hyper-vigilant, camping out by windows incessantly, night & day, and hiding in her litter box or anywhere she felt she & her scent were hidden. Nothing in our neighborhood or our environment had changed, so we were totally flummoxed. A medical issue might cause such behavior to suddenly surface in one cat, but both? Highly unlikely. After a week or so of watching their behavior & a little google-fu, I theorized that coyotes had come to our neighborhood. A news article cited a rare coyote attack on a human at the other end of the county a few years back. (The coyote was rabid, but rabies in foxes & skunks is not uncommon, so its having spread to some coyotes would make sense.) My husband scoffed at my theory, only to have if definitively confirmed by our neighbor within the week. Coyotes had been seen three times in our immediate area recently; one had been trapped and shot (legal in VA as they are considered a “nuisance species) right down the street from us. We also learned from the same neighbor that a bobcat has been seen in the nearby woods. We have yet to actually see or hear the coyotes, but it’s quite clear our kitties are acutely aware an apex predator has moved into their ‘hood. (And several hundred dollars in vet visits later, we now know the only effect of Prozac is to make them resent us for giving it to them, and eat a lot.) I have mixed feelings about the arrival of these critters, their negative impact on my life aside. These are not the small coyotes from the southwest: as they have migrated eastward, they have crossbred with both wolves and domestic dogs, making them much larger, and therefore more dangerous to pets & small children. I personally feel both dogs & cats live longer lives if not allowed to roam free. Unfortunately even a six foot privacy fence is not a barrier to a large hungry coyote- they are proficient climbers, and (like raccoons) have lost enough of their natural shyness to have begun rummaging through garbage for food. But, on the other hand, Central-Eastern VA has been a perfect example of how nature can get out of balance without apex predators: many areas are so overpopulated with deer that car accidents are extremely common, and in some situations (like gated communities) the deer get extremely overpopulated, and it becomes a serious problem both for the health of the deer and the safety & sanity of the humans. The addition of apex predators back into the biome would seem an easy solution. Ironically, I suspect what has pushed the coyotes toward our particular neighborhood is the recent clearing of a huge tract of woodlands- to build a huge solar farm! Sometimes you can’t win, no matter which way you turn....


JulieMcKay
12/9/2017 2:50:11 PM

I live in a semi-rural area of Central Virginia. I had heard that coyotes had been sighted in areas nearby, but not in our area. Around the end of the Summer, our two normally sedate and sane indoor 9-year-old indoor cats began acting really freaky. They were like two war veterans with PTSD: one became extremely fearful and hid all the time, and her sister alternated between being hyper-vigilant, camping out by windows incessantly, night & day, and hiding in her litter box or anywhere she felt she & her scent were hidden. Nothing in our neighborhood or our environment had changed, so we were totally flummoxed. A medical issue might cause such behavior to suddenly surface in one cat, but both? Highly unlikely. After a week or so of watching their behavior & a little google-fu, I theorized that coyotes had come to our neighborhood. A news article cited a rare coyote attack on a human at the other end of the county a few years back. (The coyote was rabid, but rabies in foxes & skunks is not uncommon, so its having spread to some coyotes would make sense.) My husband scoffed at my theory, only to have if definitively confirmed by our neighbor within the week. Coyotes had been seen three times in our immediate area recently; one had been trapped and shot (legal in VA as they are considered a “nuisance species) right down the street from us. We also learned from the same neighbor that a bobcat has been seen in the nearby woods. We have yet to actually see or hear the coyotes, but it’s quite clear our kitties are acutely aware an apex predator has moved into their ‘hood. (And several hundred dollars in vet visits later, we now know the only effect of Prozac is to make them resent us for giving it to them, and eat a lot.) I have mixed feelings about the arrival of these critters, their negative impact on my life aside. These are not the small coyotes from the southwest: as they have migrated eastward, they have crossbred with both wolves and domestic dogs, making them much larger, and therefore more dangerous to pets & small children. I personally feel both dogs & cats live longer lives if not allowed to roam free. Unfortunately even a six foot privacy fence is not a barrier to a large hungry coyote- they are proficient climbers, and (like raccoons) have lost enough of their natural shyness to have begun rummaging through garbage for food. But, on the other hand, Central-Eastern VA has been a perfect example of how nature can get out of balance without apex predators: many areas are so overpopulated with deer that car accidents are extremely common, and in some situations (like gated communities) the deer get extremely overpopulated, and it becomes a serious problem both for the health of the deer and the safety & sanity of the humans. The addition of apex predators back into the biome would seem an easy solution. Ironically, I suspect what has pushed the coyotes toward our particular neighborhood is the recent clearing of a huge tract of woodlands- to build a huge solar farm! Sometimes you can’t win, no matter which way you turn....


info
11/19/2017 12:23:48 PM

I can't imagine living without coyotes-- the world would seem empty without them. Lucky me, God's dogs and I cross paths often. https://www.azpm.org/s/37112-the-art-of-paying-attention-coyote/


andrea in montreal
11/17/2017 9:54:35 AM

Loved your article. Time to reflect on our relations with our "wild neighbours"


andreapmorrison
11/17/2017 9:54:32 AM

Loved it.