Coyote pretty and ugly – Jason Hawkins

Jason Hawkins
Jason Hawkins

I saw the dead coyote on Sunday morning. It was not the first coyote I had seen dead, along this landscape.

Beside the road is about an acre of briars and brush, and I suspect there are rabbits and rats and nesting birds here, good table fare for a coyote.

I suspect from Sunday morning until the following afternoon, several hundred vehicles passed the carcass of this animal. Twenty years ago, many might have dismissed this as a dog. Yet, the color of the coat and the bushy tail are distinguishable signs of a coyote, and so this must be the reason I saw a vehicle parked nearby, two days later.

On approach, I could see three people standing near the coyote. There is a school nearby, and I assumed that the sight of the dead coyote was most likely an unexpected educational moment of observation.

The woman and two kids were examining the animal from about five feet away. I could see her pointing, and I could see the bold and big eyes of one of the kids. Certainly, any of a thousand questions could have been asked and even more likely, as many character traits of this coyote assessed. As I observed those observing, I thought how this meeting of curiosity and education was a great example of how the outdoors provides unexpected opportunities to experience the world around us

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I write this as we outdoors enthusiasts are in somewhat of a lull of seasons. The calendar says winter, and yet bass are being caught and trees are blooming. Perhaps we need to reassess this whole groundhog’s shadow ritual.

Yet even at this time of year, these weeks represent a great time to soak in aspects of nature and the outdoors that have nothing to do with hunting or fishing. On this day, three humans demonstrated to the several hundred others passing by that there is value in stopping to look.

In recent days, coyote sightings in Hillsborough have generated great discussion about fear, management, acceptance and co-existing. From a downtown perspective, all of this sounds great; the impact of coyotes on the downtown ecosystem is different than in the rural landscape where hunting game is part of many generational ecosystems. Hunters report decreasing deer populations. Rabbit and turkey appear to have declined, too. Though we do not know for certain, the impact of coyotes can’t be ignored.

Certainly, we humans will never solve all our “problems” with nature. We can live in fear, within walls and Wi-Fi. We can live in vigilante-mode. We can live in denial, too.

Co-existing in an urban setting sounds reasonable, at least until the palate of the coyote is sated on small pets and a kid reports a strange-looking dog lingering by the park.

For me, coyotes are an issue that affects people in different ways, and when the opportunity presents to stop and look, then we should do this.

How a landowner or farmer or hunter interprets the threat of coyotes is different than the downtown townhome owner. On this day, three curious humans took the opportunity to observe. We will never know all the answers. Yet, from nature we should exercise all opportunities to learn.

Enjoy your time outdoors.

Jason Hawkins lives in Orange County. You can reach him at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com