Mount Washington's Close Encounters of the Coyote Kind

The author and the "living, breathing allegory of Want" warily share the Hill.

In Roughing It, Mark Twain describes the coyote as a "long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton" that is "a living, breathing, allegory of Want.  He is always hungry."

As by Andrea C. Quezada and confirmed by pet and nature-loving Mount Washingtonians, proliferating coyotes are bolder than ever before, with Fido and Fluffy high on the list of the critters’ preferred Scooby Snacks.  (Neighbor Steve’s photos at right show the predators’ more common fare … and messy leisure pursuits.)

In my neck of the Hill, there seem to be as many coyotes on the streets as cars. They've been yipping and yowling all night in the canyon behind us, loping mid-morning down the middle of Canyon Vista Drive, short-cutting street to street (We’ve deemed the unfenced property down the hill “Coyote Alley”) and nosing around back yards for potential noshing.  The latter activity is of special concern to the who is a fierce protector of home and hearth … as long as he’s protected.

For all his manic guardianship while safely ensconced on our balcony, the SBD is basically a wuss.

During a recent night walk, a coyote suddenly darted out into the street in front of us, pursuing what looked like two scurrying furballs.  (Baby possums?  Toddler raccoons?  Nursery schooler hedgehogs?)  The scrimmage that ensued was a Loony Tunes tussle come to life, complete with yowls, leaves and twigs flying from shaking bushes and thumps and bumps as prey and predator tangled atop a Toyota Prius.

My furry, faux-ferocious protector, who has been known to bark at flies, watched the quivering vegetation, wide-eyed, then high-tailed it with me up the hill and away from the brouhaha as fast as our short legs could carry us, dragging me winded and wheezing behind him.

One morning, the Small Black Dog and I took a walk on country-lane-rustic Frontenac.  The SBD had scampered ahead off-leash when I happened to look up the hill and saw a mature coyote watching us.  The coyote looked at me, then the SBD, then me, then the SBD.  I don’t know if he was evaluating us as threats or treats or a threat and a treat--me as a threat to his enjoyment of the Small Black Dog as treat.  I finally waved and shouted at the coyote who meandered up the slope, looking more uninterested than disappointed.

I’ve mentioned the encounter elsewhere in this column; I found it oddly intense.  This time around, the point is that instead of chasing away or even confronting the threat to his (hopefully) beloved mistress, the Small Black Dog went on happily sniffing poop, unaware that the two of us were potential pre-lunch munchies for a living, breathing allegory of Want.

In still another wild thing encounter, my friend Connie and I were perambulating around the ‘hood when we ran into a sleek teen coyote in a cul-de-sac.   By the time we realized he was there, we were only a few feet away.    I was fascinated, Connie was nervous, the coyote seemed bored.  Naturally, I was sans walking stick, so any skirmish would have been over in seconds.  Coyote: 2 -- Kim and Connie: 0.

Luckily, like the Frontenac story above, this encounter has a happy ending--at least for us humans.  Connie clapped her hands loudly and said “shoo."  The coyote didn't exactly roll his eyes, but like his adolescent human counterparts, managed to convey bored disdain before wandering off, letting us know that basically, we weren’t the boss of him and he was leaving because he wanted to, man….

Here’s looking at you, Coyote.

Kim Axelrod Ohanneson June 25, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Yep, that seems to be a prime coyote party time, Beth. I wonder if this is the same pack that was whooping it up in the Colina Alley Canyon or one pack roaming NELA or...?
Philipp Sander June 25, 2011 at 08:23 PM
I think they'll happily walk along the road in the middle of the night - it shouldn't take them more than an hour to walk from debs park to Mt. Washington, I'd think
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson June 26, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Philipp and Beth, your respective coyote sightings makes me wonder if there are two different packs.
Anna Carpenter June 30, 2011 at 10:41 PM
Kim, you are right... the coyotes check us out with a bored look. I saw a coyote on San Rafael and when I stopped the car to take a good look... he yawned. It must be part of their tactic.
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson June 30, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Anna, it's a tactic to lull us into a false sense of security!


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