I can’t really remember the first time I saw a coyote, but I can remember the last.
It was just last week, when I was driving to work.
He was by himself—a lone wolf, so to speak (pun intended), on the side of the road I take every day, a four lane stretch with a wide divider in the middle, and where I’ve seen quite a few deer, but never a coyote.
He was on the south side of the roadway, watching the cars and trucks speed by; he didn’t look like he was planning to dart out—just keeping a watchful eye on us.
He must have come up from the big park that runs from river bank, starting way down in the valley, and then up the embankment to the side of the hill the road cuts across. The park itself follows the river for two miles—maybe a little more; the wooded slope up to the highway is dotted with a handful of high end homes accessible only through a gate along a dirt road. A great place for wildlife.
On the other side of the highway, the embankment continues up to the hill where I live, and it’s clear to see at this point just how deep the river valley is. Thousands of years of work by that river cut the valley to where it is today.
On the up slope, there are many, many more houses—whole community developments, and I think there are coyotes there too.
The ravines that run through the neighbourhoods are populated with all sorts of wildlife, and I’ve heard from friends with dogs about how their pooches have come back home with the unmistakable odor of skunk (once you get that into your nose, you never forget it), or worse, their muzzles painfully peppered with porcupine quills—and a trip to the vet for sure. So I’m sure the coyotes get over there too.
I’ve seen them near the university where I work, which also has some undeveloped land near the grounds.
On rare occasion, early in the morning, I’ve spotted them darting across the road as they head for their dens in the brush.
There’s also a very large urban park—one of the biggest in a city in North America—that’s basically the top of a large hill, a piece of bald-ass prairie perfect for a coyote.
Dogs –especially the little ones–are a favourite target of these guys; in fact, someone just posted this on FB this morning:
People around here are regularly reminded to keep their dogs on a leash. And maybe get some spikes.
Obviously part of the reason we see so many of them is that we’ve moved into their worlds. I suspect the ones I see near work have a lot to do with the development of some of the grassy open spaces at the west end of campus, along the ridge with million dollar views of the Rockies.
But it’s not just there. Communities seem to crop up overnight, and human-wildlife encounters are pretty much inevitable.
Last year, a woman was driving to the city when she hit an animal racing across the road; she looked to see what she hit but saw nothing and had to assume it had only been a bump or that whatever it was has screeched off into the brush to die.
It wasn’t until she was almost to work a half an hour later that someone stopped her and told her to check the front of her car. Before you look at this picture, I’ll tell you that Fish & Wildlife came and got the guy out of the grill and he was in astonishingly good shape, and, after a short stay at a clinic, he was freed back into the wild and will hopefully live a long life by steering clear of the roads.
So…I’m not even sure how this subject came up with my friend Judith, who lives in California in the San Ramon Valley, which is about 25 miles south and east of Berkeley. It’s a relatively dry, relatively warm area with lots of open space, lots of hills and lots of new neighbourhoods.
Back in August of 2016 a coyote was spotted in and around the area where she lives. Reports were that it was really badly infected with mange and people were being warned to keep an eye out for it, to not try to approach it but to report any sightings immediately. And to keep an eye on their dogs and maybe get out the spike sweater.
(Sorry, the pictures in this story are worse than the ones of the coyote stuck in the car grill.)
A rescue group tried to capture it, but they never got the chance. They looked for that critter for several weeks, and although there were numerous sightings, they just couldn’t catch it.
Then Judith hit it.
Not on purpose, of course–no one wants to do that, but she was driving along on her way home from errands and it darted out from a median right into the path of her car.
She was understandably very freaked out by this–it’s terrible to hit an animal. But she was comforted by the cops who showed up and told her the animal was clearly suffering terribly from the mange. Didn’t make her feel 100% better, and didn’t prep her for the notoriety around town.
The story of the coyote’s demise made the supper hour news casts all the way up in San Francisco and the story showed up in the local papers too, of course.
Everyone was talking about the mangy coyotes’s demise; little did they know the person they were talking to and about was right in their midst. She’d be in the convenience store or the grocery store, even the local Starbucks, and for a while, the story of the mangy coyote and it’s fateful end was the talk of the town.
She tells me it still comes up from time to time as people recall those dark days of early fall two years ago, when a mangy coyote terrorized the streets of Danville and San Ramon, and met its mercifully swift demise.
And, just as she did then, she listens without saying a word.