Sunning Coyote Photo by Richard Spencer
There are coyotes in them thar woods. For the past few weeks now, the coyotes have been singing – their yips and howls echoing down the canyon walls of Lake Cumberland and causing our dogs to bolt out the pet door into the fenced yard, barking and bristling at the hoodoos in the woods. I love it.
Not everyone around here thinks the same as I do though. One of our neighbors stopped by last night to chat with my hubs, and talked about how the coyotes were getting out of hand. Too many of them, killing off the deer. Really? Is that really the case, or are you just a less-than-adequate hunter?
If one is lucky enough to either stay up all night (hardly) or be a very light sleeper who sleeps with her window open a few inches, no matter how cold it is, so she can hear the night sounds outside – and if one really listens to the wild, wonderful serenade, one would be able to discern there are maybe five or six voices in the two, rarely three – groups that are singing. Granted, there may be several groups that don’t all call at once, and there’s no way to really know how many are out there – but I don’t think we’re surrounded and outnumbered by a population “out of hand.” It’s also important to remember that these are coyotes, not wolves, not cougars…and they pose no threat. They most assuredly are not taking down full-grown deer. There are plenty of those around here too; they probably outnumber the coyotes.
It’s winter – so there are no newborn fawns, which coyotes will take if they can. But coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever they can find. This bunch of canine ruffians are more likely to be feeding on mice and voles, rabbits, flying squirrels, skunks, insects, groundhogs, carrion, nuts, chipmunks, and yes, feral cats – though around here there’s a tree about every two feet so any cat with half a brain could save itself. There is no shortage of feral cats around here either. If you really think about it, coyotes prey on many of the animals people complain about having around in the first place!
Some coyotes will prey on farm animals like chickens, sheep and goats when the opportunity is available to them, but this usually happens when wild food sources become scarce.
As a matter of fact, another neighbor, about half a mile away through the woods behind our house, has a goat farm – for several years now. I asked her if the coyotes have been a problem – especially since they have goat kids every spring – and if she puts them in the barn at night to protect them. Nope. No coyote problems, not even an attempt. The coyotes sing all around the goat farm, but apparently prefer rodents to ruminants.
We live in the Daniel Boone National Forest, for Pete’s sake! Personally, I feel privileged to be able to hear the coyotes at night, and have been known to leap out of bed and bolt out the door with the dogs (though I use the people door) just to hear them singing. In a world gone crazy, it’s actually one of the most reassuring sounds. It tells me that, at least in this particular place, all is right with the world, and all is as it should be.