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Early One Morning

Posted by Eliza, February 10th, 2011

The long stare. Designed on purpose to make you feel like prey, the long stare is what they call the look some canines give to, well, their prey. Grabbed by that stunning stare, my friend and I were mesmerized. What was that animal? A large German shepherd? Too tall and healthy looking to be a coyote. Maybe a wolf? No, not in New England. No any more.

Most probably it was an eastern coyote, which can have a little dog or wolf mixed in. Canis latrans (barking dog,its scientific name) is one wild animal we have in common. Clever, elusive, and adaptable, coyotes range throughout most of North America to slightly south of Mexico. As our local predators literally lose ground, coyotes move into the vacuum, even in urban areas. How do they manage to thrive in so many places? They’re opportunistic, hunting day or night, and easily evading us, one of their few predators.

Today most of us live in range of a coyote, which means coyotes hunt, mate, and whelp in our neighborhoods. (Over 10,000 live in Massachusetts alone.) Some of us like this idea, some of us are rightly nervous for our pets or even our young children, and some of us want them dead. While it makes sense to be aware of their untamable nature, fear too often leads to panic and violence against them.

It also makes sense to think about things from the coyote’s point of view. Small animals equal food, garbage cans contain food, and so our landscape becomes hunting grounds. Some people feed coyotes, in effect training them to think people = food, which is rarely a good idea. (But then seed producers have started to market squirrel food which, if you’ve ever tried to get squirrels out of your attic, you know is super unsmart.)

Like many of you, I live in a place where wild, domestic and human animals share space. We build porches and skunks build their dens under them. We feed birds and squirrels come running. We let our cats out and coyotes seeking food for their young come hunting.

Yes, coyotes are killers. Just like us, they’ve got to eat. And they’re also parents, faithful partners, and helpful pack members. They eat mostly rodents, the kind that can become pests, like mice and rats. They sing and howl, bark and huff, like we do. Indians had such great respect for the coyotle that they made him a star trickster and a deity in their stories.

I was relieved to find my town is smart about these neighbors. Animal Control has a very useful coyote page that shows where they’ve been seen and how they’ve been behaving. The deep snow we have means they’re spotted more often, but they’re being very good given how hard the hunting must be. The story this site tells is that we’re being good, too. We’re being sensible about our pets and other things, like pet food, that might entice them to come closer to humans than is wise.

A world without wild is an empty world. We’re all safer – wild and tamer – if we respect one another, letting each species do what it needs to do to survive with a minimum of conflict.

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Make Way!

Posted by Eliza, February 1st, 2011

Welcome! This blog is about the interconnected web of life that weaves us together. Long known in India as the god Indra’s jeweled net, this sparkling cradle holds all sentient beings.

Having lived in the country, the suburbs, the ex-urbs, and now the city, I’ve become an avid student of this fabric. Because there’s less cover in the city, the threads of the web often stand out in relief. One melting morning in this very snowy winter I rounded a corner with my dog to find a mallard in the middle of the street delicately drinking water from an icy puddle. He looked healthy, but didn’t move away when he saw us, so I tied up my dog and went to check more closely for injuries and get him to a safer spot if needed.

The minute I stepped off the curb, he got up and sidled onto a low drift on the far side of the street. A few minutes later, he was gone. There are ponds, reservoirs and a river nearby, and I couldn’t figure out what would drive a duck away from them until I mentioned my rescue attempt to a friend. She thought that the usual duck hang-outs were most likely frozen. I have another theory: since we’re halfway to spring, the duck might have been scouting for a new house lot and got thirsty touring the various neighborhoods.

His careful sipping, the surprise of his nearness, and the reminder of coming spring all gladden my heart. Even more heartening is how wise people were to preserve a necklace of green spaces, realizing a jeweled web for us all. And this legacy now includes charm bracelets, rings, and many similar treasured places across the land. If you’re like me, you can’t remember a time when creatures didn’t feature in your life. Or maybe you came to know and love them later. I look forward to hearing about your encounters with and concerns for our web.

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