Coyotes need to be viewed more as survivors than monsters

12:00 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 Sports
Chris LeBlanc
A coyote hunts in a meadow at Yellowstone National Park. 2014 CHRIS LEBLANC PHOTO

I was a kid during the atomic bomb scares of the 1950s, and those were truly terrifying.

So I came into this century with high hopes that my grandchildren would never have to endure those kinds of frightening warnings and practice drills of marching out of our classrooms and running down into the boiler room to hide from an explosion that never came. Only to find out later that had it been a real emergency, hiding under a desk or in a basement wouldn’t have done any good anyway.

Well, my kiddos are having to live through some of that kind of stuff now that we have gotten into a war of words and back-and-forth threats with North Korea.

Back in those halcyon days of the ’50s, I never gave a thought to what might survive a nuclear holocaust if one came. I was only worried about the thousand years or so before we would have any drinkable water on the planet.

But now I’m older, and I often take time to ponder the effects on our world of any nuclear bomb going off, no matter if it’s because of Trump’s big button or Kim’s little tiny one.

That’s why I was somewhat amused about the city of Austin’s long-range plans for controlling coyote populations. It’s well known that most thinkers believe coyotes and cockroaches will rise from the ashes of any conflagration to rule the earth until something smarter comes along. I should say something WAY smarter.

And though I’m not sure we humans are much smarter than coyotes, we do have opposable thumbs, and that might be the difference in who comes out on top of the next reshuffling of the food chain.

Think about it: Coyotes have been shot, poisoned and trapped relentlessly, especially in the sheep and goat country of the Edwards Plateau, and still they plague neighborhoods, golf courses, deer leases and ranches all across the state. I’ve shot some myself, but I was never very proud of it.

They are survivors, determined beasts with an ability to find a suitable mate and breed new generations of pups in places where people would swear no coyote could still be alive.

And I honestly believe they get blamed for way more carnage than they actually create. I’ve seen dogs and cats and sheep and goats torn to shreds and coyotes singled out as the culprits many times in the past 50 years. I’ve come to know and believe, though, that more times than not, those attacks are the result of packs of domesticated dogs — somebody’s sweet German shepherd and a neighbor’s Labrador — roaming and getting into a fight with other dogs.

It’s happened to one of our dogs and at least one cat. You find the animal dead in the yard with long tooth marks in its flanks, and immediately your mind goes to a monster. But there’s the old saying about hearing hoofbeats and thinking first of zebras rather than horses, even if there are no zebras around us.

We like monsters in our culture and our world, maybe because they’ve all been banished to the ash heap of superstition and belief in supernatural creatures by modern science. We need something to fear, to give our lives some kind of meaning.

How else can we explain our current fascination with zombie culture? I mean, how many times have we seen groups of living dead, rotting and slathering as they move, going down a city street?

In reality, I love the sound of a pack of coyotes yipping at the setting sun or cranking up at daybreak to welcome a new day. There’s something wild and free about those sounds, even if we don’t get to hear them much anymore.

And there’s really not much to fear from coyotes in and around Austin. They do adapt well to suburbia and downtown environs, and no amount of trapping or shooting or poisoning is going to stop them.

All it takes is one coyote, it appears, and an entire new generation can spring up almost overnight. And they’ll still be killing fawns and maybe the occasional wandering dog in the hills of West Austin.

But I’m betting against that.