Friday, November 10, 2006

We're Ready For Your Close-Up, Wile E.

I took our neighbor Ronnie to the truck dealership last night to get their new vehicle. On the way he told me about a harrowing nature encounter he'd had just a few evenings before when his wife, Kathleen, was out of town.

"I was on the phone with Kathleen when I heard coyotes start to yip and howl. That happens fairly often, but this sounded close -- real close. So I went to the door and called for Annie, our little spaniel dog (cute as a bug and about as big), afraid she might be in trouble. When I opened the front door and stepped onto the porch, I looked over to the right where the circle drive is, and standing right there was a big ol' coyote.

"I called for Annie and she came hurtling in like a bullet, between my leg and into the house. The cats weren't but a second behind her, all raised fur and flashing claws. The coyote just stood there looking at us, the howls of its pack from the woods sounding louder than ever in my head.

"I backed slowly into the house, keeping an eye on it, and slowly closed the door. It showed no fear of me at all, or of the dogs or the house lights. It was practically in our front yard, and I'm just thankful it didn't get any of our pets."

That kind of thing happens more often than you'd believe out here in the hill country. There are stories of family dogs carried off for meals, and coyotes ranging right up to front doors. It's getting to the point where parents with little kisd are having to be extra careful.

In some neighborhoods the problem is deer overpopulation. We drove through one area recently and saw dozens of deer -- bucks, does, fawns -- all walking through the streets and front yards like we were in a forest. Well-intentioned no-hunting laws have backfired; with all of their natural predators eliminated, deer have exploded in population and are now reclaiming their territory. Only where there used to be plains and forests, now there are sprawling suburbs.

The one predator that hasn't been wiped out is the coyote. Smaller and smarter than their wolf cousins, coyotes will scavenge on just about anything. They're following their suddenly abundant deer prey into the neighborhoods and have no natural fear of humans any longer.

Out where we live, of course, the coyotes and deer are present simply because there's so much open land rather than overpopulation. But it makes me nervous -- with the horses and donkeys, not to mention the dogs, there's plenty of prey for hungry coyotes and I worry that Annie will find herself in danger some time during a walk or while I'm at work. Luckily donkeys -- even minis like ours -- will fight as a herd against predators, and coyotes generally stay away from them out of fear.

In this case, a half-ass is definitely better than none at all.

1 comment:

annie'sbuddie said...

Geez that is scary...we hear coyotes around here alot too & are not nearly as remote as you all. But then I hear people in The Woodlands & even Houston talking about seeing them as well as foxes.

I've had people tell me that coyotes will send one out to "call out" a dog, then the pack will attack. Anniedog & the cats were lucky.

We had a wierd thing happen yesterday. While I was getting ready for work I could see something in the meadow about 100 feet from the house. Couldn't tell if it was paper or a plastic bag or what, but it just lay there. So when I was done I walked out to see & it turns out to be a young racoon...dead but without any obvious signs of trauma.

I told Paul about it so the dogs wouldn't get in to it as well as thinking it might be something he'd want to "plant" as negative training for Ben.

He called me at work a few hours later to ask if it was really a racoon, really dead or was I having some sort of flashback. It was GONE and the dogs had been in the house.

It was definitely dead...eyes slit open & sunk in...but fresh. So we guessed that whatever dropped it off in the first place came back to get it...just don't know what that was!