Few sounds crawl straight through your soul like the atonal chatter of a coyote pack. Eerie at a distance, it’s a downright chilling and otherworldly experience when they travel past your bedroom window in the cold, dark hours of the morning.
A couple of night ago Troy and I awoke to that very sound, taunted out of a deep sleep as the chaotic yipping grew louder on approach. We knew we were both awake without being able to see each other. “Coyotes,” I whispered. “They’re awfully close.”
Not long after we woke, Milo began to bark. Not the sleepy woof that sometimes accompanies a thump or a dream, but a steady rhythmic warning bark, chasing along with the pack. Safe inside our house we were intimately connected to the wild night outside.
The next morning, Troy found tracks. They ran between the barn and the house. The coyotes were closer than we’d imagined – rarely do they venture past our woody boundary. To some people this would constitute an invasion, but to us, it’s a reminder. The coyotes, the foxes, the wolves, and the eagles are not trespassing on our property – it is we who trespass into their worlds.
A pro-wildlife stance can be particularly contentious when you keep things like chickens and goats. There is distinct conflict between raising animals for your own pleasure and use, and welcoming others to your property who see them as snacks. Although we try not to encourage predators to visit our back yard, I find it hard to place blame when a chicken goes missing. Wild animals are doing what comes naturally, after all, and they have no way of knowing that chicken is mine.
It angers me when I read about people who trap coyotes because they wander into urban settings, who shoot bears because they stroll out of the woods. It angers me that we feel the need to place a bounty on their hides. We feel entitled to chop down the trees and pave the woods, removing their homes and their food supplies in the process. And then we turn around and destroy the animals we have displaced. How is that fair?
Although some may accuse me as such, I am not a bleeding heart. If an animal becomes a nuisance or a danger, I believe in survival of the fittest. But the concept of killing an animal because it happens to wander into “my” space makes me crazy. I may lose a chicken once in a while, but I also get the pleasure of experiencing wildlife in my own back yard. It helps me feel closer to the land where my animals graze and my vegetables grow, and keeps my own ego in check. Although I may try to manipulate my environment to serve my own interests, I can never really be in control. As long as the clouds bring rain and snow, as long as weeds sprout between my tomatoes, and as long as the deer and the coyotes inhabit the woods at the edge of my farm, I am reminded that I am a part of a much bigger picture. I am reminded that I’m better off working with it, and not against it. And I am reminded that I wouldn’t have it any other way because if I did, the whole experience would be an experiment instead of an adventure. Where’s the fun in that?