Endangered coyotes may endanger you

By Ryn Gargulinski: local columnist

A visitor from New Mexico is lurking behind my California home. No, it’s not a prairie dog, a rattlesnake or Gov. Bill Richardson.

It is a coyote. And it wants to eat my dog.

Actually, my mom, who is visiting from Michigan, is the one who spotted the coyote when she was out walking my 11-pound pooch.

When she relayed the info to me and my dad, we pretty much sloughed it off since coyotes don’t come to Northern California. It’s much too mountainous and cold. Besides, the Pacific’s frigid salt water would surely mat — if not ruin — their fine brown coats.

They skulk in the desert, hide in the High Plains or pop up on New Mexico souvenirs where they are depicted howling at an orange moon.
We were wrong.

Upon further research, we found coyotes slink as far west as California, as far north as Canada and, thinking back, I’m sure I once saw one scrounging through a New York City trash can.

That’s because someone killed all the wolves. Well, it wasn’t done by a single fellow with a single shotgun — although I’ve heard such stories in those trucker bars — but it was accomplished through many stringent years of methodical extermination.

Since the wolves are no longer around to eat the coyotes, the coyotes are around to eat my dog.

Not only is my dinky dog in danger, but so is anything that looks small and meaty. This includes cats, rats, toddlers and those Cabbage Patch dolls that were popular in the 1980s.

Although coyotes generally fall into that benign category of “more scared of you than you are of them,” they are getting bolder.

The more humans infringe on their territory, the more coyotes infringe on them.

They no longer run at the mere sight of the mighty bi-ped, but instead were even spotted sunning themselves at a San Jose, Calif., resort near the lounge chairs by the swimming pool.

To help them cover such a wide span, the coyotes have learned to adapt.

Those in the mountains have thicker coats than their desert counterparts.

And the ones that loiter around the pool or ocean often sport bathing caps.

And, like myself, some folks won’t believe what they are seeing is a coyote.

One lady took a “stray dog” to the vet to have it fixed. Now that she has a neutered coyote, one that would get laughed at in the wild and not possibly survive, she also has a massive food bill and a living room full of ravaged pillows.

The story almost matches the tale of the man who once brought an injured “bird” to the pet store where I worked. It ended up being a bat he had nestled in a Burger King cup.

But bats are fairly obvious — especially when they flap their Dracula wings or hang upside down in a bat cave.

Coyotes may creep up where you least expect them, not just howling at the moon in New Mexico.

Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: