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Coyote Tales

How lucky can a person be? I happened to look up at the right time early one morning and watched as a shaggy blonde coyote trotted under the bay trees toward the creek. A closer look would reveal that the coyote’s coat was actually a mixture of tans, grays, and browns. Had I looked up a moment later, or sooner, for that matter, I would have missed it!

Over the years in south Middletown, I have been privileged to enjoy midnight serenades of their distinctive high-pitched yips along with characteristic howls- always a treat! Since coyotes are most active at night and early morning, this explains the late evening song fest they provided.

The Nature Conservancy’s newsletter, Cool Green Science, explains that coyotes are some of the most vocal mammals around. You may hear their vocalizations throughout the year, however February and March usually bring about an increase in their cool croons since it’s the height of their breeding season.

These proficient hunters use their inborn speed and strength to engage in a hunt. Coyotes can tackle deer, but often feed upon smaller mammals and sometimes carrion. They eat ground squirrels, mice, rabbits, and gophers. Besides mammals, they also consume amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, eggs, and fruit. This wily canine species takes the months of January, February, and March to breed, with a gestation period of 60-63 days. Their pups are born in the months of March to May, averaging a litter of 5-6 young.

Coyotes often make dens in the underbrush, steep banks, or rock crevices, using the former holes that skunks, foxes, or other animals used. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, coyotes are larger than foxes but smaller than gray wolves, with an average height at their shoulder of 18 to 23 inches, and adults weigh in at 22 to 25 pounds. Coyotes can be found all across our state, and are highly adaptable creatures.

Coyote figured in many Indigenous People’s myths. Myths were handed down in the oral tradition to explain the existence of many familiar things in the world of the Native People. Many myths include the formation of the world and celestial bodies that were viewed, such as the constellations, sun and moon. Some myths were important in a religious framework, while other myths served to entertain the people. In the culture of the Southern Sierra Miwok, stories were told and retold about the beginning of the world. In the story, they say that there was only water before there were people.

Then, Coyote scanned the region for ducks and found one that was proficient at diving. As the duck descended into the depths of the waters, it finally hit bottom. Next, it took some earth into its bill, giving it to Coyote. After that the duck dove down to retrieve seeds for Coyote, and when it gave them to Coyote he formed the seeds and earth into a sphere, and it enlarged so that finally, the water receded and the earth formed.

Coyote’s story is a fascinating one, whether it is heard via the many mythological stories or if your focal point is up close and personal when you are out in the mysterious night eavesdropping on a wild creature’s conversation. Wild coyote is a survivor in these changing times, adaptable and formidable. A true tale of wisdom.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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