Monday, December 21, 2009

Wile E. Coyote

In the the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Saturday morning cartoons, I always felt slightly sorry for the poor, hapless coyote. No matter what he did, no matter what ludicrous devices he bought from The Acme Corporation, he could never get the best of the Road Runner. The coyote always ends up burnt to a crisp, squashed flat, or at the bottom of a canyon, usually after falling through a rock cliff. He tries everything -- a rocket sled, jet powered roller skates, earthquake pills -- it all works against him. He once bought a dehydrated boulder that inflated and crushed him. Just once I wanted him to be successful, but he never was.

I don't feel sorry for the coyote anymore. Last week an urban coyote got my family's beloved little tortoise shell cat, and the neighbor's cat, both in one night. We have a real problem with urban coyotes here in the Lower Mainland. They're smart, they're not afraid of anything, and they're very wily. They stake out territories, and in the last ten years they have gone from being urban pests -- along with raccoons, skunks and squirrels -- to being a real threat. A few years ago a 12 year-old girl was attacked by a coyote as she was playing near the beach right here in Kitsilano, and few weeks ago a young woman in Nova Scotia was killed by two coyotes as she was out walking in Cape Breton National Park.

Coyotes regard family pets as their own personal smorgasbord, and for some reason they are particularly fond of poodles. They often have dens in sheds and garages, and sometimes underneath porches, without the property owners even knowing the coyotes are there. They're adept at going through people's garbage cans, and in addition to eating family pets, rabbits, rodents and other small wildlife, they will eat vegetation, fruit, carrion and garbage. Urban coyotes are bold, curious, and wild, and it's easy to recognize them. Males are larger and heavier than females, typically weighing 20 to 35 lbs when full-grown, while females are about 18 to 25 lbs. They stand approximately 18 inches high at the shoulders. They're usually a blend of rust-colored to brown to gray. The coyote resembles a small German shepherd dog, but with a longer, narrower snout and a bushy black-tipped tail. And here is something I learned just recently: Coyotes can and do mate with domestic dogs. If you suspect you have a coyote in your neighborhood, keep your pets inside, because the chances are good the coyote will get them.

Where's the Road Runner when we need him? ... Beep ... Beep


JoMo said...

So sorry! I hope in time hearts will heal over the loss of the family cat. So sad.

Coyotes are a real problem here. They also follow the bears who come in search of household garbage cans that are improperly secured. After the bears leave, the coyotes slink in. As a society I don't think we're doing a great job of sharing the land with the animals and unfortunately it causes this kind of loss & pain all around.

In many parts of Metro Vancouver folks should also be on the lookout for owls & eagles who like to swoop down and snatch cats & small dogs.

I guess the answer to -can't we all just get along- is staring us in the face on this one.

Jo said...

JoMo, well, we do live on the edge of the forest, and we seem to be encroaching on their territory all the time, don't we? They probably think, "Oh, look at all those nice people, bringing us all that yummy food."

I had no idea about the owls and eagles. Very interesting...!

A human kind of human said...

And I though I am living in the "wild" Bushveldt here in SA! This is such an interesting post Jo. I never had an idea that you actually live so close to the wild... or that the wild live so close to you (lol). I think I prefer my Sunday Morning visitor.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

So sorry about your family cat. I was surprise to read that a young woman was killed in Nova Scotia by coyotes. I did not think that they would be capable of taking on an adult. Was there any special circumstances? I'd hate to think that people would feel unsafe trekking in the Cape Breton Highlands.

DUTA said...

From the little I know about coyotes they can indeed be very agresssive (especially the coyote-dog co-production). They prefer to hunt at night time and do so in pairs, so the prey doesn't have much of a chance.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry to hear about the kitty! :(

the walking man said...

while I understand the hurt at having a pet preyed upon like that I also find it hard to hate the coyote for being a coyote. Maybe we need to build more up rather than out in order to share the habitat both species need to range in.

Just out of curiosity how much of the new Olympic buildings have taken and paved over former animal habitat, if any?

houndstooth said...

I'm sorry to hear about the cat!

I live in a very rural area, and the coyotes are quite bold here, as well. It used to be rare that you'd ever catch a glimpse of them, but now you even see them along the sides of the road after being hit by cars. I think it's unlikely that we'll go back to the days of elusive coyotes with urban sprawl happening as it is.

Alissa said...

That is scary. Here in NJ/NY metropolitan area, I've heard stories about urban cemeteries that are completely overrun by coyotes.

My parents' cat was killed a few years ago. At first, the story they heard from a neighbor was that it was a fox, but then they found out it was another neighbor who hit her with her car, but didn't have the courtesy to come forward and tell them - even after they put up missing signs.

I used to live in the mountains, where we had quite a few black bears. Bears are big, and scary, and you don't want to get between a mama and her cubs, but black bears are relatively harmless. I remember city folks coming out, and being terrified of the bears, but it sounds like those coyotes are a much bigger threat.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, I'm sorry that your family lost a pet, that's always very distressing. I find it difficult to dislike the coyote but by the same token, they can't be allowed to become a menace to people. It's a hard balancing act, isn't it? Realistically several wild animals have found their living space encroached upon, and in trying to adapt, have become a menace.

I live not that far from the foothills, and in the area where I live, outdoor cats aren't allowed specifically because there are predators. If you have a cat here, it has to be a housecat (ours always has been). We ended up adapting to the wild animals adaptations.

We also have a problem with animals that no longer have any fear of humans. Well meaning people leave food out for bears, etc. but unfortunately that teaches the animals to associate people with food and makes them extremely dangerous. Every now and then, particularly in another part of the state, it will become necessary for a bear to be destroyed because relocation won't work due to losing the fear of humans.

There's always a great outcry that "The Bear did do anything wrong!" and that's entirely true, but they've become a threat, so there is little choice.

Is there any plan in place to address the problem?

Inty swetha said...

thats a sad story. Even i used to pity the cartoon coyote.. .but after what you have said, even i lost my pity !!

Jo said...

Anna, oh, yes, we have raccoons and skunks in our back yard, and coyotes in the neighborhood, and lots of bears in the North Shore neighborhoods. They let us live here. :-)

LGS, yes, she was a healthy 19 year-old woman, a Canadian folk singer. Two coyotes killed her. When people go into the bush on their own, they definitely take their chances.

Duta, yes, people are advised to keep their pets indoors at night, which of course my family did not know before this, sadly.

Charles, thanks. Everyone loved her.

Mark, oh, goodness, I don't hate coyotes. Where I lived on Vancouver Island, we had cougars in our back yard, so we have learned to live with these creatures. Coyotes were not a problem here until the 1980s. They are opportunistic animals, and they have moved into the cities, and bred with dogs here. And no, nothing was paved over for the Olympics. :-) People in Vancouver are very ecologically careful. That's why the coyotes have become such a nuisance.

Houndstooth, I think once coyotes start inter-breeding with domestic dogs, the problem becomes really difficult, because the natural coyote instincts will now be in urban dogs. It's too bad.

Alissa, we have lots of bears here, and it's a bit of a misconception that black bears are harmless. More people in BC are killed by black bears than by grizzlies. Black bears look cute and cuddly, but they're very dangerous and should be given wide berth.

Alane, a lot of wild animals have lost their fear of humans, and they actually come further into the city all the time, rather than the cities encroaching on them. We have had to learn to live with them, and in Vancouver wild animals are not destroyed unless they attack humans, thankfully. Vancouver has a policy of relocation instead.

A few years ago I was standing at the front of my building, and I felt a cat brushing against my ankles, like cats do. I reached down to pet it, and it was a skunk. I slowly backed away, and it waddled off down the street. :-)

Inty, *heh* yes, there is one particular coyote that I'm really angry with at the moment. :-)

Land of shimp said...

Jo, to be clear, that's the standard in Colorado, too. Last year a pregnant woman, fleeing a bear was struck by a car as she took flight. The bear was likely not trying to hurt her, but simply wasn't afraid of her, but fish and wildlife determined that the bear couldn't be relocated...he'd just seek out people again because he was no longer afraid of people, and associated them with being fed.

He was destroyed, and there were great cries of dismay, but there wasn't a good solution to that particular problem.

Generally speaking, Colorado also relocates. In particular Mountain Lions have something of a tendency to wander down the flat irons, and into the foothills, looking for food. They are tranquilized and relocated.

It isn't just the "not afraid of humans" that causes the concern, it's the association with, "That person will feed me." that really sounds the death knell.

So there have been lots of campaigns urging people to make sure they do not purposefully feed wildlife.

Jo said...

Alane, oh yes. Take a look at this video here. This is typically what happens here. But thankfully, the conservation officers don't destroy the bears or any other wildlife unless they absolutely have to do it.

These bears look cute and cuddly and funny, but if anyone were to go out there, they would be deadly -- especially if the mother bear is nearby.

TomCat said...

Sorry about your cat, Josie. :-(

shsch said...

Here's a link to the story of the Cape Breton attack. You will read that a 19 year old folk singer was hiking alone when she was attacked on the Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands Park; a rare occurrence, but fatal this time.

ivan said...

Coyote stole my computer. I found it, but it's busted. Had to take it to the computer hospital.
No luck with the coyote. He got away.
Urban coyotes everywhere in Toronto, especially High Park, where the Wile E's run off with elderly matron's poodles. I quote Pepe le Pew,who sometimes vists High Park. "Monsier, that is no bon skonk! Dat is de coyote, le eternus famishus-famishus. He will eat anyting, even Pepe. But I am such an artiste! Cannibalism!"

...But myself, with a warped sense of humour, I especially enjoy seeing Jack Layton of the New Democrats, in full leathers and ascot,go chasing after the coyote who stole his poodle.
Aw what the hell. All the news that fits!

TC said...

I always try to watch the white furry one when he's outside and dark. I did have a coyote chase a cat out of my FLOWERBED! I followed chasing said coyote, dunno what I would have done if I would have caught him but the cat got away.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

So sorry about the cat! We just discovered a bobcat couple and their offspring in the woods behind our park. I am not looking forward to a one on one with a bobcat mama! We have some traps out and will call for them to be relocated as soon as they are caught. I would like to see the babies up close before they go....

Mia said...

People kept their small pets indoors in places I've lived where wild animals roam free. Carnivores don't distinguish between pets and prey. I wouldn't be able to stand the thought of my pet being eaten.

If you think bears are pests try moose. They won't eat you but they're a gigantic pain in the tuchas.

Mariana Soffer said...

I always hated the coyote, I thought he was evil stupid and boring, besides of being highly predictable. Sorry but I did never liked that cartoon character.

Take care jo and have a happy holiday

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Carol E. said...

Oh, so sorry about your cat!! Ours is an indoor cat only, for reasons like that and others (he's terrified of everything). I always hated the Wile E. Coyote cartoon for the same reasons you list. It was too violent and fast for me.

Jo said...

Tom, thanks. My family adored that goofy little cat.

Shsch, thanks for the link. It was a shock when that happened, but I guess coyotes in packs can be dangerous too.

Ivan, a coyote stole Jack Layton's poodle? Now that is funny, sorry... For some reason, coyotes are very fond of poodles. Who knew!

TC, yes, I guess if people have a cat, they should keep it indoors. Cats eat birds, coyotes eat cats... All a natural part of the food chain, sadly.

Kathy, omigoodness, a bobcat can be dangerous. But yes, the babies are very cute. We used to have cougars in our back yard, and baby cougars are gorgeous!

Mia, there was a news story on TV here yesterday about some people found a baby moose and it was curled up with their dog. The dog was bigger than the baby moose, but not for long...

Mariana, yes, coyotes are not the most lovable characters in the world are they? :-) Happy Holidays to you too.

Jet, Merry Xmas to you too. :-)

Carol, yes, those cartoons were violent, weren't they? My daughter and her family are heartbroken about their beloved little cat. It's just so sad...

Paula Slade said...

It's a tough balancing act as humans encroach further into natural habitats. Household pets are often the first to take a hit, and it becomes alarming when humans are attacked. I'm so sorry about your family's loss. It's unfortunate that these wild critters cannot be rounded up and relocated to more desolate areas.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I never knew any of that. I have only seen coyotes by the sides of freeways but have never been close to one, although I owned a gray wolf who was like a pet dog, only smarter.

So sorry about the cats your family and their neighbors lost, and the attacks on humans sound most unusual. The coyotes must be losing their natural habitat too fast to adjust, but how awful for those people.