I was learning that coexisting with nature in all its wild forms is one of the gifts and lessons of this life, one that takes flexibility and creativity on our part. Coyotes are as clever and as driven as any human, and are simply adapting as people pave their world.
—Shreve Stockton in “The Daily Coyote”
Coyotes are my neighbors. They run and hunt and raise their young in the piñon and juniper woods just outside of Santa Fe. We all mind our own business, for the most part, but we keep a wary eye on one another.
Picking up my mail late in the afternoon a few weeks ago, I spotted one of the wild canines standing in the middle of the road—less than a hundred yards away. He was focused on something in the trees and didn’t notice me. I stood watching him until we were both startled by a passing car.
In New Mexico it’s legal for residents to kill coyotes without a hunting license—there is no closed season and no bag limit. Two short sentences cover “unprotected furbearers”, a small category which includes only coyotes and skunks in the state’s 137-page hunting rules and information booklet. This lack of regulation allows the coyote-killing contests for which New Mexico has become known. Often sponsored by gun shops, the competitions reward the hunter who kills the most coyotes within a designated time period.
There is no doubt that coyotes can be troublesome, raiding chicken coops and preying on livestock. In my neighborhood their primary diet consists of rabbits and rodents, but more than one house cat has gone outside to nap in the sun or to take a stroll never to be seen again. Even so, I don’t like to think of coyotes being hunted for sport and many of my fellow New Mexicans seem to agree based on this editorial published in the Albuquerque Journal.
For a moment it looked like our state legislature might pass a bill this session to outlaw the contests. The proposed law easily cleared the Senate with bipartisan support, but died in the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee when, by an overwhelming margin, they voted to table the bill, effectively killing it for the year.
In a few weeks it will be spring. The adult coyotes that saunter through my backyard in broad daylight will be less visible, busy raising new litters of pups, keeping such close tabs on the youngsters that I’ve never seen one. But sometimes late at night when their chorus of yips and howls drifts on the breeze that flutters the lace curtains, I’ll listen closely certain I hear the high-pitched voices of the pups chiming in.
Love them or hate them, coyotes continue to adapt to our rapidly changing world, thriving in spite of all efforts to thwart them.