Degrees of Coyoteness

As I walked out of a nearby canyon last week  using the same trail where I reported having an encounter with a curious coyote, my  nose  detected gases  given off by  putrefaction.   Somewhere nearby, bacteria were at work breaking down formerly living tissue to simpler matter, dispersing an organism’s worldly goods to its biological heritors.

To this we must all come.   But who has come to it now, and where?        

Walking deeper into the field of decomposition gases, I looked around, guessing what I would find.   I was approaching the gravel pit, a dumping ground for domestic and wild animal carcasses and the scene of occasional war crimes of the sort some people commit against animals.   It’s common to find coyote remains around the pit, along with elk and deer carcasses, tree prunings, the ashes of bonfires, articles of clothing, and aerosol cans—the residue of  “huffing” parties. Continue reading “Degrees of Coyoteness”


Review: Coyote, by Wyman Meinzer

Wyman Meinzer.   Coyote.   Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1995.   128 pages.   Cloth: $19.95; ISBN 0-89672-353-4.

Coyote is classified as a €œpictorial work, € a coffee-table book.   Of its 128 pages, only the first 44 contain text; captioned,  gorgeous photos of coyotes that the author took himself during his many years of coyote research fill out the  book’s bulk.  

The  textual  material of Coyote contains just enough information about C. latrans to help me form more precise questions about the animal’s nature and habits.   On one hand, I felt  the book’s imparted insights rather  on the lightweight side.   I had hoped that it would reflect in greater depth and detail what Meinzer learned about this intriguing animal after over three decades of study.   Instead, he gives readers slightly more than the basics.    He remarks  for instance on how  coyotes have  about 11 categories of vocalizations, but he only lists  3 of them,  offering only slight elaboration on those.   The coyote’s vocal repetoire is one of the most fetching of this animal’s qualities.   Why not at least  touch upon  the other 8 categories?  

On the other hand, I learned enough from the book to gain a fair starting point for my investigation into this creature with whom I’ve begun crossing paths more frequently and intimately.   The book’s beautiful 70 plus pages of photos are instructional in a deeper way.   People able to read animal body language  will find them engaging and meaningful.

Some of Meinzer’s writing is bumpy, requiring the reader to  guess his  meaning.   For example, p. 34: €œIf excavation allows, I have observed dens with nursing quarters or enlarged rooms with side tunnels to accommodate the young whelps. €   Deciphering who or what excavation allows to do what takes a bit of work.   Does  Meinzer mean that  if conditions permit him to excavate a den (which he has done in his research), then he observes in the process these den structures?   Or does he mean that if excavation conditions  prove favorable  for the coyotes, then he’s seen them build dens having these characteristics?   Also, €œyoung € modifying €œwhelps € seems unnecessary.

Well,  like I said, Coyote is a coffee-table book, maybe a bit light on information but packed with eye-catching pictures, which in this case do more than simply  enchant the eye.   These pictures reveal  important information about coyote body postures and behavior.   However, if you want greater precision in expression or are looking to learn about the  possible range of coyote vocalizations and gain greater insight into marking practices (which I do), you have to look elsewhere.   Where?   I’m not sure yet.   If anybody has suggestions, please, do tell.