A Christmas coyote highlights human/wildlife proximity
My wife and I were walking on Christmas Day with our dog through some heavily forested trails in a suburban park north of Dallas when we came across a coyote cruising on the paths ahead of us.
We have seen coyotes in the same park before — it is part of an almost unbroken system of forest that wraps around Lake Grapevine near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — and it was a nice reminder that wildlife and humans in the early 21st century often live in close proximity if not always in peace. The same park contains deer, wild turkey and other critters.
The coyote is in many ways a classic example of an animal that has thrived because of human activities and has long fascinated me as a result. From their original hunting grounds in the North American west they have extended their range into virtually every ecosystem on the continent south of the tree line.
Some natural historians have speculated that they have rushed to fill niches opened up by the extermination of the wolf over much of its range. I remember the first reports of coyotes in my native province of Nova Scotia in the late 1970s; now they are a common feature of the environment back home (to the chagrin of deer hunters and sheep farmers among others).
The broader point is that some animals seem to do well because of human activities, finding opportunities (such as the elimination of larger competitors). Coyotes are predators and scavengers and will eat any and everything – including domestic cats. This seems to make them ideally suited to life in the deep bush as well as the edge of urban life. They are also a common sight in more urban areas of Dallas and other North American cities (as this picture from downtown Vancouver illustrates).
For many seeing wildlife so close to our urban homes is cause for celebration (unless of course they eat our pet cat!) But their presence is also a reminder of the impact that humanity’s footprint can have on ecosystems. Some would argue that coyotes do not belong in some of the places where they now roam; but they are there only because of us.