In pre-Columbian timelessness, the coyote inhabited only the west-central portion of North and Central America. With the advancing tide of European settlement across the continent, the coyote and its cousin, the wolf, were seen as a threat to livestock, crops, and human life, and were summarily persecuted, with bullets, traps, clubs, poison, and bad press. The wolf declined, and eventually required “re-introduction” to his old haunts. But the coyote increased, spreading his joyful song beyond the old possibilities, right into the noise of the urban world.
– Joy Martin
And in the urban world – he thrives.
Photos on social media show (urban) coyotes across the city of Phoenix. Neighbors photos places one in our general neighborhood and eventually one sitting in the yard of someone on our street. That’s close.
My husband and I catch the coyote on video (stills↑). We watch it meander across our front yard, while our cat Issa, sits in the patio. Issa sees the animal, gets up quickly, hides in the shadow of a small bush (2nd photo, lower left, on sidewalk) and looks at it. She’s territorial, I’ve seen her charge dogs. I suspect she senses this guy is different.
I have mixed emotions about a coyote in my hood. I understand neighbor’s concerns. But my curiosity and respect for wild-life does not subside.
Three days later, on a morning run, I cross paths with the creature.
Tall. Lean. Ears, face, body – angular. I decide he’s male. As he passes me, I watch his shoulder-blades ride up and down his back. Photos have me thinking he’s blonde. And while he is tan, close up I see the gray and light brown. His bushy tail hangs low to the ground, reminding me of a German Shepard’s.
This predator is beautiful.
I finish my run and return to the studio to work on my painting. I have seen the coyote.
I read about the 4 chambered heart and 2 lungs. Recently I’d studied the human diaphragm, now I want to know how the coyote’s lays out. I identify both diaphragm and windpipe. I note spleen, stomach, large and small intestines, kidney and bladder. The coyote in my drawing assumes maleness, as I add the sexual organs.
I look at the teeth, the glands in its nose, and the tiny bones in its ear and
wonder about his senses.
Excellent eye-sight (sees limited color).
Acute hearing (detect prey and avoid danger).
Movement and position of ears communicate mood and rank.
Keen sense of smell – Jacobson’s organ (detects prey).
I rework the area until satisfied.
Feet: are quick!
Five digits on the forefeet, including the dewclaw (a fifth digit similar to a human thumb) and four digits on the hind feet. As a coyote walks, only the toes touch the earth (digitigrade).
Coyote’s scientific name Canis Latrans. Canis is Latin for barking dog. Member of the Canidae family. Average lifespan is ten years (Is this is also true of the urban coyotes).
The name coyote originates from the Mexican Spanish word, coyote.
Nahuatl: coyotl. Mayan: koyotl.
Aztec name and associations: Huehuecóyotl (Old Man coyote).
In the latter mythology he is the god of music, dance, song (the howl!), and mischief (the cunning and playful trickster). Coyotes also symbolize wisdom and pragmatism.
In American Indian symbolism the coyote is the shape shifter, animal magician, miracle worker, and totemic ancestor associated with the moon. He is the opener of the way.
To the Crow tribe he is the Creator of the World and all that it holds. He is the First Artist, the First worker.
According to the Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, he assisted in the creation of the human race by scratching open the hide of Mother Earth to release the first people from her womb.
The coyote: Sacred and extraordinary, adaptable and resilient, intelligent and tenacious.
I don’t like the label urban coyote. But the coyote is here and he is living in our city (cities). They endure.
Can we adapt? Will we coexist? And how do I explain all this to the cat.
My random note taking.
Song Dogs of my Soul by Joy Martin
The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects
As I complete this post, I find a useful website. It’s informative and includes wonderful photography and I will be forwarding it to my neighbors. → The Urban Coyote Initiative.
Five years ago I completed my first animal anatomy study – An Homage to the Cat (Issa-Cup of Tea). Inspired by daily walks with our cat.
Issa too, moves on my street. And while the coyote and the cat are very different animals, there is some sort of wild I know they share.