5:00AM, barely daylight – time to start chores on the farm. As usual, I headed first to my pony barn. From inside, little whinnies softly greeted me. They knew that my approach meant breakfast was about to be served. But as I drew closer, I heard the commotion. Hens roosting in the loft were not happy. Something was amiss! As I rounded the corner of the barn, I came to a dead stop!
There he stood, we were face to face, just a few feet apart. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. His eyes were glistening a bright greenish gold. He held his stare, not budging an inch. The hungry coyote held my chicken firmly in his jaws. I didn't hesitate. My arms flew instinctively up above my head, trying to make myself look as big as a bear (well, maybe a small bear). I moved quickly toward him, all the time screaming “DROP my chicken – you BAD BAD coyote.” He reluctantly obeyed, promptly dropping my little friend, as if to say “OK – OK, anything to shut you up, Lady!” As for my lucky little chicken, off he ran to the safety of the barn. The coyote slowly trotted off, seeming not too happy. He stopped occasionally, looking back to be sure that I hadn't changed my mind about allowing him his chicken breakfast. I assured him I hadn't. No, Sir! Not a chance! Not on my watch. I watched as he slowly disappeared into the nearby woods.
Mind you, if he had not heeded my command, I would have gone to Plan B...my weapon of choice – wasp spray! You see, I keep cans dotted here and there throughout the farm, just for this type of encounter. It shoots 15 feet, smells offensive, and does no bodily harm when sprayed away from the face; but it would have encouraged him to move on.
This certainly wasn't my first encounter with a wiley coyote. Over the years I have seen quite a few meandering through the farm. In my 21 years here, I've learned many things about these incredibly intelligent creatures.
Coyote Facts 101
The scientific name for coyote means barking dog. Their average weight is 25-35 pounds and are 24 inches tall. Having long legs and a bushy tail, they appear much larger than they really are. They can run 30-40 mph and can leap up to 14 feet. They run with their tail down (unlike domestic dogs). They are strong swimmers, have keen eyesight and sharp hearing. Their coat is shades of grey, rust, and buff, making for a perfect camoflage. They run in packs, but often can be spotted by themselves. Their strong sense of smell leads them to their varied diet, eating anything they find including rabbits, mice, squirrels, gophers, birds, frogs, snakes, insects, fruit and meat. They are true scavengers. They are most active from dusk to dawn.
Coyotes mate for life. They breed February – April. Their gestation is 60-63 days, producing 1-19 pups (wow!). They are born in underground dens. The pups are docile, happy and playful. The mother coyote will move her pups if she is disturbed. Both parents play a role in the pups' feeding and upbringing.
Coyotes are capable of breeding with domestic dogs. These pups are called coydogs.
Their high pitched yaps, yips, and howls are very distinctive. This is their way of communicating with each other. Each sound has its own meaning and they do recognize each others' voices.
Coyotes are basically reclusive and usually will avoid contact with humans, although they will defend their territory, mates and pups.
When encountering a coyote – never run. You should make eye contact and become large and loud. This is called hazing – defined as moving a coyote away, discouraging undesirable behavior or activity.
No matter what the circumstance, never try to domesticate or hand raise a coyote pup. They will grow to be dangerous and unpredictable. Allowing your family pet to interact with a coyote of any age is playing with fire. They transmit rabies, distemper, hepatitis, Parvo, mange, fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites. One coyote also may keep your pet busy while others attack from behind.
Please remember these are wild animals and should be treated as such to maintain a peaceful coexistence.