A photo I took of a coyote near Joshua Tree National Park. ©2018 Karine Swenson.
This morning, we started out on our daily hike. Sometimes, we get in the car and drive to some public land near our house, but today we were both tired, so we decided to walk around our property. The dog found a mouse in the woodpile, and he was busy with that. My husband and I continued on. The path circles around our property, crossing over the arroyo twice. As we came down to the first crossing, I happened to look where the water forms puddles in the rock and to my surprise, a coyote was standing there. The coyotes here are shy - they are hunted - so it was a shock to see one so close. I quickly realized there was something wrong. This coyote was injured; missing one of its front legs. It had just happened, because as the creature tried to move away from us, it fell forward. It quickly got up again and again it fell. We did not want to cause further anxiety and suffering to the coyote, so we continued our hike and left it there.
The encounter was upsetting. I don't know, but I suspect a neighbor who owns the adjoining property is trapping the coyotes. Even though a law was recently passed in New Mexico outlawing traps on public lands, on private property there are no such restrictions. I suppose it also could have been hit by a car, but we are a mile from the paved road, and the way that coyote was moving, it seemed like a stretch that it could have gotten far. It's hard to say, and I don't think I will ever know what happened. We have watched as our neighbor put up a fence (with "no trespassing" signs) all the way around his property. A year or so after that, another fence went up. Then, a few weeks ago, we spotted a longhorn on the other side of fence #2. So it would stand to reason that anyone with a herd would be inclined to wage the war against coyotes. I hope I am wrong.
The coyote has been hunted, poisoned and trapped since Europeans came to the New World. Funded by the government, no less. Despite all of our efforts to rid the world of this creature, Wile E. Coyote has outsmarted us all. The coyote can be found in every major city in the US, and their territory has even expanded beyond the western prairies to the East Coast and up into Canada. There is even evidence that they are breeding with dogs and wolves. We did coyotes a favor when we eradicated the grey wolf in most places, since they are predators and competitors with coyotes. You can read more about it here.
Living in the Mojave desert gave me an opportunity to see and know these intelligent, adaptable animals in a way that has stayed with me. I love to hear their yipping. It makes me feel like I'm home. I think it's unfortunate that the only solution we see when we have conflict with nature is to eliminate it. I fear that one day, when we have finally killed off all the wild things, we will realize our error. By then it will be too late.
"Thirst." Oil, pencil and oil bar on cradled birch, 30 x 30 inches. ©2021 Karine M. Swenson