By DAVID COLE | Special to the Palisadian-Post
The cold night stings the air—sharp, but refreshing as the coyote fills her lungs.
Her brothers and sisters around her are awash in the thick light of a waxing moon. The air is filled with a familiar howl, far off.
Her ears twitch forward and she joins her brother’s howl as the rest of her pack follows.
She surges forward, toward her lost brother, paws barely disturbing the leaves.
Darting between the trees, her breath catches in her gut as the lonesome howl of her brother shifts suddenly to frantic barks. She runs with panicked urgency.
A gunshot fills the air; the sheer volume of the noise scatters several of the pack, but she isn’t discouraged so easily.
She breaks through the trees to a man holding the limp body of her brother up by the tail.
Another man spins around to face her, and before she can change her path, another gunshot cracks—and in those endlessly fleeting moments, stars and moon dim and the air ceases to sting her glistening wet nose.
According to Project Coyote, an animal welfare organization, more than 500,000 coyotes meet this tragic end every year as freelance hunters and government employees seek to eradicate them. They see them as a threat to household pets, livestock and, in cases of the more paranoid, children.
They use guns and poisons, traps so nasty they are banned in more than 80 countries.
The inaptly named USDA Wildlife Service claims to “relocate” coyote in an overdramatized and job-protecting saga of livestock protection.
Last year they boasted they “dispersed” 700 coyotes.
But they slaughtered another 77,000.
The absurdity is not just in the obscene deaths, but the lack of recognition for these beautiful animals’ resilience, for their loyalty and their grace.
They were once held in the highest regard by Native American people around here, seen as providers of fire and very often the companion of the Creator.
They are not only America’s abundant predator, but also the most versatile.
They have adapted to thrive in all American environments, conquering everything from the Nevada deserts to the vast Alaskan snowdrifts.
This level of resilience matches even our own “grit” and is a trait to admire greatly.
The coyote is not just a reminder of who was here first in the Palisades.
She is an incredibly social beast with complicated emotions, friendships and rich lives that deserve respect.
Coyote play a key role in many ecosystems, keeping smaller species from becoming too populous. This helps to balance out the number of plant and bird species. They clear away diseased rodents and other more dangerous animals.
But the most admirable traits are their capacity for compassion, loyalty and courtship—qualities we hold true to our humanity.
We see these animals forming friendships with siblings, other coyotes, and even the occasional badger or red fox.
Although cautious, they are optimistic by by default when approaching a potential friend.
And once they bond, the partnership lasts for life.
They accept new members into the pack, stay strictly monogamous and never ever abandon their young.
(How many humans do you know who adhere to such a strict code?)
We see coyote everywhere we go, even in our own back yards.
But as the slaughter continues they cannot be taken for granted. It is important to show respect due for this noble animal, before it’s too late.
The coyote has been an integral part of the American landscape since well before our time.
The coyote has made the Santa Monica Mountains home for eons—a very similar small canid, Eucyon, dates back six million years to the Pliocene epoch. And depending on who you ask, the coyotes may even have made the mountains.
Let’s face it: we share our neighborhoods with them. Let them howl in peace.
David Cole is a senior at Palisades Charter High School.
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