The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Armadillo
Story Of The Lynx
Story Of The Elephant
Story Of The Leopard
Story Of The Reindeer
Story Of The Coyote
Story Of The Wild Sheep
Story Of The Mungoose
Story Of The Zebra
Story Of The Yak
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Story Of The Coyote
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The coyote has been well-named by a western writer, "the lean, gray vagrant of the plains." This animal is considerably smaller than the common wolf, from which it is also distinguished by its thicker and longer fur and more bushy tail.
The coyote ranges from the south of Costa Rica, in Central America, to the lower portions of Hudson's Bay. It is still abundant in Texas, Northern Mexico, and the western prairies of the United States, but is rare in Guatemala; and it has been suggested that it is but a comparatively recent immigrant into Central America.
The coyote is more generally in the habit of burrowing in the ground than the common wolf; it is also far less savage and destructive, and becomes more docile and gentle in captivity. Like the common wolf, it will on occasions hunt in packs; and it is at least as noisy an animal, although the tone of its howl is quite different. As regards food, it appears to be almost omnivorous; and, when an animal diet is unattainable, it will feed upon juniper-berries, or the prickly pear. Rabbits, rats, young birds, etc., form, however, its staple diet; and it does not appear that it ever attacks the larger mammals, although, when wounded and brought to bay, it will defend itself fiercely. In speed it is far inferior to the wolf, and it can be readily overtaken by a good horse. The cubs are born in May and June; the number in a litter usually being five or six, but occasionally ten.
On account of the length of its fur, the coyote appears to be a thicker built and shorter-legged animal than it really is. The color varies consider-ably at different seasons of the year, being a bright brown in summer, and gray or grayish in winter ; this ground-color at both seasons being overlaid with a shading of black, which tends to form stripes along the back and across the shoulders and loins. The under-parts are of a dirty white tint; while the upper portion of the muzzle, and the outsides of the ears and legs are generally tan color.
To the hunter or emigrant encamped upon the prairie, the coyote is a positive nuisance. By instinct it is a thief and a coward. It will hang around a camp and watch every opportunity to steal a meal. Sometimes the gnawings of hunger will give it enough courage to sneak into a tent and seize any morsel of food that may be left exposed. Having devoured this it will take a position a few hundred yards away, squatting on its haunches and licking its chops, waiting for another chance, but always prepared to, run if a camper picks up a stone or stick to throw at it.
It is at night, however, that the coyote makes itself a nuisance. Its voice is far from musical, but loud and high. It keeps up, an almost incessant yelping, driving sleep from the eyes of the tired camper. Two, or three coyotes yelping in chorus will make enough noise to convince a person who, hears them for the first time that there are fifty or sixty in the pack.
When a hunter's patience has been exhausted by their night yelping, he will sometimes take his gun and steal out for a shot at them. If he succeeds in shooting one of them, the others will pounce upon the wounded animal, drag him down and devour him.
One good dog is a match for several coyotes, and if the animal has been trained to fight them, it can put a pack of them to flight.
But so many dogs of the western prairie are inbred with wolves and coyotes, that they will often associate together on the most friendly terms. The association is usually bad for the dog, as there have been numerous cases where dogs have deserted their masters to take up a roving and precarious existence with coyotes.
The shepherds of the prairies and mesas in the southwestern sections of the United States are greatly harassed by coyotes, especially in the lambing season.- The coyote is fond of lamb, and the younger and tenderer it is the better he likes it. The old rams and the goats that accompany every herd of sheep are more than a match for the coyote, but the lambs and sometimes the young ewes fall easy victims to. his claws and fangs.
In the days when the Western prairies were black with herds of buffaloes, the coyotes were always found in great numbers on the outskirts of the herd, waiting for a chance to attack some old and decrepit animal driven out by the young bulls. They would-follow a weak, old buffalo for days, and when his strength failed him, so that he was no longer able to defend himself, they would rush upon him in large numbers, some at his throat, others at his heels, and pull him down, literally eating him alive.
The coyote is not as shrewd as the wolf in detecting and avoiding poison bait, and Western ranchmen have rid the country of thousands of them by poisoning the carcasses of dead animals.
The Mexican coyote has, longer legs, a more slender form, and a more fox-like head than its northern cousin, but in habits and instinct they are the same.
I have witnessed many an exciting chase by coyotes after a jack-rabbit. One that I remember was when I was in the hot, dry section of Southern Colorado, where the blazing sun had shriveled the vegetation in the daytime and where no dew falls to revive it at night. I had been in camp several hours and was lying in front of my tent watching the big full moon, which in that rarified atmosphere looks twice as big and twice as high as it does in the Eastern States. when I heard the shrill yelp of a coyote, followed by another and then several others. I arose and got my rifle, and just as I came out of my tent a jack-rabbit ran past within fifty yards of me, pursued by seven coyotes. The rabbit could have outrun them on a straight line, but they practically had it surrounded when I saw them, and in two hundred yards more they closed in on bunny. Inside of two minutes they had torn him to pieces and were fighting among themselves. I avenged the rabbit by shooting two of them before they scampered off.