July 1, 2009

Old Man Coyote and the creatures of Westerly Creek

We have a manmade ‘natural’ park across the street from our house in Denver that meanders and wraps around the whole neighborhood for about 2 square miles. It has been planted with native trees and plants, and is really green this year because of all the rain we have had. Westerly Creek runs through the middle of it and there is a large pond to collect run-off water. This makes a great habitat for birds and wildlife. The pond and adjacent creek are home to ducks, herons, king fishers, flickers, meadow larks, nesting swallows, red wing blackbirds, and raccoons as well as craydads, fishes and frogs. The park is criss-crossed with paved and gravel trails and bridges crossing the stream and is a favorite haunt of human creatures such as bikers, skaters, runners, walkers and their dogs, and moms with baby carriages. Downstream some beavers have built a dam by prairie dogtown by gnawing down some of saplings that the City planted to make the park pretty.

The grass is really tall, about 3 feet high which encourages bunnies, prairie dogs and field mice. This year a couple of obnoxious blackbirds, probably with fledglings hidden in the grass, have taken up residence at the entrance across the street from us and are dive bombing anyone that walks by. One day they took great exception to Sweet Pickle and harassed him for about 75 feet before they flew back to their perch on a fir tree. Lately they seem to be most offended by runners—attacking all of them without exception. I see a few runners now wearing biking helmets as they jog by. Unfortunately now that the cherry tree in our front yard is bearing ripening fruit they have decided they own it too, and will fly into my yard to attack me if I go near it.

For the past four years we have heard coyotes howling off and on at night. Last year I saw one about 400 feet away in the tall grass sneaking around trying to hide from people and their dogs that were walking by on the trail. But this year they have moved in and we hear them howling in the daytime as well. Esperando went for a walk and one walked by about 5 feet from him. Some guy he talked to on the trail told him that people were feeding and petting it. Several weeks ago when I was walking Sweet Pickle in the park a coyote brazenly crossed our path not 10 feet away. Sweet Pickle was off leash when I suddenly realized the coyote was there (it seemed to appear from out of nowhere), they both pointedly ignored one another although I was freaked out that the coyote was so unafraid of us to come so near. Then last week after one of the strong storms passed through, I saw a dead baby coyote washed up on the stream bank. Yesterday the Division of Wildlife posted a Coyote Warning sign across the street from us.

Across the greater Denver metropolitan area, coyotes are becoming a big issue with headlines making the newspapers and magazines, such as: Coyotes Attack Colorado Woman and Her Lab from Field & Stream; In Colorado, coyote protectors clash with a hired gun reported from the LA Times; and Sharpshooters kill 5 coyotes in Broomfield from the Denver Post. It seems both the human and the coyote populations are increasing exponentially and co-habiting is not on. When will we learn that wild animals should be treated with respect and not treated as pets? When we teach them to not fear us by feeding them, we are not doing them any favor. They become embrazoned enough to attack children, pets and even adults. In the end they unfortunately pay for it with their the loss of lives. And in this particular instance we have not encroached on their territory, but have created a pleasing habitat that is an attractive draw to them.

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