Friday, February 26, 2021

Conflict of Interest

Object is closer than it appears.

I hate carnivores.


[SFX: audible sigh] 

Okay, that's not true. I don't hate carnivores.

IN FACT: during the wildlife documentaries where the relentless wolf chases the cute, innocent widdle bunny wabbit...I'm the guy cheering for the wolf.

Lions and tigers and bears gotta make a living, ya know.

[SFX: angry, conflicted muttering]


No, our LITERAL back yard, where our chickens live and recently have been stalked by coyotes and hawks.

The hawks have vexed us for a while now, TBH, but the coyotes are new. And frankly it's wracking my nerves. Every time a crow caws out back (crows are amazing first-alert alarms) I rush to the window at defcon 1.

"Let's see if this gate opens!"
If it's a hawk in the tree above the yard, I hustle out to the deck to fling pine cones and epithets until it gets bored and flies off.

If it's a coyote outside the fenceline, I fly madly down the stairs, grabbing a big stick on the way out the door. I've actually had to charge the fence, shouting and banging the fence posts before the critter will retreat. 

Would I take a home run swing at a coyote's backside if I got the chance? Why yes, yes I would. We sincerely love the urban wildlife—but we love our hens more. Sorry, not sorry.

[SFX: audible sigh]

Thankfully, urban coyotes are way too smart to stand around waiting to be whacked by soft-walkers carrying big sticks.
It turns out urban carnivores are *everywhere* in metro Seattle. There's an online tracker that aggregates reported sightings of black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, opossums, raccoons, red foxes, and [checks notes] river otters? 

See the swarms of yellow dots? Coyotes. See the red circle? Our neighborhood. And these are just the sightings that have been reported. Frankly, I don't know how any of us have survived as long as we have.
"Look, I'm telling you, there's something moving 
and it ain't us! Tracker's off the scale, man.
They're all around us, man. Jesus!"
It's been a few days now since the last coyote incursion. We don't know if our "coyote hazing" measures worked, if they found easier prey elsewhere, or if they'll be back when the mood strikes them. Living creatures are unpredictable.

What we DO know is that there are no villains in the wildlife food chain. They're all just doing their best to survive, and some of them are better at it than others. We can't hold that against them.

Our inclination will always be to live and let live—us on our side of the fence, them on theirs.

[contemplative pause]

I'm not getting rid of the big stick, tho.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Urban Direwolf

"Round he throws his baleful eyes
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay"
—Milton, Paradise Lost

"Normal life in an abnormal time tends to become abnormal."

—Newton's First Law of WTF
CASE IN POINT: coyotes in our neighborhood.

We'd heard the rumors, but we hadn't seen the real articles.

Until oh-dark-thirty this morning.

The dogs and I always get out early. It's just easier that way, since the three of them are disorderly in the best of circumstances, and the one of me is barely able to contain their nonsense.

TODAY three runners ran by us, and were flagged down by a passing car. I couldn't hear the conversation, but I imagined it had something to do with their running in the road in the dark.

Nope. The same car pulled up next to us and the driver hollered, "I just passed two coyotes. Not sure if they'll attack dogs or people."
Me: "How far up?"
Him: "Just by the entrance to the park."
Me: "Okay, thanks for the tip!"

As a result of that conversation, did I expect to see coyotes? I did not. Because though we'd heard multiple, credible reports of their presence in the past few weeks, I HAD NOT PERSONALLY SEEN ONE...therefore they couldn't possible exist.

Besides, THE park in our neighborhood is Discovery Park, the closest entrance to which was nearly two miles away. Dude MAY have seen coyotes up there, but we were down here, and never the twain shall meet.

HAHA. I'm an idiot.

Not just because coyotes travel, but because there was another small park (more of a scenic overlook, really) about 150 yards up the hill from where we were.

Toward which we kept walking, ignorant, blissful, oblivious.

The time between the friendly warning and the coyote encounter was brief. Three or four minutes, tops. I saw it first, which is inexplicable since there are no streetlights on that stretch of road, and it's still quite dark here at 5:45 a.m. PLUS I was traveling with three dogs, one of which is supposed to be an LGD (which stands for "livestock guardian dog"). But I'm the one who spots the direwolf in the dark??

Not cool, dogs. Not cool at all.
Representative coyote.
Actual coyote may vary.

I turned on my headlamp and pointed it {gestures over there in the underbrush}. The coyote froze, its eyes shining back at us...and THAT'S when the LGD barked.

Fortunately, when a Great Pyrenees barks, people (and other creatures) listen. The coyote turned and bolted up the hill, whilst I wrangled the dogs back down the hill. No need for an early morning confrontation with the local wildlife after all, wot?

Was I remembering the guy distinctly said, "two coyotes"? I WAS.
Did I continue looking back over my shoulder whilst we hustled away? I DID.

The rest of the walk was boring. Standard dog hijinx. We get that here every day. {sighs}

Back home, we had barely gotten in the door and I could already hear our chickens fussing out back.

"Two urban coyotes walk into an urban chicken farm, and the first one says {nothing because coyotes don't talk with their mouths full}."

UPDATE: The chickens are fine.

So far.

But I'm confident that will not remain the case if the coyotes get a craving for poultry cacciatore.