Coyotes live in the southern Arizona desert. I know this because I’ve heard them in the evenings and early mornings yipping, yapping, and yes, howling. It has been their desert before it was mine, and I’m not afraid to share the area with them. I don’t have any little dogs to protect, and I haved no fears for my own safety, as I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking an adult human.
I do, however, expect coyotes to keep their distance. What do I have that a coyote might want? I seldom cook meat–maybe a little seafood now and then–so there are usually no enticing odors or bones lingering around my camp. It’s a big desert, the friend I share a campsite with says, and it’s true. I believe the coyote and I can coexist there without getting in each other’s way.
I was surprised to see the coyote(s) skulking near another friend’s camp as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. We were eating boiled shrimp, it is true (this desert isn’t so very far from the sea), but the coyote(s) displayed quite a boldness to get so close to the camp. I suppose the smell of shrimp was too delicious to ignore
(I’m still not sure if we saw one or two coyotes moving around the outskirts of the camp. I never saw two together, and I was unable to distinguish any identifying features, so I may have only seen one coyote changing its location.)
The friend I was visiting does cook red meat often, so I suppose his camp beckons to the canines with a plethora of enticing aromas. He doesn’t feed them, and he makes sure his garbage can’t be broken into, but still the coyotes come.
My friend suspects other campers feed the coyote neighbors, which is never a good idea. If wild animals grow accustomed to eating handouts, they’re going to hang around where people are. If coyotes hang around campsites or homesteads, one of them might snack on a cat or a little dog. If a coyote kills a pet, people will call for a coyote hide. In the desert, coyotes and humans should keep a respectful distance from one another.
But at least one coyote was close the night of the shrimp boil, hoping for a handout or an opportunity to snatch a delicious morsel. We offered neither.
A couple mornings later, I got out of the van and walked toward my campmate’s rig. In my path was a large pile of feces.
Look at this! I called to my campmate, who strode over.
I think a coyote has been here!
Are we 100% sure that’s not from a human? my campmate asked.
I shot her a look. We’ve got big problems if a person’s coming onto our campsite to shit.
She got her camp shovel, and we bagged up the waste.
Why would a coyote be in our space? we wondered. Then I spotted the five-gallon bucket set next to the firepit. Yep, it was full of water. The coyote was probably passing through our site to drink from the fire safety bucket. We dumped the water and agreed to offer no more drinking opportunities.
I can’t remember if it was that very evening or a few days later, but soon after, I was sitting in the doorway of my van in the late afternoon. I was making a hat, but some movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked up, and there was a coyote sauntering through the camp. It was on a trajectory which would bring it past where the bucket of water had stood, straight to the area where a coyote had left a poop deposit.
I didn’t even consider what I should do. I just yelled.
Hey! I shouted in my sternest voice.
The coyote froze.
Get out of here! I yelled as meanly as I could. I would have liked to befriend the coyote, but I knew we belonged to two different worlds. It was better if we didn’t try to meet.
The coyote turned tail and ran off the way it had come.
About that time, my campmate came tumbling out of her rig.
Is everything ok? she wanted to know.
I explained I’d just chased away a coyote.
I heard you yell, she said, seeming a little dazed. She obviously hadn’t known just how big my mouth and loud my voice are.
I used to be in pep squad, I explained.
Apparently the voice I once used to cheer on the football team works just as well to chase off coyotes.
Coyotes are opportunists, and they will take what they can get. I don’t have a problem with leaving an old bucket with water in it outside camp for them, but you would have to be a real idiot to feed them, for the reasons you mentioned. It has been said that Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. If one creature (like coyotes) leave the area, another type moves in — like rodents.
When I lived in SoCal, my boss (a veterinarian) lived up in the hills. He learned to leave a tub of water out on the corner of his acreage for the coyotes. It seems that when the area got hot and the natural water sources dried up, the coyotes would chew his good rubber hoses to get at the water that I guess they could smell inside. He had inner fencing for his pets, and he didn’t want the coyotes coming into the yard and causing problems, so he would fill a tub sitting in his pickup, and then drive to the tub sitting quite some distance away, and fill it. No more chewed hoses. And fewer rodents, he noticed — the coyotes’ natural food source.
Coyotes are a very common sighting in my neighborhood, only 12 minutes from downtown San Diego. They killed my pet dog Toby–the love of my life. It’s good to know about the water. We haven’t seen any this rainy winter, so putting water in the neighboring canyons when the weather gets dry might be a very good move.