A few weeks ago, I was in the arb after sunset, and heard a strange dog yowl… and then I heard many others join in, high-pitched and even a bit spooky, and I realized that I was hearing a pack of coyotes!
Coyotes are interesting animals; they are common in the arb and all throughout North America, although there were far fewer pre-European contact due to competition with wolves. They often travel and hunt alone or in pairs, but are also commonly seen in family packs, which is likely what I heard when they were calling. Sometimes, coyote strangers will even join a family pack temporarily to hunt larger animals.
Coyotes are mostly carnivorous and can eat deer, rabbits, rodents, birds, reptiles, and whatever water creatures they can catch, but sometimes they also eat plants, like berries and fruits. Recently in the northern end of the lower arb, I came across big tufts of deer fur, and arb manager Matt Elbert informed me that it was likely a coyote kill; this was confirmed as other students nearby reported finding bones strewn about, and a strange, dark scat (poop!)– the dominant male coyote of a pack will eat first, and eat the most nutritious bits of organs, so that the scat is different than those of the other coyotes who eat all the other less scrumptious bits. I thought it was pretty sweet to see the unraveling story of a hunt like that!
In many indigenous people’s folklore and traditions, coyotes often take the shape of a man who is a clever trickster who causes trouble; he serves as a cautionary tale, teaching people about consequences and danger.
We also have badgers in the arb, so I like to think about the friendships that coyotes and badgers might have! Indigenous peoples as well as modern scientists have been intrigued by the fact that the two critters will hunt together, and even groom each other. So while you and a friend might go for a stroll together in the arb in the daytime, so too might a coyote and his badger friend at night.
—Klara Gabriela Heuchert ‘22, for the Cole Student Naturalists