Coyote Child | |


I lived out west for a while so I know a bit about standard coyotes. They weigh around forty pounds and are terrified of humans. That’s not what we have in our woods here. They are, I suspect, a mix of migrating coyotes and domestic dogs in this area. This created a bigger predator.

I saw one from afar. It was about the size of a small German shepherd, carrying its tail low to the ground. I watched him creep across the pasture with his odd gait that doesn’t look like a dog’s. When I yelled at him, he melted into the tall grass. It was humanly shy and non-threatening…. like all the coyotes on this farm have been…until now.

Recently, lambs and kids have disappeared. Adult sheep and goats too. All you find to the left are bleached bones, strewn about like on the floor of Grendel’s cave. There are sheepdogs guarding the flock, but they can’t be everywhere all the time.

A few years ago, friends visited me. I invited them to go fishing. We went in the morning, when it was still cool enough to grab a few bites. We only had two rods, so my company hung their feet from the dock, waiting for a tug on their lines. I sat listening to Matthew’s tales of urban woes, but my attention kept wandering. The herd of goats had come to drink from the other side of the lake and I watched them. I’ll find out later… I wasn’t the only one watching.

One by one, the children slipped through the fence and headed for the water. A few of the older goats joined them, gracefully descending for a drink. They left as quickly as they had come, crossing the fence, disappearing into the tall grass. I could hear them moving across the field, grazing peacefully. I saw them moving slowly, cutting the kudzu leaves as they went.

Suddenly I heard a cry of alarm go up. One of the nannies bleated loudly. The other goats huddled together for a minute then started running… away from the lake and towards the safety of the house. But one was left out.

I heard the frightened cry of a kid, left alone in the tall grass. It was about 30 yards from me, so I started walking towards the sound. I was stopped by motion blur. It was a big gray animal, with a smaller white one in its mouth. It was a coyote. A big. And he had the kid in his mouth. The kid was soft.

I started screaming. I do not know what. My friends later said it sounded more like the primal cry of a monkey. But whatever came out of my mouth scared the coyote and he dropped the kid and ran back into the grass. I kept screaming as I ran towards the kid. He struggled to stand and wobbled after the herd of goats. He wasn’t dead, but I didn’t know how hurt he was.

By now my friends had joined me, brandishing their fish rods like spears, just in case the coyote decided to return. I slow my breathing enough to talk to them. “Have you seen that?” They didn’t see him but only heard me scream. I described what happened and Matthew said, “When I said I wanted to get away from ‘Dog Eat Dog,’ I didn’t plan on that.”

We leave the lake and return home. It was late in the morning and I didn’t have a gun with me. Not that I thought the coyote would have returned, but I did feel a bit vulnerable after seeing the large carnivore and his elimination of the “Wild Kingdom” goat. We went back home.

By then the goats had returned and the baby that had been bitten was found. He had a big lump in his throat. Widely spaced fang marks pierced the side of his head. But the jugular vein wasn’t affected, so it looked like she was going to survive.

The coyote? He is (or perhaps his descendants are) always running through the tall grass, looking for opportunity. This morning the sheepdogs caught one against the fence behind the house. It was a terrible racket. The fat coyote was pinned against the fence, his teeth glinting. The two sheepdogs were barking excitedly, rushing in and out, trying to catch him.

I tried to sneak in and take a picture. It’s not every day that you see sheepdogs doing this part of their job. But my approach broke their concentration and the coyote slipped away, running along the fence toward Pleasant Hill Road. They gave chase and I heard them barking as they chased. I don’t know what happened after that, but I don’t think that coyote will come back to feast on the herd.

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