They're more complicated than the howling silhouette on your bespoke candle holder from Santa Fe, and more interesting. Chris and Alicia discuss living with coyotes in the desert, what they offer, what they don't offer, and how we can best get along. Also: updates on Colorado River drought and Cima Dome wildflowers.
Project Coyote, which offers an immense amount of education and wisdom about living with coyotes, can be found here.
Episode image © Peter Thoeny, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
S1E6 Co(yot)existence — how to live with coyotes
Alicia: This podcast was made possible by the generous support of our Patreon patrons. They provide us with the resources we need to produce each episode. You can join them at 90milesfromneedles.com/ Patreon.
Chris: Hi, this is Chris. A brief content note. Much of this podcast was recorded on a day when it was very windy in the Mojave.
We're talking average, wind speeds above 17 miles an hour with gusts ranging as high as 50 or 60 miles per hour. This is windy even for the very windy Mojave Desert. And you will hear evidence of this wind in this podcast. That evidence ranges from occasional sounds of wind howling, which we could not edit out without editing out my co-host’s impeccable observations on coyotes to sounds of the building creaking under the sheer force of the wind.
To the desultory ringing of a cow bell, which only happens when wind speeds reach above 35 miles an hour. It eventually occurred to me to bring the cowbell indoors. while this background noise should not interfere with your ability to understand what we're saying. We hope you think it brings a note of verisimilitude, a sense of place to this podcast, and we hope you enjoy it.
Bouse Parker: The sun is a giant blow torch aimed at your face. There ain't no shade Nowhere. Let's hope you brought enough water. It's time for 90 miles from Needles, the desert protection podcast with your hosts, Chris Clarke, and Alicia Pike.
Chris: Welcome to 90 miles from needles. I'm Chris Clarke
Alicia: and I’m Alicia Pike.
Chris: A couple episodes ago we spoke with Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network about drought in the Colorado River basin. Two weeks after that, a story came out that was covered in CNN and a couple other outlets about dire forecasts for the water levels in Lake Powell, which is one of the reservoirs on the Colorado River. Back at the beginning of March, the US Bureau Of Reclamation, which is the agency that manages the dams on the Colorado River and other places in the west, said it was expecting that in mid-March the surface of Lake Powell would reach 3,525 feet above sea level, sometime between the 10th and the 16th of March.
As of March 12th, we just checked — You can look at the Lake Powell water database online and see the fairly recent water level — It is at 3,525 and about three inches. Yeah. And what that means is that it's 35 feet above the level at which they cannot generate hydro power. From the dam.
Alicia: And how long do we think it'll be before those 35 feet are gone?
Chris: That's a really good question. 35 feet is an important buffer. The Bureau of Reclamation is going to have to release more water from smaller reservoirs, like Flaming Gorge and others upstream as part of a drought contingency plan. And that means there's less water for the communities upstream to use for drinking irrigation, things like that.
So basically as Kyle talked about a couple months ago, when we had him on the podcast, the Colorado River is getting drier, getting lower, and we're going to have to figure out how to live within our means on that. Things are proceeding pretty much as Kyle suggested they would for this year. And it's very likely that next year is not going to be any better.
But we do have some good news in a unrelated update,
Chris: which is that you remember when we were talking about wild flowers that we liked and how I was like, just gushing over the desert mariposa lily, and saying that this beautiful wildflower, which is bright orange with little black dots at the base of the petals is showing up in potentially a bunch of places.
This year where there's been at least a little bit of rain, but there's been more rain in the desert this year than the last. And I suggested that they said they used to grow on Cima Dome, and they might still be there even after the fire. I was up there quite recently, planting some baby Joshua trees in the Cima Dome fire burn area, and with a couple of botanist friends and we found hundreds and.
Probably actually by extrapolation thousands of desert mariposa lilies putting leaves up over the soil. It's really great to see. It doesn't mean that they're all going to bloom and this might be one of those years where they come up, put out leaves, soak up a little sunlight, make some sugars, turn them into starches and put them in the bulbs and just store it for a few years down the road doesn't mean there's gonna be a Super bloom.
Alicia: It's not going to be a super bloom on Cima Dome, ladies and gentlemen, just turn off your engines
Chris: you should definitely go up there and find out how you can help water the Joshua trees. That's a good thing to do. And there are a couple of wild flowers already blooming up there, but you have to hike around. But the good news is there are still living desert mariposa lilies up on Cima Dome, even after the fire. And we'll take all the good news we can get.
Alicia: We're just reading about two different kinds of desert lilies, and we were learning that their bulbs are at least two feet to six feet below the surface of the earth, which is great protection from fire damage.
Chris: That's where I want to be as. I guess I will be six feet below the surface of the earth. So eventually, hopefully not two feet. Cause that probably indicates that something went wrong. Yeah.
Alicia: You encountered old Bill Keys.
Chris: Yeah. We'll stay shallow, but not so grave for this podcast.
Chris: We have been graced with the opportunity to provide some content for a new publication called Joshua Tree Voice. We like the publication and you should go look at it. We are pleased to have an essay in there every month, so far for the last three months and another one coming up, which a full disclosure, the publishers of Joshua Tree Voice in exchange for the short articles, we write are giving us a little bit of promotion for this podcast.
So we're pleased with that arrangement. Anyway, the most recent issue, which is out now has an essay by me on coyotes and in this essay I talk about my affection for coyotes and how I don't understand why people might not share that. And, you know, I cover the usual things like sure. They eat dogs and cats sometimes.
And that's really, really hard. I get that. It's, uh, it's hard if you lose a beloved pet even to natural causes. And if you have somebody you can actually blame it's going to be even, even more of a difficult situation, but to turn from that, to just abiding hate of an entire species is a little strange, I think.
And then there are people that didn't even go through that loss or anything like that. And they just think coyotes are good only for being killed. And sometimes you'll see people like that on social media and they're really self-righteous about it. They will really just say, you don't see what they'll do to a calf or a lamb.
As I said in the article, I have seen that. Seeing what happens in slaughterhouses. And so I don't think we have a leg to stand on when it comes to the cruelty with which we get our own food. All you vegans out there can pat yourselves on the back.
Alicia: I think the relationship with coyotes is a deep rooted psychological one that we've had for eons in order to survive. If you're perceived as a threat in any way, shape or form to our livelihood and survival, you get put on the kill list. grizzly bears mountain lions wolves we've hunted them to extinction in the brink of, because they were a threat and out here in the desert, the coyote is enemy of the state because they're at this point, our biggest predator.
So people definitely focus on that as a threat. Something to be revered and respected. That's part of the system that we're living in. So I think that kind of explains, even if you don't have a particular reason, like it didn't eat one of your animals, it goes back to bred-in training, on the behalf of humans for thousands of years, if you're a threat I'm going to kill you.
But what happens when they disappear?
Chris: Well, there are videos that you can find online of places like the Sacramento Valley in California. Where people got rid of a lot of the predators and not just the wolves and the coyotes and the grizzly bears, but like the Bobcats and the foxes and all the mesopredators that would have kept those rodent populations in check. I mean, snakes, things like that. And
Alicia: we consider them varmints, coyotes, but they're actually the varmint patrol. They really do manage that.
Chris: You know, you see in these videos that there are just, I would say plagues of rodents and just footage of a barn door opening and out comes a tsunami of mice or rats.
And it is likely that you'd have population booms and busts of those kind of critters anyway, but without something to keep the numbers in check, those are just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. And. There's a lot of good reasons to keep coyotes around. You have, you have plagues of things like rabbits that are cute and look like they would be cuddly.
They're totally not. But they look like they would be, and you want to squee when you see them, even if they're pulling carrots out of your garden, the fewer coyotes you have around the less safe your vegetable plants are.
Alicia: Well, that kind of brings me back to the same point I left off with was if you're a threat, we're going to kill you.
So what, how far are we going to take this? how many variations of species are we going to eradicate in order to make our lives clean and comfortable and safe?
Alicia: We're just going to kill everything? that really doesn't make any sense. We've got to learn how to live with the system that is in place, if we continue to eradicate the other living beings in our system, it is out of balance and it will only get worse.
Chris: I know that over a year, you’ve got pets that are outdoors. You and I can have the argument about outdoor cats sometime later when we'll just do a live cast and get a bottle of scotch and some jello or something like that. And then just have that out. But your cats have been outside mostly for a lot of their lives and have managed to avoid becoming some coyotes lunch and same goes for your dogs. Although that would be more of a job.
Alicia: I've actually seen them fall parade to coyote antics, where there's a lure coyote, and then there's a group waiting nearby and that's a hunting tactic for them. They'll take out a dog that's bigger than them. If they've got. Ready to work in unison, but we are very watchful when our animals are outside and we can't always control what happens, but we can certainly discourage them from falling prey to a pack of coyotes or going after that songbird in the tree, it's in a delicate balance.
Chris: There's a group called Project Coyote that is a really wonderful educational group. That's working, not only in places like ours where it’s Rural or semi-rural and you have a lot of people that are not used to wildlife. And the wildlife is saying, Hey, there's somebody build a house in my Prairie and, and there's interactions that happen. But also in urban areas or suburban areas where coyotes are making a comeback, the coyotes are walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and getting back into San Francisco for the last 15 or 20 years. And they also work in very rural communities where there are livestock farmers who Are justifiably concerned about their, their livelihoods being eroded by wildlife taking out their lambs or their calves or chickens or whatever it is.
They have ways of coexistence that don't involve doing damage to the coyotes. Our government has spent millions of dollars over the last century, hundreds of millions of dollars supporting programs Whose sole purpose is to kill predatory animals
Alicia: is financial reward for everybody that you brought in.
Chris: Now it's an official, all right, now it's an official government agency is called Wildlife Services, which is, Orwellian as fuck it used to be called Animal Damage Control, which is definitely a good name for a band, but just hundreds of thousands of coyotes killed in a year. And there are more coyotes now than ever.
It's just a complete failure, our campaign to eradicate the coyote. And so that's not working. And if anything, groups like Project Coyote have, uh, pointed out that if you leave coyotes alone, they form stable family units. Mom and dad will have a litter a year and the pups will hang out for a year or two or maybe three just supporting the family unit. They don't breed every year. And if that, if the pups are with mom and dad, they don't breed Because they, that's not their job. That's mom and dad's job. And so you have sometimes several litters living with the parents, like a three-year span sometimes. And they're just, they're cooperating on the hunt. They're working together. They're living together. They're forming beautiful choruses at night, like the Von Trapp family. And then somebody comes in and shoots the dad or the mom. And suddenly you have, you can have several adult coyotes that weren't breeding before because their parents were alive, but now nothing's keeping them from having litters.
So you get a boatload of new coyotes, all of a sudden, cause you've taken off that thing Regulating the, the reproduction of that unit. The science is fascinating and it just points out that if you interfere, you make things worse.
Alicia: Absolutely. I used to work with horses in my college years and I'd go from ranch to ranch. And there was this one ranch that had a really great canyon on the backside of it. And the houses in that neighborhood were much further apart because it was called the city in the country, old Poway, California. And there was a horse ranch that I was working on. So lots of grain means lots of rodents.
So the food was abundant. The houses were spread out far enough and they had enough wild land to run and they just, they weren't causing a problem for anybody. And I got to see one of these family units that you described while I was out riding and I saw a single coyote and I just started sneakily following the coyote around the canyon.
He took me on all the long roundabouts, trying to lose me and ditch me, but I was on a mustang, and he was not going to lose me. We were surefooted and we had plenty of energy to burn. And finally he led me back to where the den was under a sumac tree and they were all just, it was just, I have this beautiful image in my head of about five or six coyotes, all just laying together in a padded down area, under the tree.
And they're out, just looked at me like Oh! Hi, what are you doing here? And I thought to myself, I really don't want to disturb this beautiful scene. And I turned around and I left. And They didn't chase me. There was never a sign of aggression and that's not because the nature of the coyote is aggressive and desperate.
They become aggressive and desperate when their system has been thrown out of balance and they don't have enough food and they don't have enough resources. They don't have enough land available to function as they are designed to function. And that's our fault. The natural order of things gets sent out of balance, desperation breeds, aggression, and other behavior exhibits that you're not going to see if they have what they need.
And it's really it's every man for himself. Are we going to allow the coyote to have what he needs? Are we going to allow ourselves to have what we needs in air quotes? Because I think I've mentioned on the podcast before we've met and exceeded what we need to survive. And I feel like we're getting greedy.
And the same thing here with these coyotes, we are going to deny a lot of wildlife, the right to live The way they've been living for thousands of years, because we want a sense of safety. We want as many animals as we weren't roaming around tethered. We want, we want because we want, you have to die
Chris: and we want to take a break. So
Alicia: we'll be right back.
Chris: You know, something, I don't think people talk about enough is that while coyote is, are not like majestic.
Alicia: Excuse me?
Chris: I mean, not compared to like African wild game or gray wolves or they're, you know, they could have this reputation of being sly and slinky and
Alicia: the trickster.
Chris: Yep. tricksters are not majestic. Tricksters are just kind
Alicia: For the record. I think coyotes are extremely majestic and they stopped me in my tracks. Anytime I see them. That's that's just me. I guess their big floofy tails. Their cute. Snouts. Their perky and alert ears. They're absolutely stunning creatures
Chris: stunning, yes, absolutely. I, I don't see words like cute and fluffy and perky and majestic co-habiting in the same, but
Alicia: I guess we're just going to have to have different descriptors. Cause I definitely, I look at bears and I see them as cute. I look at mountain lions is cute and fuzzy, but they are majestic too.
Chris: Yeah. Well, there, there is room for disagreement in this podcast team. You know, you don't always have to be right.
Alicia: I am well-aware
Chris: Let me put it this way. Coyotes are not often thought of in the same category as like pronghorn and gray wolves and grizzly bears and this other kind of calendar-photo-worthy wildlife that the north American continent is graced with. coyotes don't get their own calendar. They're not treated with the same regard in a lot of ways. And that's weird to me because they really are the soul of the desert. in this neighborhood We hear them singing pretty often, especially if I go out for my typical four or five mile walk at night, almost always counting, hearing coyote singing.
And in the last neighborhood, they would come up right next to the house and sing their hearts out at night. And no matter what I'm doing, I just have to stop and listen. That is my religion. It's like genuflecting. When you walk into the church, it's like dipping your hand in a holy water and hitting your face with it.
That it's something that I am obliged to do. And it's not even conscious at this point. And I've told this story before, including in the Joshua Tree Voice, but there was a moment some years back where I was getting up really early, like 3:30 AM. To drive for a few hours to get to a meeting and groggy stumbling around making coffee, feeling sorry for myself.
And the coyotes started singing and it was so beautiful. They were really close. They were really loud. They were harmonizing beautifully. And I just stopped, closed my eyes and was listening for about 20 seconds to this beautiful coyote song That sounded like it was right outside my window at Quarter to four in the morning, and then somebody let loose with an air horn and the coyote stopped and they didn't sing again until I left, which was like 45 minutes later.
And I was, I was furious. I was, I was frustrated. I couldn't understand why anybody would do that. Where they afraid where
Alicia: they they've got cats or they've got dogs or they've got, they want to scare the coyotes away would be the first thing that comes to my mind. Someone grumpy, trying to sleep.
Chris: It only happened that once in the six years I lived there. So I have. That it was somebody that was maybe not an Airbnb renter, but S but somebody that was visiting because it never happened again. And it hadn't happened for years before that. And it was a classic case of coyotes interruptus.
Alicia: There you go.
Chris: I was fuming for hours. It was up to the Kelso dunes by the time I calmed down a bit about it, I just didn't understand this song. That was. The entire essence of the desert distilling itself upward through the food chain, to the top predator, and then coming out in song. Why you wouldn't just worship that because that is the distillation of all of the sunlight that is falling on the desert and being turned into plants that are being turned into insects that are being turned into rodents that are being turned into.
And it just seems sacred to me there just that element of natural chaos and order that reminds us, who's really boss and it's not us.
Alicia: Yeah. One of the challenges of civilization certainly it's that what is sacred to one means nothing to the next and learning how to get along with 7 billion other people who all have their own ideas that are different from yours, it's challenging, but I tend to see a lot of these emotions as different manifestations of the same sentiment. I've heard people espouse their love for God. The creator, the same way you were just talking about the coyotes are like, how could you not want to worship and relish the love of the creator and it's, well, I look at it and I am, my mind is open, but I just don't subscribe to any one thing. So for me, it's like I get it.
But nature is more powerful to me than a creation story.
Chris: Yep. Yeah. I think the thing that keeps me happy about that is that when someone says they were out on a walk and they saw God and say, had a conversation with God and God stared back at them, we think that person is not entirely there. And I can say all those things about coyote, and everybody goes, oh, cool.
Yeah. I don't know. I felt this way for a long way. I felt this way far enough back in my life that when I was like 23 years old and got a job in a cafe in Berkeley, working with this Polyglot kitchen crew, Most of them Mexican, my name quickly became Coyote. Cause I was talking about them all the time and more often it was pinche coyote, or if I was in really rare form it was pinche coyote cabrón.
But yeah, the only nickname I've ever had, I sometimes think about reviving that nickname, but it just
Alicia: I'm putting that one in the back pocket.
Chris: All right. Yup. Yup. Need to get that Tattooed on me somewhere, but yeah, I've just always really liked them. When I was living in the bay area. If I saw a coyote, it would be fodder for, I don’t know, 3000 word essay on how awesome it was to see this coyote through some tall grass for 20 seconds.
And now they're walking around my neighborhood in the middle of the day and keeping them themselves in minding their own business. And every once in a while, just grabbing a roadkilled Pigeon off the road and taking it over to feed their babies or whatever, just something can survive in the desert by eating roadkill pigeons. That’s, that's something to admire, not necessarily something to emulate, though, Who knows?
Alicia: Have you ever noticed that when you see, when you're driving and you see a coyote cross the road? I know I've talked to other people about this, but I have never been able to spot that coyote on the other side of the road, once it gets into the Bush, they disappear.
Alicia: Like they vaporize. And I track them. I trace exactly where they went off the road. And when I get to that point, I'm creating my neck and I'm looking out the window and they are something of a mythical creature. I can see why there's so many native American tales that talk about how amazing they are, because they, they seem to have, they seem to be imbued with power.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. It was so interesting in the old neighborhood because the place where we lived was, It was like a little outpost of Bohemian suburbia, surrounded by open desert on all four sides. Heart And I would walk the two blocks in whatever direction that were required to get out of where the houses were.
And out into the open desert, the coyotes actually got kind of used to Heart. The first time I tried to walk Heart off leash, she saw a coyote and she was gone for an hour and a half. And I was like, oh my God. I learned my lesson. Then she got walked on leash after that until this day. But there were times when we would walk down a stretch of desert and there would be a coyote out there and the coyote would just walk over 20 yards and sit down and wait for us to pass and Heart would look at it and wag her tail and coyote would just go. Yeah, whatever. Cool. If you're cool. There was one night. It was totally dark. No moon. There was this coyote Kind of feeling in ear and Heart was like staring into the darkness and she did it a couple of times in different directions. I said, well, there's a coyote running around in circles, checking us out, but she kept doing it.
So I took out my phone, turned on the flashlight and shined it around. And there were like at least four pairs of eyes. So there's this coyote group that had circled us. And it was a wonderful experience to just have the exotic unknown out there in the dark, because we used to have that feeling all the time, 20,000 years ago.
We had the sabertooths and all the stuff out there, just waiting for a good time to eat us. And we’ve pretty much gotten rid of that problem. It makes the news when somebody gets eaten by a hippopotamus. But yeah, it was like the I've never really gone backpacking in grizzly bear country. So that was the wildest experience I've ever had in my life.
And that was two blocks from my house. I remain grateful for it. It was just enough implicit threat that it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck a little bit.
Alicia: Yeah. I've been afraid of coyotes too. I'm not going to lie and say they're cute and fluffy. That's not the whole story. They can be intimidating when they surround you.
Like. And I was housesitting at a horse ranch. And I knew the house well, and I wasn't particularly bothered by it, but I'd had several friends tell me, we think this place is haunted. And so I had that kind of fresh in my mind where I'm bugging out on all the sounds that I'm hearing the house make. And then the coyote song starts up and I hear ‘em in the neighborhood and we're in a, this horse ranch was in a valley that had way more land that was open and natural than it did fenced off Housing areas. I hear him coming down canyon and eventually they just surrounded the house and it just sounded like there was a hundred coyotes making a perimeter around the house and they were howling and singing and it was, I was scared. I had no reason to be scared. I knew I had no reason to be scared.
I didn’t need to go outside. The livestock that was outside was fine, but I called my mom who was seven minutes away and I had her come home. 'cause. I was so scared. I don't know what they're doing, but it's loud. And my hair is standing up on the back of my neck and I just, I need somebody here with me right now.
They can definitely be very intimidating.
Chris: And that's the same kind of feeling I have about people that are terrified of tarantulas. They could technically bite you. You don't want to accidentally pick one up. You want to be aware where they. When you're around them, the terror that some people have, I don't really empathize with that, but I understand intellectually that this is just something that they have, and they don't necessarily have any control over it.
And so I'm not going to think worse of them for that. And I can see having that kind of thing about coyotes. It's just the hate that I don't understand.
Alicia: It really comes back to it's you or me? Yeah. I want. Livelihood and my livestock, my, my crops, my water resources. I don't want you to have it. It's for me in mind,
Chris: we have not really talked about the issue of feeding coyotes, which I promise people that read that article.
Alicia: Let's talk about it.
Chris: I completely understand the desire to feed a coyote. I haven't done it, but I am not going to claim that I am way too pure and intellectually motive. To ever do it.
Alicia: well, we've talked in the past and you've admitted that you've fed wild animals while out in wilderness in the past. And I've confessed the same. I've fed rodents in Yosemite, along the Vernal fall trail. And that, that cute little squirrel has hustled so many hikers. I can't probably can't even couldn't even count. And this is why we have to talk about this is because you may treasure that experience of Communicating with a wild animal, but every time a wild animal is fed by a human A piece of their wild is getting taken away and they're leaving behind how they used to get their food for this new way that they can get food that is clearly easier. It takes less energy to hang around the trail and present yourself. When you see a human. And hope that if you just look cute enough, you figured out what you need to do.
They'll toss you some food. And this is a problem with coyotes, with squirrels, with bears, with all kinds of wild animals.
Chris: Yeah. I'm thinking about the recent news about that overfed bear, Hank, the tank that's up in the Lake Tahoe area, where he is raids trash cans. And he was about to be put down for raiding trash cans when it was proven by DNA from the leftover bear slobber that he wasn't the only one up there doing it. And it's similar in a lot of ways to the situation with coyotes, except that it's worse with the bears in Tahoe, where you have, you have some locals who are less diligent than they should be about securing their trash.
And you have visitors who don't understand it at all, or think it's cute. My first big bonafide experience of the west and wildlife Was in 1966 back in the, the Miocene era, I believe that was, and on the car tour, cross country go into Yellowstone.
Alicia: They had cars in the Miocene.
Chris: Yeah. Yep. They exploded. They w my dad had to like, stick his feet down through the floorboard and run, but there were bear traffic jams and Yellowstone because people were feeding them and it was vaguely tolerated By the Rangers, the Cubs would come up and like driver's side window or the passenger windows every once in a while. I didn't see this happen when I was six, but every once in a while, the bears would actually get into the cars and there would be general freak out. And
Alicia: as short Google search will turn up these images.
Alicia: There was definitely a lot of photo documentation of this phenomenon, where you've just got a parking lot full of people in cars and bears all standing around, interacting with one another. And it just seems crazy.
Chris: So people get that feeding bears is not the best idea though There's certainly still people that don't get that.
But for some reason the idea that this individual coyote that you happen to see in the backyard of your vacation rental or whatever it is, they're beautiful. They are intelligent. They are part of the ecosystem. They are Worthy of admiration and respect and they are not puppy dogs. Well, the babies are
Alicia: Someone ought to tell the coyotes that that's a consequence of coming around the campfire is you're going to end up with a collar and a leash happened to the wolves.
Chris: Keep park wildlife wild, keep wildlife wild. That's not in a park. coyotes Don't know where the parks are. I got to say, I'm really proud of our neighbors and Joshua tree for the work they've done to protect the wildlife In the park And in the neighborhoods around the park was, uh, getting close to a decade ago that one of our neighbors Tom o’Key found a Bobcat trap on his land, close to downtown Joshua tree and turned it into the local newspaper.
And the owner turned up to claim it. And it was this guy in Barstow that was trapping Bobcats for living. And people had noticed that the Bobcats were sort of disappearing From Joshua tree national park, or at least the neighborhoods on the outside. And that guy in Barstow didn't know what hit him, because suddenly there were members of at least three different environmental groups.
One of them national and with a reputation for aggressive litigation and academics and wildlife biologists and artists and reporters and social media people all spreading this news that trapping Bobcats was legal in California and that there was no science behind it that the department of fish and wildlife had done no studies of the effects of trapping.
They maintained levels of acceptable trapping for decades without doing any kind of reliable census of how many Bobcats there were. And our neighbors got Bobcat trapping made essentially illegal throughout the state of California as a result of just harnessing that surprise and outrage and the fact that people really want Bobcats.
And I would really like to think that we could do something like that with coyotes. And we've gotten this state to ban coyote killing contests. This is something I used to report on in when I was at KCET that there was, there were a couple of coyote killing contests, especially up in this part of the state called Modoc County.
Alicia: Yeah, I own some land up there,
Chris: mailing address for the podcast
Alicia: I have yet to see it one day I'll get up there.
Chris: Yeah. There was a coyote killing contest in Alturas [correction: in Adin, near Alturas] that, oh,
Alicia: that's even more specifically where my land is
Chris: And there were like cash prizes and that kind of thing. Uh, and it wasn't the only one in the state. That was just the one that was the best known. And it was, it was an atrocity. I mean, people would show up from all over and just go out and kill coyotes and. This was right about the time that wolves were starting to come back into the state through, from Yellowstone, through Idaho and Oregon. And there was this whole thing with the so-called McKittrick Rule, which has been done away with now.
But if you, if you killed a wWolf, which is protected under The Endangered Species Act, US Fish and Wildlife wouldn't prosecute if you just said, I thought it was a coyote.
Alicia: Oh my gosh.
Chris: And there are obvious differences between wolves and coyotes. And maybe, maybe somebody that's not used to looking at wildlife, wouldn't get it or a little subtle, but somebody who is hunting has a responsibility of knowing what they're shooting at. And if you are in a place where there are wolves and you're shooting coyotes You are responsible for knowing the difference and it's a ridiculous rule and I'm really glad that they got rid of it. But I would really like to see aside from obvious sort of public safety issues, if a coyote is clearly depredating on livestock and the rancher can't afford it, or something like that, you know, you, you don't want to be a hard and fast with this kind of rule but I would love to see a ban on hunting coyotes right now, even in Mojave National Preserve, you can legally hunt coyotes. And it's a preserve for the most part, rather than a national park, because in 1994, when it was established, people didn't want hunting to end there. And so you can hunt a deer, you can hunt quail.
I don't really have too much of a problem with hunting either of those. Although I wish it wasn't happening in that park, I would just really like to see coyote hunting regulated more strictly or even banned.
Chris: So Alicia,
Chris: If you see a coyote and it's acting a little out, what should you do?
Alicia: Well, taking note of what you see as odd would dictate the direction that you're going to.
Chris: So if you see it doing like the Sunday, New York times crossword puzzle,
Alicia: I think that coyote may have been habituated.
Chris: Yeah, eating a bagel.
Alicia: Our own national park believes you should haze, not praise coyotes. Yeah. You don't want to get them habituated. So if you see a coyote encroaching on a human habitation or areas where coyotes might be scrounging for food or whatnot. You want to make a lot of noise. You want to scare them away and give them the idea that this is not a place they want to be. Instead of encouraging them by giving them food and being gentle
Chris: negative stimuli shouting, chasing, throwing objects when in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream, and shout. It's really important to keep coyotes from deciding that humans are a benign or intimidatable food source, as long as they are mostly reliant on food, they would have been eating.
Anyway. If we weren’t around, they're going to stay wild They are to some degree, scavengers, they don't have to kill their own food. I mean, in the wild, they will sneak pieces of an animal that somebody else has killed, whether that's a Wolf or a bear, whoever. So they do have a natural scavenger aspect to their behavior, but that just makes it all the more important to not help them use that scavenger Instinct to get themselves in trouble by learning that garbage cans are sources of eggshells and half burritos and things like that, the more they rely on wild food, the healthier You're going to be.
Alicia: at the end of the day. For me, it really comes down to respect for. The different playing fields that we're navigating.
We want to be able to enjoy wild lands and wildlife. And if we don't have enough respect for the animals and the systems around us, they start to blur. But having respect for those systems keeps them separate and keeps them as a tangible place to visit instead of kind of homogenizing all of wildlife to just tolerate us. You don't want them to tolerate us. We don't want them in our backyards. We want them out being wild and doing what they're doing because that's the natural order. You don't want to distort the natural order with our own curiosity.
Chris: Yep. They are a beautiful, beautiful animal that deserves to be understood and respected on its own terms. And I'm really glad that they're around. And I would like for everyone listening to be really glad about them too. So,
Alicia: and I still think coyotes are majestic.
Bouse Parker: This episode of 90 miles from Needles was produced by Alicia Pike and Chris Clarke editing by Chris. Podcast artwork by our good friend. Martín Mancha. Theme music is by Brightside studio, other music by coyotes. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, @90mifromneedles and on Facebook at facebook.com/ninetymilesfromneedles.
Listen to us at 90milesfromneedles.com or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you to our newest Patreon supporters. Pam McCann. Natalie Patch. Todd, and Eric Hamburg. Join them and support this podcast by visiting us at 90milesfromneedles.com/Patreon and making a monthly pledge of as little as five bucks. Crucial support for this podcast came from Tad Coffin and Lara Rozzell. All characters on this podcast are coming inland to you soon. They will make you the last resort for tourists who have nowhere else to go. What will become of the coyote with eyes of topaz, moving silently to his undoing? The ocotillo, flagellant of the wind? The deer climbing with dignity further into the mountains? the huge delicate saguaro? What will become of those who cannot learn the terrible knowledge of cities. I’m Bouse Parker, and I love you.