Just now, at 9:00 at night, I was in my office downstairs on the computer when I heard a pack of coyotes set up a wild commotion right in my front yard. It was so loud that I heard it over my Skype conversation. I jumped up, flipped on all the outside lights, muscled my eager dog away from the front door, and ran into the pasture screaming, “Get the **** out of here! Go away!…” as loud as I could. I made it to the line separating the unmowed pasture from the lawn before the light dropped off and I stopped to listen. I could hear dozens of small feet running through the frosty tall grass. I turned and headed toward the lights of home, this little interaction having set all the neighborhood dogs to barking, and the entire hunt club’s hounds to baying. We all screamed together.
About an hour later my own dog was pacing at the front door, barking. Again I told him to stay inside and stepped out on the porch. Now the pack was back in my woods, where I could hear them singing and pacing. I yelled some more, gave up, and went inside.
In the almost four years that I have lived here, the coyotes have been a remote presence. I used to hear them crying, usually late at night and so far away as to be almost indescernible. But in the last couple of months they’ve moved closer. It started with them waking me up by crying in the field between my nearest neighbor’s house and mine. Then this week they woke me at 12:20 a.m. setting up a racket in the front yard. They were so close that it sounded like they were in my bedroom. I got up and turned on the floodlights to try to scare them away, but really all that happened was that I had a hard time sleeping that night from the adrenaline rush. In my intellectual mind I know that coyotes outside in the middle of the night pose no threat to me or my animals. The dog’s asleep in the laundry room and the chickens are safe in their coop. But there’s something so primally hair-raising about a coyote chorus that I challenge you to peacefully sleep through the sound.
Which brings us to tonight, and a coyote pack that obviously feels comfortable enough to try to claim, at a relatively early hour, my very lawn. I wouldn’t be worried about this but for the fact that when I got my dog, Tucker, from his breeder in Ohio, she told me that in her area coyote packs use their females in heat to lure unneutered male dogs from their yards and then the entire pack kills the dog.
As the caretaker of a dog that is not only unneutered, but that also believes it’s his duty to protect our farm and who runs without hesitation to make his rounds in the dark woods, I am concerned about having Tucker out loose at night when there is a large pack of wild canines very vocally vying for his territory. I always bring Tucker inside at sundown, and he’s let out again for only a moment right before we both go to bed. He always does a perimeter check during this trip, and I listen for him to run through the woods and fields. The entire time he’s outside I am anxious, listening for any sound of a confrontation.
Living in the country is a constant negotiation with all the creatures that called this place home before I, and since moving here I’ve had to assert myself against innumerable insects, snakes, mice, rats, moles, voles, opossums, raccoons, foxes and airborne predators such as hawks and merlins. But the coyotes are a new threat, and the one that most makes me feel as if I’m living in a Jack London novel.
Short of firing a shotgun in their general direction, I am all out of ideas about how to get this pack to choose a territory other than the one my dog and I have already claimed. Does anyone have any other ideas?