Warning: War Wounds!
As an update to the post a couple of days ago: Meg and the boys got harassed one more time by the coyote in our section of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Except this time, it followed them around a 2mile loop making repeated runs at them over the course of 45mins. I should add that the coyote is hanging out at a bottleneck in the trail system, so once you enter that section of the park, you can't easily get past her. When it finally came in too close, the boys went after her -- a tussle ensued, she left with a limp, and it wasn't till they got home that I discovered that in addition to a small bite on the tail, the Mominator had a puncture wound on his inner thigh.
The tooth went in between the skin layer and the muscle -- and even after his surgery his gait is showing no signs of impact. But it was long enough that, in addition to the stitches, the vet put in the two drain tubes -- which are actually what makes it look worse (at least from my perspective). So he leaks a little from time to time, but other than feeling a little disgruntled because we won't let him clean his own leakage, he seems fine. Sadly Momo is used to wearing the original E-collar, his Elizabethan collar - and so in addition to his Franken-foot, he will now have a Franken-thigh. Looking at that wound makes me glad he was neutered.
As human beings have subsumed more and more natural habitat, coyotes are one of the species that have been forced to adapt into increasingly small pockets of habitat. And are remarkably adept at making those transitions. The Audobon Magazine has even described them as the 'ultimate survivor' (and thanks to Pat the Terrierman for helping me find this). Here in the northeast, the coyote tends to be larger than its southern and western cousins perhaps in part because of climate -- or perhaps because it has more recently paired with the wolf population. In any case, Meg described this one as resembling a large German Shepherd.
At some point, coyotes were diurnal -- although pressure from humans has forced them to become almost nocturnal. I am not sure how specific she was in referring to the population here in our part of the Bronx, but the naturalist from the Parks & Recreation department described coyote behavior as crepuscular, ie. most active during the twilight of the dawn and dusk hours. Which would explain why Meg first encountered this coyote in the crack-of-dawn but not in the subsequent afternoon.
After the first encounter I had speculated that this was a female coyote whelping pups on the ground, although the naturalist suggested that she may have been pregnant and being especially territorial as she tried to find a location to den up and whelp. While I have heard enough direct experience stories to know this isn't the entire story, the fact that we choose to run our dogs off-leash may have generated an especially strong defensive response from this particular animal -- seeing them as a potential threat in a way that Meg alone, or Meg with the two dogs on-leash, would not have generated. Again, though, this was also a coyote who demonstrated an especially aggressive and persistent defensive posture -- and it was her coming too close to Meg that sparked a response from our two. Momo's wound, it should be noted, is much more of a defensive wound than the coyote's usual neck bite when it is intent on actually killing something. We have still applied for a Federal bail-out to deal with the vet bill.
When Meg called Parks & Recreation, she learned that others had reported problems with the coyote, too, and that in fact there was a pair denning about a half-mile away on a golf-course. The golf course workers actually liked them being there because they kept the geese (and their stinky poop) away. We asked about why they hadn't at least posted a sign so folks like us could at least make an informed decision -- and when they had last posted signs some years ago, coyote carcasses just started showing up in the woods. I hope folks can tell that I am somewhat ambivalent about what the best course of action here is with regard to the actual coyote -- we don't keep livestock, for example -- but the idea of John Rambo in the Bronx out here in a public park area with a firearm in the dawn and dusk makes me a whole lot more nervous.
In any case, here's a few words of advice for those of you in the northeast:
* This is the whelping season. Coyotes will defend their whelping grounds and their pups.
* Coyotes will look for a secluded area, probably wooded, here in the northeast to establish a den. If you normally run your dogs off-leash in such areas and have seen evidence of coyotes (such as scat with a high amount of hair in it), it would make sense to either avoid those areas or leash your dogs for the next couple of months.
* Carry a big stick. If you encounter an aggressive coyote, heel your dogs in close, make noise, throw sticks. And back out of there. No matter how big or brave you think your dog is, it doesn't kill its own food every day. With very few exceptions, your dog will lose.
Some of those exceptions would be the Central Asian guardian dogs -- like Cat Urbikit's Aziats. As you can see from one of her more recent posts, these big monsters can be lovers, too. Now we need a bigger house to house the vizslak and their new-found canine protectors.
On a lighter note: here's the picture I was waiting for. Every good Scotsman needs a West Highland Terrier as a wedding accessory. And a loving wife to take care of him and his punctured dogs.