Wolves and coyotes both have received especially harsh treatment from humans. Authors like Hope Ryden (God’s Dog: The North American Coyote), Dan Flores (Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History), and Barry Holstun Lopez (Of Wolves and Men) have written extensively about why it is that, while our species has persecuted many others, these canids get an extra dose of hate from the sort of person whose vehicle sports a “smoke [kill] a pack a day”. It goes beyond the mere worry about one’s herds or flocks being killed and veers into hatred of animals that, pre-agriculture, shared a similar niche to our own, and which refused to bow down to us as the dog does.

But where the wolf has received something of a P.R. boost in recent decades, the coyote is not the widespread emblem of the wild its larger cousin has become. Perhaps some of that is because coyotes aren’t endangered, but instead of capitalized on the changes humans have made to the landscape. They’re also not as large, and when it comes to charismatic megafauna bigger is too often better. Americans of European descent can find old stories where wolves were once still respected, if feared, but to us the coyote was always a problem, just as many colonists saw the American Indians who had a richer relationship with this animal.

Today, much of excuse for the coyote hate comes from their predation on domestic animals, including pets. Coyote haters often feel they are more entitled to game animals like deer than wild predators like coyotes are, and even though habitat loss is the biggest cause of wildlife decline, predators take the blame. Some people fear for their children as well, but the chances of a coyote attacking even a small human being are very slim, and the very few instances where it has happened have been primarily in human-dominated spaces, and were often overblown by the media. Just as most of the time when you drive your car nothing untoward happens, so the vast majority of encounters with coyotes are benign. And we can take steps to be better neighbors to coyotes and other wildlife; I’ve already outlined how I keep my chickens safe in the second to last panel of this comic, and explained why feeding wildlife is a bad idea here in my first comic.

So consider this my own small contribution to the improvement of the coyote’s reputation. Like all animals, they have a fascinating and complex life history if you just take the time to explore it. Moreover, we need to stop judging the value of animals based on whether we can get something out of them or not. As Henry Beston put it, “In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

Further Reading:

Living With Coyotes – a webpage created by the Arizona Game and Fish Department

Facts About Coyotes – a good basic page about the coyote

This Is Why You Kill Coyotes – actually a good argument for hunters to NOT kill coyotes, written by a hunter

How the Most Hated Animal in America Outwitted Us All – really neat article on the expansion of coyote territory, even into urban areas

Species Portrayed: Coyote (Canis latrans), darkling beetle (Eleodes sp.), red huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium), Garry oak acorns (Quercus garryana), clearwinged grasshopper (Camnula pellucida), brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), gray wolf (Canis lupus), domestic cat (Felis catus), desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida), big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)