On a sunny, cloud-spotted midday this past week, as I sauntered aimlessly from my birdie bungalow, undecided whether to head to the workshop or the house; indecision led me to ponder for a moment.

On doing so, I glanced out across the cloud-swept, lawless winter landscape of the hillside field that hides from sight our hosted bee yard and the recently dug pond.

The poverty-riddled soil of the gravel knoll of the once derelict farm supports only a sparse covering of short-growth grass and a mixture of weeds browned and shortened by the killing frosts. Within the broad latitude of definition, this is what I couldn’t quite believe I saw.

In broad daylight, over the left shoulder of the hillside, trotted a large, grey-coloured coyote, and over the right, trotted a look-a-like second one. Within moments, they came nose to nose and seemed to nuzzle each other.  They were obviously hunting together, as they then started to pounce on the clumps of freeze dried grasses.

It was obvious they had done this before, as they kept evenly spaced apart, and as one pounced, the other would dash one way or the other, apparently alternating catching what appeared to be mice. It looked to me as though they had the appetite of a cormorant, for they gave each catch a shake, then tossing it high, they caught it and down the hatch it went in a single chew-less gulp.

As I watched, I suddenly noticed a slight movement just below the tree line at the top of the hill. It was a third animal of the same large size but almost jet-black in colour, blending well with the silhouette of leafless tree line. It just sat, standing guard, on its haunches, watching, shifting position only slightly when its gaze changed direction.

In an early double-digit preteen age, I often watched similar acting creatures, but they were a third smaller in size and were then known as brush wolves, thought to be distant cousins of the large grey wolf.

But, years later, I was to learn that DNA testing proved them to be direct descendents of the east-migrating western coyote.

The larger size of these nighttime prowlers that occasionally howl while assembling their packs, was first noted about 30 years ago when the Ministry of Natural Resources then thought them to be a coyote and dog mix and pegged them as coy-dogs.

But here once again DNA definition proved suspicions wrong. It was found that their ancestry stemmed from the wolf, of the Algonquin Park area, breeding with the southern coyote.

As towns spread out, mingling in amalgamation, caught within perpetually narrowing corners, sharing  territories became necessary. Assisted by gun laws prohibiting shooting within town limits, the newer generation of these large, near wolf-size, coyotes developed little fear, finding the people-populated areas lucrative nighttime hunting grounds, and sleeping through the day in out-of-the-way wooded nooks, coves and hollows much to their liking.

Soon the skunk, racoon, groundhog, jack rabbit and squirrel population began to thin out, and shortly thereafter, cats and small dogs began to mysteriously disappear. Daylight or darkness seems now not a prerogative.

With genetic alphabets evolving along un-returning pathways, perhaps we should be more cautious as to where and what we let off of the leash unattended.

Take care, ’cause we care.





Barrie Hopkins