Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coyotes, Ducks, Geese and Hares

Each day, I drive about 40 minutes to campus and then another 40 minutes on the way back home. One thing that makes the drive bearable is listening to the hundreds of podcasts that inform, educate and entertain me. Another thing that keeps my attention is the daily transition from organically rural to urbanly concrete. While I muse about the benefits of having my own personal teleporter, or lacking that, at least a helicopter, I genuinely enjoy, and would miss, tracking the changes in seasons through the flora, fauna and critters that I get to see on my daily commute.

On my drive in the other day, I saw a beautiful coyote loping across a field with something small and brown in its mouth. According to National Geographic info on coyotes, it is a privilege to see these wily canines -- they blend in well and tend to keep to themselves. The fellow in the picture above is just finishing off a trumpeter swan. In and around Calgary, there seem to be regular opportunities to see coyotes; while some fear the coyotes, a University of Calgary research team which has been studying coyote behavior has found that they serve an important role in the ecosystem.

So, my coyote sighting made it a banner day - I told everyone who would listen about this encounter. Not only did I see a trickster on my way into campus, I saw another coyote on my home later that afternoon. I tend to see Coyotes, from time to time, but it is much more common to see ducks, geese and hares. There is also an abundance of spring gophers, many of which I see in the twisted rigor mortis of road kill, and deer. Once, while driving my children down the gravel roads outside of Calgary, we saw a moose. Still, amongst all of these fascinating critters, I feel drawn to Coyotes because of the Aboriginal Trickster narratives, and my childhood fascination with the race between Road Runner and his unfortunate foe/friend.

Sure, sure. I often see herds of cows and horses, farm dogs and cats, and depending on my route, I can enjoy the sight of side by side herds of chickens and sheep on my daily commute to work. Yet, I find it particularly memorable when I see a coyote - I long to see a large pack of them, but realize this isn't how they usually live on the prairies. Coyotes tend to prefer smaller, perhaps more agile packs -- I think of this as a more flexible and responsive lifestyle given their proximity to the city and the often tenuous relationship coyotes have with farmers and ranchers.