Southeastern suburbia confronts wild predators.
When poet and essayist Lane (English and Environmental Studies/Wofford Coll.; The Old Rob Poems, 2014, etc.) heard two coyotes yipping and howling in the land behind his suburban South Carolina home, he felt a surge of delight. Finally, he writes, “I saw some promise of wildness returning to our region. I saw the redemption of our landscape wounded and scarred by hundreds of years of human settlement, a hope that may be hard to explain to my friends and neighbors.” Indeed, he found that his neighbors, fearful “for their poodles, their bird feeders, maybe even their children,” would prefer that this “opportunistic omnivore” be stopped. Lane’s passion for wildness impelled him to investigate the coyote, which, for the past 50 years, has migrated from the West into the Southeast, proliferating with startling success. Once, he had a brief “face-to-face encounter with a real southern coyote,” and when he touched coyote pelts, he was “surprised at how soft they were.” Apart from these two close encounters, Lane’s sensory experiences of coyotes consist of listening to their howls, tracing their tracks and scat, and passing dead animals on the side of the highway. Physical connection is less important than philosophical questions: how should humans share their territory? “Why are coyotes good?” Lane chronicles his interviews with naturalists, environmentalists, researchers, wildlife biologists, trappers, and hunters—anyone with whom he can “talk coyotes.” That talk is often repetitive, with much space devoted to coyotes’ killing of fawns, for example. Lane’s own argument, repeated rather than justified, is for “folks to stop hating the coyotes, and instead to see them as part and parcel” of their environment. Although the author quotes from writers such as Barry Lopez, Aldo Leopold, and James Dickey, his prose lacks their freshness and verve.
A thoughtful, though not fully satisfying, look at “the collision of the domestic and the returning wild.”