An appreciative piece of literary natural history chronicling the emergence of an eastern coyote population.
Poet/naturalist Reid returned to her childhood homelands in the Berkshires and was captivated by another new arrival: the coyote, which had slipped into southern New England from Canada in the 1950s. “The habitat is ideal—because of the way we use it—for an animal to exploit a patchwork shaped by our dependence on electricity and cars,” Reid writes. Without ever appearing to lecture, she conveys much of the information naturalists have gathered on the eastern coyote, a larger version of the western variety that shares some DNA with the wolves of Ontario, which gives rise to discussions of hybridization and mutualism. She outlines the coyote’s place in our cultural landscape. In Native American myths of the trickster, “Coyote is the imp making us fart or trip when we’re keenest to impress, causing us to drop the prized goods overboard,” perhaps because the animal is so intelligent and fond of play (or maybe because when it attacks it goes for the rear end). The fear it engenders today in many people may be due, as one writer suggests, to our perception of “an animal so equal to us that it reflects back what we hate and love about ourselves.” That fear has roots in coyote attacks on young children, but deer hunters also loathe the coyote because it kills fawns; on the other hand, Reid tells of orchard owners who would be grateful for a thinned deer population. It’s all about achieving balance, which is something a parallel story line shows the author seeking in her own Berkshire experience, the pleasure and trials of returning to a place she previously fled. Reid doesn’t hesitate: “I say, Bring on the coyotes. But don’t make them feel too welcome.”
Casts a fresh eye on the new canid in the neighborhood. (Line drawings)