Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wile E. Coyote

Coyote in Glacier Park (c) John Ashley
Small coyote starting to shed last week near Saint Mary
Much like myself, coyotes (Canis latrans) start shedding their long, winter fur in May, and the pace picks up through June until the heavy shedding occurs in July. This coyote on Glacier's east side last week looked almost like she was wearing a reddish raccoon mask around the eyes and snout.

While the gray wolf (Canis lupis) is Eurasian in origin, the coyote appears to have evolved in western North America alongside the dire wolf (Canis dirus). Dire wolves were driven into extinction 12,000 years ago, and modern-day gray wolves are simultaneously protected and persecuted.

Coyotes, on the other hand, have greatly expanded their range by adapting their behaviors and rapidly evolving to survive human encroachment, thriving in the absense of wolves. Radiating out from the western plains, coyotes now range across almost the entirety of North and Central America.

This cunning will to survive is celebrated in the stories of many Native American tribes. One of these stories that I enjoy tells how coyote out-smarts a white man who thought he was the wiser species.