Coyote Vs. Deer: Death On The Ice

While splitting firewood behind my house not long ago, out of the corner of my eye I detected movement about 50 yards away and pivoted in time to see a lone coyote loping through the snow.

This was no scrawny, Roadrunner cartoon caricature, but a bulky, muscular animal the size of a German shepherd, with a thick, silvery coat.

I froze, the coyote froze and we stared at each other for about five seconds before it trotted off into the forest, in no particular hurry. The animal evidently perceived I represented neither a threat nor prey, and though initially startled I never felt as if it were sizing me up for its next meal. A moment later I hefted my maul and resumed whacking at logs.

Like most people in our region I see coyotes more frequently and have grown accustomed to their nocturnal yips and howls.

The other day, though, staring at photos taken by a neighbor gave me pause. They showed a pair of coyotes devouring a live deer in broad daylight.

The neighbor witnessed the deer tearing through her yard, coyotes in hot pursuit. Then the hapless animal made a fatal error: It dashed out onto a frozen pond. The coyotes sprinted along a peninsula and pounced.

Within minutes there was nothing left except a blotch of red on the ice – not a hoof, not a tuft of fur, not a tooth.

Circle of life: The deer died, the coyotes lived to hunt another day.

Every so often we homo sapiens are reminded that though we’re pretty high up on the food chain we’re by no means at the top – though I’m fairly confident we’re still above Canis latrans. According to various reports the last documented fatal coyote attack on a human was a young girl in California killed more than 30 years ago.

Dogs and cats are another story, and pet owners don’t need to see photos of an attack on a deer to realize that coyotes are extraordinarily efficient hunters. They’re also opportunistic – the deer population has exploded, therefore more coyotes have moved in for the feast.

Nobody wants to see Fluffy or Rex devoured, but I’m sure a few people feel less sentimental about deer, especially if one has damaged their car or devoured their garden. We rank creatures as pets or pests. As George Orwell reflected, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

When it comes to deer vs. coyotes, I don’t think man should get involved. I’d rather have coyotes roaming the woods than have to call in hunters to “manage” the deer population, as has been the case on Bluff Point in Groton, Block Island, eastern Long Island and many other places close to home.

We may recoil when encountering a scene from “Wild Kingdom,” but must remind ourselves that nature isn’t always pretty. Often it’s brutal – survival of the fittest.

 

 

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Kayaking With a Migrating Son Amid Migrating Seals on Fishers Island

With our son, Tom, back home in Connecticut for just a week from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, we’ve tried to pack in an abundance of such favorite activities as whitewater kayaking, frigid plunges in the lake and running with...

Who Needs Clean Air and Pure Water? Bring Back Unrestricted Strip Mining, DDT and Toxic Waste Dumps to Make America Great Again

The main problem with President Donald Trump’s efforts to boost the economy by eliminating oppressive environmental regulations is that they don’t go far enough.

The Good Book Has It Backwards: To Every Season, There Is More Than One Thing

Forget about what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says (and Pete Seeger sang) about "To everything there is a season.' As far as I’m concerned, it’s always the right time for fun and adventure.

Kayaking Over the Falls on the Salmon River

The thunder of tumbling water roared as I gripped my paddle the other day, waiting my turn to plunge over a 4-foot drop at a broken dam on the Salmon River in East Hampton.

Home Is Where the Hut Is (Warning: Don't Read Part of This if You Have a Weak Stomach)

Embarking on a winter expedition to Mount Katahdin a few years ago, I hooked up with a few casual acquaintances accompanied by other climbers I only met just as we began the long drive from southeastern Connecticut to northern Maine.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Part I: A Voice in the Wilderness Saves the Day

While snowshoeing on a tamped-down section of the Ethan Pond Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains the other day, our group approached an untrammeled stretch of the Zeacliff Trail that descended into a ravine below frozen-over Whitehall...

Who Doesn't Love a Blizzard? (OK, Maybe a Few Softies and Killjoys)

I know there’s a good chance I’ll be eating these words when I’m shoveling, shoveling, shoveling, or huddled with a candle next to the wood stove while melting snow for drinking water after the power has been knocked out for...

Destructive Deer, Bugs, Vines and Snow: It's Always Something

In a "perfect" world – i.e., one in which all living creatures and meteorological phenomena benefited human comfort and bowed to our supremacy – there would be no need for deer fences, bird netting, herbicides,...

Prime Time for Eagle-Watching by Kayak on the Connecticut River

While kayaking just north of Lyme’s Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River the other day, Robin Francis, Phil Warner and I watched a wildlife drama unfolding above us.

In Waning Winter, An 'Above Par' Snow-Kayaking Adventure

With snow cover stubbornly lingering and whitewater kayaking season still more than a month away, what’s an impatient paddler to do? Easy: Snow-kayaking.

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.