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

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Dirt Bikes

Fingernails across a chalk board, a baby crying, a dog barking incessantly – all are music to my ears compared to the whine of a dirt bike tearing through the forest.

Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Even Elizabeth Warren All Have Something In Common: The Black SUV

Here’s how ABC News reported an appearance last week by former Florida Gov. Bush, who is considering a bid for the Republican presidential nomination:

A Snowy Hike To Carter Notch In New Hampshire's White Mountains

Midway up the staggeringly steep Wildcat Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains earlier this week, after my son, Tom, and I had postholed up to our knees 487 times through rotten snow despite wearing snowshoes, we began...

Ah, Spring: Moving Rocks, Lugging Logs, Digging Holes And Other Fun Activities

A 3-foot-high mound of snow still stubbornly piled beneath the deck serves as a grim reminder of this past winter’s relentless brutality, and of the months spent shoveling, shoveling, shoveling.

A Short But Sweet Eagle-Watching Season On The Lower Connecticut River

The hummingbird hovers, sparrow flutters, tern dives, duck flaps frenetically, but in the avian world the eagle soars majestically, barely moving its enormous wings while wheeling effortlessly through the heavens.

A Grand Canyon Gondola Ride – What An Idea! How About A Tram Up Mount Everest?

I don’t know about you, but I was extraordinarily excited to hear about plans to build a gondola tram that would take visitors 1.6 miles to the floor of the Grand Canyon in 10 minutes – way faster and less strenuous than...

The Magic and Misadventures of Making Maple Syrup

The instant the whirring drill bit pulled free from the trunk of a maple tree behind our house the other morning a splendid stream of sap began oozing before I had a chance to pound a metal spile into the half-inch-wide hole.

A Tough Time For Deer, But Elephants Finally Catch A Break (Sort Of)

Traipsing on snowshoes the other day through, over and around waist-high drifts in the woods behind our house I crossed a veritable superhighway of deer tracks that meandered among the rhododendron, laurel, pine, spruce and fir, and...

Death in the White Mountains: Recklessness and The False Security of GPS, Cellphones and Locator Beacons

After being battered by 70 mph winds, blinded by whipping snow and nearly frozen in temperatures that plunged to 20 below zero and beyond, Kate Matrosova must have realized early on she had no hope of completing her solo climb of four of...

You Never Miss The Water Till The Well Runs Dry — Or The Pipes Freeze

After shoveling a path to the woodshed the other day for the 138th time this season (or so it seemed) and lugging what certainly felt like the 862nd load of logs to the house and the 243rd bucket of wood stove ashes to the distant pit,...

Hey! Wanna Ride? Detroit Distance Walker James Robertson Shouldn't Look A Gift Car In The Hood, But ...

You no doubt have heard about James Robertson, the 56-year-old Detroit man who for more than a decade walked 21 miles a day to and from his factory job because he couldn’t afford a car.