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

R.I.P. Cecil the Lion: Let's Make the Trophy Hunter an Endangered Species

The international outrage sparked by an American trophy hunter’s killing of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion, justifiably vilifies the despicable practice of slaughtering wildlife for sport – but it also exposes the human...

All Who Wander Are Not Lost: Searching For The Elusive South Bog Stream In Rangeley, Maine

"Head for that tree stump," I instructed authoritatively one afternoon earlier this week, as if I knew for sure where we should be heading. I have learned to exude confidence when giving directions on any expedition, even...

Scott Jurek's 'Reward' For Breaking Appalachian Trail Speed Record: Three Summonses

When internationally celebrated speedster Scott Jurek scrambled last Sunday to the 5,269-foot summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he broke the record for the fastest assisted hike of the 2,189-mile...

No Swimming at Seaside: What’s Next? No Hiking at Bluff Point?

Most of the time I’m reasonably scrupulous about abiding by government regulations.

Training For Mystic Sharkfest: The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Swimmer

Among the many benefits of active recreation is hanging out with friends – which of course you can do at a bar, pizza parlor or coffee shop, but since most of my pals prefer to spend their leisure time on the trail or water, we...

Stung By Wasps AND Suffering From Lyme Disease: I Can't Catch A Break

You know that funny, itchy feeling when something is crawling around or worse, lodged where it doesn’t belong?

Which Is Worse: Getting Devoured By A Grizzly Bear Or A Great White Shark?

During years of roaming hither and yon on land and sea, I’ve been chased by a grizzly bear, nearly trampled by stampeding yaks, charged by a bull, attacked by swarms of hornets and almost struck by a copperhead – but what...

A Whitewater Dream Taking Shape in Willimantic

Asked to name the best whitewater kayaking and canoeing stretches in Connecticut, most paddlers would single out a gnarly, 2.6-mile section of Class IV rapids on the Housatonic River from Bulls Bridge Dam to Gaylordville, or Diana's Pool...

My War With Canada Geese

Years ago I looked forward to autumn, not so much for the kaleidoscopic foliage but because the evening serenade of migrating Canada geese that lulled me to sleep.

Take A Hike Or A Paddle June 6-7 During Connecticut Trails Weekend

In a culture that celebrates virtually every pastime and passion – from National Kazoo Day Jan. 28 to Public Sleeping Day Feb. 28 to Moldy Cheese Day Oct. 9 – we outdoor enthusiasts finally get our day in the sun on June 6,...

A Fourth Straight Victory At The Essex Boat Race in Massachusetts: Paddling In A Small Division Pays Off

As Ian Frenkel and I paddled exuberantly toward the finish line last Saturday at the Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., I thought about what it had taken to pull off our fourth consecutive tandem sea kayaking victory.

Hiking The Continental Divide Trail From Mexico To Canada: 'It Is Fun Even When It's Miserable'

Applying the ancient Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," Mystic native Hilary Sueoka and her boyfriend, Dan Stedman, should have taken three steps April 22 when they set out on their...

Turtles And Osprey And Otters, Oh My – So Much To See By Kayak

The turtle has an ill-deserved reputation for lethargy.