Three nights ago I had seen our two cats hanging around and didn’t worry too much about bringing them in because I still needed to be working in my office (also known as their bedroom) and they aren’t terribly helpful when I’m typing. I walked past the back porch door, where my big male cat was seemingly relaxing. He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and jumped up, running over to put his paws on the door. That’s not like him, so I opened the door quickly. As he dashed in, I heard what he was fleeing. From the woods, just beyond the cleared area of the property came a howl, then another, then another, then a cascade of answering howls and yips. Coyotes.
My breath caught. Where was Tucker’s sister? She had been here a little while ago–had she strayed too close to where the coyotes were hiding? Had they caught her, and I was hearing their frenzy over their excitement at a meal? They do that: signal when they’ve caught something.
I grabbed the flashlight and tore around the exterior of the house, looking all around for her and calling, with the coyotes yipping every time I called and whistled. I said a quick prayer that my girl was okay and paused under the big oak next to our back porch. As I stood there, trying to figure out what I should do next, I felt bark bits falling on me and then heard scrambling claws. My girl was up the tree, waiting until I was directly below it to scoop her up before she would come down. Was it one of the fawns that the pack captured and would devour? I hoped not, but they certainly were onto something.
As you probably know, I like most of the wildlife around here, but I can do without the ‘coons and coyotes. I’m not the kind of person who wants every coyote dead, but I sure as heck don’t like it when they’re on my doorstep. My girl is usually too much of a homebody to get caught out by the coyotes unless they get really close, but on several occasions my big boy has gotten caught behind enemy lines. He’ll come home in the wee hours of the morning, a hunted look in his eyes, bark and twigs all over his belly, as if he spent a lot of time in trees. Typically too on those nights he’ll come from what I think of as the “wrong” direction, as if he had to circumvent what we call around here “the mean dogs” and the “evil yippers.”
I’ve listened each of the past nights since the pack was so close and heard nothing, not even an answering cry to my attempt at a howl. This morning, though, a gray canine that looked too big to be a fox but too small to be a full-grown coyote stood at the back of the cleared area of the property. If it’s a fox, no big deal; my cats chase those. If it’s a coyote pup, it’s a a big problem, because the pack can’t be far away.
I often read about how people should never let their pets outside, how they are happier and healthier inside. I also read about how neutering a male cat will stop him from wandering. Tucker is “fixed,” but he still has an amazing sense of adventure. A couple of years ago we put a pet camera on Tucker’s collar. He’s big enough that he can wear the device, which was basically designed for a good-sized dog. Seeing the pictures he took–every 15 minutes for more than 8 hours–was fascinating. We’re surrounded by about 400 acres of undeveloped space, and I’m betting that Tucker knows a good portion of that acreage. On the average day wearing the pet cam, Tucker ranged about two miles, climbing hills with an increase of 800 feet in elevation, crossing creeks, and visiting at least one cat about a mile from here, who peered into the camera as it flashed below Tucker’s neck. We can’t protect him when he roams, but I can imagine how unhappy he would be without his range. And he turns himself in every night–except for those when he gets trapped behind enemy lines. All I can do those nights is pray that he’s found himself a safe spot and that he’ll hang tight until the pack loses interest. I don’t sleep well until both of my babies are inside.
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.