Other Daughter surfaced outside the back gate this morning, setting off a corgi barking frenzy. She was walking her cat in the alley.

"Other Daughter" is one of the Perp's two adult daughters, one of whom lives across the street to the east of me and the other two houses down to the west. He calls one of the women his "Pretty Daughter" and the other his "Other Daughter."

Yes. In my none-too-humble opinion, Other Daughter is the pretty one. But enough said about that.

Other Daughter dearly loves cats. She has an orange tabby that likes to jump the wall into my backyard and use the desert landscaping as a gigantic litterbox, and so as you can imagine, the cat is not one of my favorite neighborhood characters. Hence, the top of the walls lined with carpet tack strips, which makes me look like the crazy one.

LOL! I learned, belatedly, that the reason I got this house so cheaply is that the former owners were afraid of the Perp (as many of the locals are -- they think he's some sort of Eastern European mafioso, when really he's just a refugee -- a very tough refugee -- from a murderously repressive regime). They were made uncomfortable at being sandwiched between his two rather unstable daughters. Despite an encounter with the man that resulted in $10,000 worth of vandalism to my house and an incident in which he threatened a judge and scared my lawyers to the point where they begged me to take a $40,000 hit on the shack and move somewhere else ASAP, I am not afraid of the Perp or any of his relatives. When I moved in here I had a German shepherd who was fully capable of ripping off a man's leg (and who attempted to do so when she caught the Perp's hapless son-in-law trying to enter the property), and of course I am armed to the teeth. Being a good Arizona girl. ;-)

Oh well. Back to Other Daughter, who (I'm sure to the Perp's dismay) has become a friend. I'm afraid I actually like Other Daughter, who is a sweet, decent, and much abused human being. So there she is, ambling up and down the alley with the cat.

Naturally, I go out and say hello and suggest she could come in for some coffee but we'd need to be careful the dogs didn't grab the cat.

She says she found a dead cat in the alley -- a large Maine coon cat -- that had been eviscerated and partly eaten. She surmised the cat was killed by one of the several coyotes who roam the neighborhood. And she reported that the coyote with the broken leg is alive and well. So she's keeping the tabbycat indoors except for brief supervised strolls.

Well, I knew she'd put a dead animal out on the curb, in a box, for the county to pick up. Unworthily, I clandestinely hoped it was her nuisance mostly stray puddy-tat. But no.

So she's all upset about the coyotes. She said she'd talked to the folks on the other side of Feeder Street N.S., who have this little curbside library that is kinda cool. Extremely cool. And they'd told her about the many coyote sightings in their part of the 'hood. I pointed out that if those folks, who also are animal sentimentalists, would stop leaving food outside, we wouldn't be having this problem.

She didn't get it, not for an instant. "But everybody does it!" she exclaimed -- in a positive way, as though this were a good thing.



Personally, I question whether a coyote killed the alleged coon cat. Pulling out the intestines and leaving a whole corpus of meat to be nabbed by any passing scavenger is not the coyote MO, especially not at this time of year, when the critters are whelping. After a coyote catches a cat, normally all that's left are the ears and the tail. That's about it. My guess is, the cat was caught by a stray dog, of which we have several.

However. Anything's possible. So that makes it a concern. A coon cat is as big as Ruby or Cassie and twice as mean.

During the whelping season, coyotes will come over a backyard wall (I've seen them: they can ghost right over six feet of cinderblock) and try to dispense with the resident dogs. Since canids predate on interlopers' pups, they quite reasonably assume your dog is likely to take out their den, and so they'll try to kill off the competition. Couple of years ago, the two guys who live over in the high-rent part of the 'hood with their pair of greyhounds were sitting in their house gazing out the window when they spotted a coyote coming over the wall.

It went after the greys, who -- amazingly, considering the greyhound's retiring nature -- rose to the occasion. A fight ensued, during which the coyote made its escape back over the wall. A few hours later, they learned the coyote was found dead in a front yard a few houses down the road.

Yeah. I do wish people would get a grip on their squishy sentimentality over wild animals and, dammit, NOT LEAVE FOOD OUTDOORS FOR THEM!

Should you number yourself among the sentimental, please!!!!! Try to absorb this message: A FED COYOTE IS A DEAD COYOTE!

When you leave food out for coyotes (or passing cats, or your own cat that you allow to roam free, or whatever you hope you're feeding), they lose their natural, protective fear of humans. It's good for coyotes to be afraid of humans: that fear keeps them safe.

A coyote that's no longer royally wary of humans becomes a potential threat to humans and to their pets. They will go after your cats and your small dogs. And they have been known to attack small children and even adult humans. No, they're not very dangerous to humans, but they certainly are capable of killing a dog or a child and of doing some serious damage to you. We don't need one more little kid, or one pet dog, or even one tame cat injured or killed by a coyote whose natural instincts have been interfered with by foolish human habits. When that happens, sooner or later the coyote will be trapped and killed.

Urban coyotes live with us. They're everywhere, all across the United States and into parts of Canada. They do a lot of good: they kill off roof rats, gophers, and other vermin, and at a distance they can be quite decorative. But let's not let them think they can rule the roost.

Coyote vs Dog: By Nickton (Chance encounter  Uploaded by Mariomassone) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Main Coon Cat. By Tomitheos from *Maine_Coon.JPG  derivative work: David Shankbone (Maine_Coon.JPG) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By J.W.C. Adam. (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Coyote, Life Study. By Ernest Thompson Seton, 1860-1946 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Comment by Vicky Hay on May 4, 2015 at 1:05am

Interestingly, at one point I read that urban coyotes don't vocalize. Apparently it's an adaptation to living in close quarters with humans. Here in the city, I've only heard a coyote one time, and that was late at night, when it caught a cat either in the yard or in the alley right outside the yard.

Out in the desert, though, you can hear them talking back and forth. They yip a lot and sometimes howl. I love the sound of them...it's so strange. Part of the desert's hallucinatory effect.

Comment by Jane Christensen on May 3, 2015 at 9:45pm

I think that's partly the difference with our country coyote cousins, they are not used to humans and stay away from us but they do kill cats as our rural area has many feral cats...unfortunately.  I have fixed cats outside but they stay in the yard usually but over the years I have lost 2...I can only guess what happened. We have free range chickens but they get locked up every night.

It is interesting though that the different packs communicate around here. They will howl to let the others know they are passing through others territory. Sounds very scary and sets the dogs off in a rage of barking.

Comment by Vicky Hay on May 3, 2015 at 8:56pm

Around here coyotes routinely go over six-foot walls. One elderly woman I met lived in a suburban tract house that backed onto a main drag. There was a six-foot wall along the back property line.

She had a small dog. She was in her backyard when she saw a coyote jump the wall, grab the dog, and kill it. I seriously considered buying her house, but when I heard that story I thought better of it. At the time I had  Cassie and, realizing I was past the age when I could reasonably handle German shepherd dogs, wanted to move into a safer area. The house was in one of the newer Sun City tracts. Out-of-staters living there think the cottontails and jackrabbits are cute and so they feed the things. As a result, the place is overrun with coyotes. If you have a small dog there, you can't let it out of the house except on a leash, even in your own yard, and cat owners who want to keep their cats have to house them indoors.

Comment by Jane Christensen on May 3, 2015 at 7:53pm

I have a 4 1/2' fence so I highly doubt that one would jump over and it goes out through our TV room door so we are close. There's also the light. If one does I may not have a stick but I have tables and chairs on the deck and plants... they might run if some lunatic comes out screaming. I'm more afraid of the adults and pups making all kind of puppy party noises in the field so they can lure a dog out there and kill it.

Comment by Vicky Hay on May 3, 2015 at 3:41pm

Steph -- thank you!! We should get together on a rooftop somewhere and holler this to the world!

Comment by Steph Bussema on May 3, 2015 at 3:17pm

Please, please, PLEASE don't feed or adopt wild animals.  I work at a nature center, and we have 2 coyotes, 3 white-tailed deer, 2 owls, 1 turkey, 1 mink, 2 bobcats, and 2 foxes that can never go back to the wild because they are not afraid of people.  Most of them were "adopted" as illegal pets.  When wild animals lose their fear of people, that puts them, the general public, and pets all in danger.

Comment by Vicky Hay on May 3, 2015 at 12:28pm

Thirty feet isn't very close, in the large scheme of things. ;-) The animal would need quite a long neck to bite her from that distance. Coy-raffes?

Seriously, though... One of the vets here advises that dog owners who let their dogs out in fenced yards do so only when they are home and also that you should have a stout stick or golf club parked next to the back door. He said if you hear a commotion, you should grab the stick and charge out aggressively. With a good-sized shilelagh you may be able to break up a fight, and just the startle effect of a human barging onto the scene waving a stick and hollering is likely to spook the coyote enough to bring a stop to whatever is going on.

The problem here is that when coyotes lose their fear of humans -- which happens when sentimental folks feed, water, and otherwise encourage them -- they behave somewhat like dogs: they don't necessarily run off if they think there's no serious risk. Even though they're not adapted to take the kinds of social cues that domestic dogs recognize -- such as your expression, your physical gestures, and the meaning of certain words -- they're probably smarter than most domestic dogs. In our experience here in AZ, they can be pretty amazing animals. That's why, of course, Native American tradition portrays the coyote as almost supernaturally wily, smart, and tricky.

A friend of mine lived near the ASU West campus, which is perennially infested with rabbits and cats that people drop off there and so is perennially infested with coyotes. She was walking her Dalmation over there one day when a small pack of coyotes -- she said there were about five of them -- began to follow her. They didn't approach close enough to be truly threatening, but she said it was a little alarming.

Given a choice between stray cats and coyotes, I'll take the coyote any day. Because at least one pair of urban coyotes lives in the alley, I no longer have roof rats in my yard or around the house at all, despite three richly producing citrus trees. Cats rarely kill larger vermin like rats...Kitty is smart enough to tell that a roof rat or a Norwegian rat is as big as she is, and so she doesn't molest that tribe. What she does molest though, are native birds -- some of which are being pushed to extinction here by stray and feral cats -- and other small native creatures like our marvelous mosquito-eating, roach-eating geckos. In some parts of the world, entire species have been driven extinct by cats imported with European colonists.

At any rate, rants side: When I walk with Ruby and Cassie at night, I do carry the Stout Shilelagh with me, as much to discourage the two-legged variety of coyote as the four-legged ones. The coyotes will trot away when they see a woman and two small pooches coming. The meth-heads...mmmm...not so much.

Comment by Jane Christensen on May 2, 2015 at 8:46pm

Oh Coyotes....the hair on my neck stands up when they start howling around here! A humane society woman texted me this AM saying that she had to shoot a gun off last night as they were only 30' from her shed. They will try to lure animals out into the field around here or come into the yards to snatch cats. My dogs go into a large fenced area after dark...

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