Friday, August 14, 2009

Midnight Laughter

I was awakened around midnight last night by a sound that has been absent from our hills for a long time. We heard it often our first year in the house, but for about a year it seems to have been missing. Then I sat upright in my bed, my heart pounding with joy and dread, sometime just before midnight. It was quite close, perhaps a block or so away unless the echo was magnified by the nearby houses. I contemplated putting some outside clothes on and stepping onto the porch, but settled for laying back down and letting the sound wash over me through the open windows.

The coyotes are back. Their bark sounds a bit like rather maniacal laughter, and in the clarity of the darkness I could understand how coyote got a reputation among the indigenous peoples as a trickster. It sounded like several of them gathered and were calling across the hills to the rest of the pack to join them. I wondered what kind of pranks they were plotting in their midst as they cackled amongst themselves in the deep darkness.

So many people consider them nuisance animals, the same way they view wolves. They are good for nothing but ruining ranchers livelihoods. To me they are an important part of the ecosystem, managing rodents and other populations of small animals that could potentially cause issues by over stressing their various food sources. When coyotes are around and I hear their crazy laughing bark in our dry hills I know that there is balance in our habitat. When they are conspicuously absent and the hills are unusually silent I am aware that all is not right in our world, and I worry.

Laugh on, brother coyote, laugh on.

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