Survival of a trickster

  • A coyote plays with a mouse

    Michael H. Francis

The coyote has never gotten much respect. For the past two centuries, ranchers, farmers and federal agents have ruthlessly gunned and poisoned the tawny predator. Yet unlike its larger cousin, the wolf, the coyote has thrived, and expanded its range into virtually every ecosystem in North America. How the legendary trickster of Native American lore pulled off this feat is explored in Todd Wilkinson's Track of the Coyote. With on-the-ground reporting and interviews with biologists, ranchers, government trappers and wildlife advocates, Wilkinson paints a portrait of a highly intelligent animal that has adopted numerous strategies from eating roadkill to hunting in packs. He also explores the counter-intuitive theory developed by Yellowstone researcher Bob Crabtree, which holds that killing coyotes increases their numbers. Crabtree says the death of a pack leader disrupts the pack's social order, pushing young coyotes to reproduce more rapidly and disperse into new territory. Another impact: Coyotes with hungry pups are also more likely to go after easy-to-kill animals such as cows. The discussions of evolving coyote science are fascinating and Wilkinson balances them with anecdotes, Indian lore and color photographs by Michael Francis.

NorthWord Press Inc., P.O. Box 1360, Minocqua, WI 54548: $14.95, 1995, 144 pages, paper.

*Paul Larmer

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