An unwelcome guest on the farm

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“Winter in Missouri. The coyotes are singing almost every night now down in the hollow, the creek bed that runs below my southern boundary. Their song is a chorus of yips, yelps and barks that increases in intensity and number as more and more join in, until it climaxes in a series of howled wails. When I first moved here, their song was rarer. The pair of male Irish setters Paul and I had then would cock their heads and listen when they heard coyotes, and then look at us as if for an explanation of this sound so near and yet not quite of their kind.”
— Sue Hubbell, A Country Year

Living on a farm brings many things that I would miss terribly if I were to be suddenly transplanted to town. I have realized as I have gotten older and wiser that there is a double-edge sword about country life. It is enjoyable to live among wildlife. It can also be quite worrisome to share space with wildlife.

Here, as everywhere, coyotes are increasing in numbers. They are one of the wildlife creatures that has managed to spread their range in spite of the efforts to contain and thin them out. I think of them as clever, wily, sneaky, shrewd.
What I mean to say is that coyotes give me the creeps, the old shiver up the spine.

Out the window

I watched a coyote one day recently and felt that shudder and shiver. It was mid-morning and I was here alone, working on paperwork. I took a break to fix a cup of coffee and looked out my kitchen window toward the back acreage of our farm. I spotted something in movement and took a closer look. It was a coyote, not running, but moving along at a steady pace, glancing around as it moved, looking for all the world as if it owned the place and had every right to be here.

Coyote can eat almost anything, which most definitely plays a part in their survival rate. They will dine on rabbit, mice and small birds, but they will also make a meal of berries or insects, plants or seeds. They don’t mind polishing off the kill of another if they come upon it. Their own prey they prefer to carry back to the den for later fine dining.

I think quite often of how our landscape has changed over the course of my lifetime. There was a time we simply did not see or hear wild turkey or the Canada goose or coyotes. Now, even if we do not see them on a daily basis, we do hear them. We know, without a doubt, that they are living among us.

More guests

The hawk, too, has increased in number, which in part might explain the lower number of wild rabbit that we see on this secluded farm. The coyotes and the hawks have changed the landscape in this way.

Deer have increased, obviously. It is not at all rare to look out my back window and see several deer of varying sizes grazing or lazily moving across the open fields. They, too, act as if they own the place. It would be nice to make them pay the real estate taxes.

Nothing makes me happier than to see bluebirds nesting on our farm, and to have spotted several of them over the course of this long, tough winter has been like a great ray of sunshine on an otherwise bitter day.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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