New neighbors

A new couple has moved in to the arroyo across the street from our apartment.

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I keep seeing them when I’m out with my iPhone, but someday I’ll have to stalk them with my telephoto lens, in the hopes of getting a better picture.

They look like young creatures to me – full grown but not quite filled out, with that semi-adolescent lankiness. But then, maybe all coyotes look like that. These are certainly the first ones I’ve got this close to. And they seem at home in the arroyo – this is my fourth sighting in probably as many weeks.

They’re lovely graceful creatures, with their low loping stride, slipping into the invisibility of the long grass and sand that lines the arroyo at a moment’s notice. They worry me, though – the arroyo is in the middle of a city (admittedly not a massive one), surrounded by homes and a semi-industrial/warehouse patch. The coyotes probably shouldn’t be as at home here as they are, if they want to stay here.

I’m told that the arroyo was fixed up by the Department of the Interior not long before we moved here – it used to flood every monsoon season, so it got graded and drained and whatever else you do to arroyos that flood. Apparently it used to be much wilder and overgrown, and home to much more wildlife. I’ve seen javelinas out here (but only once), tons and tons of birds, lots of little lizards, and once a bearded dragon-type creature. But these are the first coyotes I’ve seen.

Interior also built a nice walking path around the arroyo, with landscaping making it all pretty, and a huge draw for the neighborhood. There are people I regularly see walking the path in the morning when I go to work, and in the evening when I walk myself. I’ve learned to recognize people by their dogs. I’m sure the coyotes aren’t going to mess with the largest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen who lives a few blocks away (he’s like the size of a Newfoundland), but there’s a yippy Shih-Tzu that regularly slips its leash, and lots and lots of cats that roam free.

There’s also a bike park, with human-built obstacles, like a skateboard park but for BMX bikes. That’s where the coyotes are in the picture above. The one is sitting on a dirt obstacle, and there are a bunch more obstacles to the right, out of the picture. At the very far end of the circuit was a kid with his bike. Clearly he could see the coyotes, because he stood next to his bike, just watching them, waiting to see what they would do. In coyote v. BMX, it’s pretty clear who’s going to win.

It’s a little unnerving, though, to see the coyotes quite so close. You know they don’t want to mess with humans, but you also don’t know whether they could get aggressive, or if they’re just fragile enough that encountering us could harm them – the way that touching butterfly wings is so tempting, because they are so beautiful, but cripples the butterfly if you can’t resist.

I love seeing the new neighbors, at the same time that I want to tell them to run far, far away.