Meeting a Coyote

Yesterday, I met a coyote. I have known the coyote as it has been portrayed in many mythologies as a trickster.

“The epitome of the trickster, Coyote, like Prometheus and a number of other deities in other cultures, is credited with stealing fire from the gods to give to humans. There are numerous stories of Coyote’s exploits and his habit of getting out of some rather tight spots. […] Coyote was both the creator of order out of chaos and the destroyer of order […]. Coyote, like most tricksters, kept natural forces and other deities in check with his trickery and would chastise any deity that he felt had gotten too big for his or her divine britches.” says Archaeologist for Hire.

But meeting this young (maybe four-week-old) spirit was a revelation. He was sweet and gentle, and so incredibly meek and timid. I have never seen a more helpless-seeming creature. All of my mothering instincts kicked into gear.


photo by elizabeth birnbaum

So did Mandy’s. We all became coyote mammas.


photo by elizabeth birnbaum

And for a bit I was not sure what the plan would be for this little one. The decision was not mine to make—my friend found him on the side of the road, and though I thought the plan might be to keep him, the eventual plan was to take him to a native animal rehabilitation center and hopefully release him. So I hope that he did not imprint too much onto any human, because that would be problematic for him down the line.

Even with all of these thoughts swirling, I still wondered if I might want to keep him. I just couldn’t help thinking about it when he gave me this look and put his paw on my hand!

This is a hard face to resist.

sweet face coyote

photo by elizabeth birnbaum

But I really questioned the idea after my very first “pet coyote” google query unearthed this on a forum:

“Most coyote pups are very docile and bond easily to their human pack members. However, as they mature, their hormones and their instincts kick in. […] the pup most likely will become dangerous when it gets older. And any time your neighbors are missing a cat or a small dog, they will look suspiciously in the direction of your pet.” (via)

Having never even owned a dog, I took pause at all of that. I still love the idea of keeping a coyote because when I held him, I felt connected to how simultaneously wild and vulnerable he was. He looked at me with its deep, dark eyes with total curiosity and awe. I looked back with total reciprocity.

After another google query I also found this gal’s blog, The Daily Coyote, the gorgeous photo below was the reason I clicked on it.


It was linked through a USA Today interview.

As I explored her blog I came across a photo which reminded me that the sweet little coyote pup would not be young, sweet, helpless, and cute forever. (Even though this photo was taken after a yawn, it was descriptive enough for me to reconsider my mothering instincts.)


And also, as I read that USA Today interview I found another point which gave me pause:

Q: You get a fair amount of criticism for raising a wild animal in a domestic setting. You even castrated Charlie. What’s your response?

A: Well, it’s hard to take (the criticism) seriously because I don’t think I’m promoting someone getting a coyote for the romance of it. It was the only recourse we had to save the animal.”

…and I realized that for the sweet little guy I got to hold, he probably had another way out. If he can, he should have a wild life.

. . .

I have called to coyotes in the night. In the Fall of 2009 I went out to call to the wolves in northern Wisconsin at a cool place called Trees for Tomorrow. The wolves did not reply, but a pack of coyotes did instead. The noise is haunting and strange. And now sometimes, when I leave my windows open, I can hear coyotes calling as I lay in bed.

Now, when I hear their calls, I will think of the coyote I snuggled and temporarily mothered. And I will call back to them, howling along with the band and hoping that the little one I held is safe and wild.


photo by elizabeth birnbaum


One thought on “Meeting a Coyote

  1. If coyotes could be domesticated, probably someone would have done so before now. Some creatures are wild. I agree with you that you might not want to raise a coyote. Gorgeous little creature, though. Great photos.

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