February 25, 2009 12:15 AM
I blame coyotes for the disappearance a few years ago of a beloved pet. But I blame someone else, too: me. I'm the one, after all, who let down my guard and let our two cats out on that March morning that seemed so warm and sunny and carefree.
So this recent business of shooting coyotes in Greenwood Village brings out conflicted feelings. On one hand I'm angry that I can't let my cats roam briefly in our yard at the edge of the foothills without the possibility they will end up in a predator's gullet.
On the other hand, I love watching wildlife. My gut reaction when I see a fox or coyote in the neighborhood isn't to grab a gun but a camera - after first making sure the cats are inside, of course.
I wasn't feeling too appreciative of wildlife when I spotted two coyotes near the house the day after the cat vanished, however, and I took action. I chased them - hard. They ran to their apparent refuge behind some rocks on a golf course about a quarter-mile away and paused. I kept up the pursuit, hurling a few rocks in their direction when I got close, until they finally loped across the fairways and out of sight.
I never saw them again. Apparently, I had made them feel sufficiently unwelcome. Not for one second, did I think the coyotes presented even the slightest danger to me. I just didn't want them to kill another cat.
When I read the recent reports of coyotes acting aggressively toward humans - even biting them - I think I see the problem: too much picture taking, or trying to coax the animal closer, even feeding it, and not enough chasing it off.
Coyotes are apparently losing their fear of humans the same way the deer in my neighborhood have. In the nearly 14 years I've lived in Roxborough Park southwest of Denver, I've watched deer go from bounding away at the sight of me to barely looking up from munching on our thyme and other plants when I open a door and walk out of the house.
In a suburban area where hunting is outlawed, the deer have practically become pets. And now I've seen a fox napping in the yard - under the same tree where one of the cats likes to sit when I let them outside under a close watch.
So did I charge out of the house and run off the fox? No. I grabbed the camera and tiptoed to a good vantage point.
Living with wildlife is a delicate balance, however. The cat who survived to come home that morning when the other didn't a few years ago came whimpering to the back door last summer after he'd slipped from my sight to visit the neighbor's yard. The skin of his belly had been sliced open as if by a knife, and it took a lot of stitches and care at the veterinary hospital to save him.
I suspect he had narrowly escaped a fox. So I'm not going to let that red-furred stranger nap in the yard too often.