I am called a dog because I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals. – Diogenes
A woman in the north county region of San Diego is mourning today for her little companion which fell victim to a hungry coyote. I read the sad news online from a local news channel. Apparently she had let one of her small dogs out for its constitutional in the early morning unaware that a coyote was also in her backyard. When she ran out, the poor dog had suffered mortal wounds.
Living in close proximity to open spaces, residents in San Diego may love it here for the view (or sunshine), wildlife, and less noise and bustle than other metropolitan cities. Our city, San Diego, ranks eighth nationally for most land devoted to parks and the County has huge swaths of its 2 million acres to undeveloped areas, recreation, and preserves; many communities are interleaved around these spaces. That also means a lot more contact between wildlife and humans.
Ten years ago, in October, a huge wildfire spread out of the mountains to our east, westward through part of a Marine Air Station and several communities of north central San Diego county. It was one of several fires at that time. Intensive efforts of firefighters, military, civilians and volunteers — and the weather’s capriciousness, checked the advance of these fires. But that was the second time in twenty years that wildlife -including mountain lions and coyotes – were driven ahead of the flames to the urban areas.
In years past, I could clearly hear in the very early morning hours howling of coyotes on the ridge (less than a quarter mile north of my home) as they hunted rabbits. As the years of drought continued in California, there were fewer coyotes heard or seen. And though signs are still posted, mountain lions have only rarely been seen in the most rural of the San Diego communities. Yet this year was a very wet winter and spring, so it seems the food chain is active again; predators are breeding and hungry.
Dexter may wonder why I never let him roam off-leash in the now more developed hills by my home, but his affable nature (and his few extra pounds) might make him a snack for a pack of hungry coyotes. Both of my dogs are larger than the coyotes I have seen on my hikes, but neither dog is combat-ready. And I haven’t carried a firearm on a hike since moving back to California.
Speaking of the Napoleon complex, given the recent news of smaller dogs being snatched by one of these varmints, I have more appreciation for the psychopathic snarling of the little breeds we encounter on our neighborhood walk. Sometimes we encounter a small dog shaking with rage that seems to believe it is really a wolverine, or mastiff, or wolfhound instead of a Shih Tzu. They probably heed the advice given by animal behaviorists when encountering a predator in the wild, never lose eye contact, appear larger and to be more vicious. The intended meal might still lose, but then I have heard that some victims of an alligator attack have the adrenaline-fueled strength to pry apart the jaws.