Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Call of the Wild Comes to New York

The natural world has a habit of intruding in places where the natives least expect it. Not too long ago, a pair of redtail hawks was rudely evicted from the ledge on a New York apartment house where the couple had set up shop. I mean, the hunting was good with all those damned pigeons, right, and the competition was sparse? After much representation by the animal lovers of the city, the couple's cramped but cosy habitation was reinstalled to the applause of many.

There's something elegant about watching a redtail hawk nail a pigeon on the wing that would bring tears of hopeless envy to the folks at Raytheon and their Patriot missiles.

We here in less....ahem....developed parts of the world are more used to such things and take them in our stride. My home is in the middle of Des Moines, about three miles from the heart of downtown, and there are several redtail hawks and a couple of barn owls living in the timber behind the house. In addition, I am feeding a trio of whitetail deer who come up to the back of the house at night, because they have found that the eating is good and their personal safety is assured. In fact, I have seen bald eagles downtown on two separate occasions in the past couple of years.

It is reported today that a genuine coyote (pronounced kai-oat) was captured in Central Park in a scene out of a Keystone Kops flick. The western visitor gave the dogcatchers the slip for some time, escaping from their grasp near the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, only to be apprehended some time later after it had jumped into a pond, swum under a bridge, slithered through a gap in the fence and then away. All in all, a good performance from the Trickster (or so he's called in Native American lore) and one that we here on the prairie have become used to of late.
The New York cops were up to the task, with helicopters, sharpshooters, and an army of determined park rangers, all armed to the teeth, and they corralled the Grey Fellow.
It is said that the critter was removed to a facility in upstate New York (meaning Nyack or points north) to be "rehabilitated".

Iowa cattlemen and sheepherders have been dealing with coyotes and their bad habits for a number of years now, and they would likely opine that the prospects for "rehabilitation" of the Wily One and his clan can be laid at the door of the irrepressible optimism of folks who are unfamiliar with him and think that the wild can be tamed out of him.

One of the highest values we prize in a visitor to our shores is the habit of minding his business. If visitors do, they can move without let or hindrance. However, it is calving time here on the prairie, the mud is in the field and the cattle and sheep bear their young down in the breaks out of the wind. Such largess often proves to be too much in the way of temptation for brother coyote, and the offender is usually rehabilitated with a dose of lead delivered by Doctor Winchester.

And that, in the end is what is most heartening about the story. To the good folks of New York, I would say that the beauty of the coyote is that he cannot be tamed, any more than John Gotti could help being who he turned out to be.

It is in him. It is in his blood and his bones, his hide and sinew and paws, and it cannot be refined out.


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