Wily coyotes

A few days back, an unfortunate neighbor cat got into a violent confrontation with some unknown canines. The cat, God bless it, got the short end of the deal, and finished up its part of the fight by floating up to cat heaven.

In my little turn-of-the-century urban neighborhood, life is unusually peaceful and untroubled. A pet cat meeting a violent end causes a big upset. Neighbors get to worrying, and talking, and searching for solutions.

In this particular case, the first objective was to identify the perpetrators. Witnesses to the event say the cat killers were middle-size dog-looking things, making otherworldly yipping noises. Unlike neighborhood pet dogs, they weren't on leashes, they weren't adorable, and they were naked-no bandannas, no collars, no nothing. So, don't you know, the neighbors think we've got coyotes-cat-killing, dogfood-stealing urban coyotes.

Since the unfortunate event with the cat, neighbors have been seeing coyotes all over the place-walking the streets unashamedly, darting through the oak leaf hydrangeas, sticking their heads up out of their worrisome coyote holes.

Clearly, the neighborhood consensus was that we had to do something about the coyotes. There was talk of trapping them, but the soft-hearted neighbors couldn't get behind the idea of leghold traps, which besides being cruel, could snag somebody's tam-wearing Scottie dog. The subject of guns came up, not from people who wanted to shoot coyotes, but from people who wanted to say, "Whatever we do, we're not going to use any [gasp, choke] guns."

I must admit, there is a certain irony and charm about a neighborhood where quite a few folks think the pets are as precious as freckle-faced children, but they can't bring themselves to be mean to the critters that disembowel the pets.

So far, I haven't seen a coyote around my house. But if I did, and I had a clean shot, with no chance of hitting any innocent creatures or valuable property, I wouldn't hesitate to put a hole in a coyote. Coyotes are varmints. There's not one thing wrong with shooting varmints. Heck, there are special varmint rifles (the Winchester Model 70 Coyote being one of them), and dedicated varmint ammo.

Granted, filling the neighborhood air with whizzing varmint ammo isn't a good idea, just because of the close quarters and the high density of innocent creatures. But I can't imagine a moral impediment to bagging the limit when it comes to coyotes.

With this in mind, I checked with my pal John Brittle, a real enough outdoorsman, with plenty of big-and small-game hunting experience. John used to live a block north of me, so he understands the lay of the land around here. I asked him what to do about the neighborhood coyotes, provided we actually have any.

"I recommend coursing," John said. "It used to be big in Europe, and they still do a little of it out West. It's a sport, where fast dogs like greyhounds and borzois chase down smaller, slower woodland creatures like foxes and rabbits. Last time I looked, the neighborhood was crawling with greyhounds. I say, take the greyhounds up to the high ground, and let 'em watch for coyotes. If the coyotes are foolish enough to show themselves, the greyhounds will run 'em down, and even the score for that cat."

"Hmmm," I pondered. "You're saying that the coursing thing does involve violence?"

"Yeah," John said sadly, "and there's a fair chance of collateral damage to bunnies and cats."

"Well, dang," I rejoindered. "I figure the hounds wouldn't eat any more bunnies than the coyotes, so I don't see any net loss there. And speaking just for myself, I wouldn't mind seeing a really effective cleanup on wandering cats. I think I'm in the minority on that one, though. Violence against kitties is what started this whole mess. I don't think I can sell the coursing idea."

"You're right," John said. "You probably wouldn't find wide acceptance for coursing. But wouldn't it have been great fun to watch all the greyhound owners standing on the high ground just before dawn, ready to unleash their pets on the deadly coyotes?"

"Could've charged admission," I said.

The way I figure, once you've exhausted the options of trapping, shooting, or setting hounds loose on the coyotes, you're stuck with the option of living with them. So, you cat-loving, coyote-fearing people, listen to me: Keep your cats in the house. Until and unless coyotes learn how to pull off home invasions, that should keep your kitties safe.

There are other good reasons to keep your cats inside, including but not limited to:

· They can't scratch my car when they're in your house.

· They're not eating baby rabbits, birds, or chipmunks (which frankly, I prefer to cats) when they're in your house.

· They're not spraying their stinky cat funk on neighbors' porches when they' re in your house.

While you're in coyote-avoidance mode, remember to pick up any outdoor pet food before nightfall. Take it in your house. Keep your outdoor trash cans tightly sealed. If we take away the easy food, maybe the coyotes will just starve to death.