COYOTE AMERICA, A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores addresses the evolutionary and spiritual influence of the oldest predator of the North American continent during its more than 1500 year saga of survival to avoid extinction by humans. In a very thorough study, Flores traces the mythical history of the American icon from its spiritual image for Native Americans to its present day embodiment in the Coywolf, a coyote-wolf hybrid now found in large numbers in the north eastern provinces of Canada.
Despite large scale and expensive national programs to eliminate the coyote it has survived and is presently found all over North America including a city or suburb near you. According to Flores it is these massive efforts to eradicate the coyote that triggered evolutionary forces of adaption which have allowed it to flourish and invade all parts of the continent.
Coyote America is a veritable encyclopedia of all things coyote from its image as a god for Native Americans, to efforts of the federal government to eradicate the species, to the iconic image of Disney’s Wile Coyote. The work includes a bibliography of about 100 books which Flores used to compile just about everything one would want to know about North America’s oldest predator.
Considering the present ecological consciousness, it is hard to imagine the costly efforts that humans have expended in recent history to eradicate a whole species of animals by poisoning, gunning down from airplanes or trapping. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and the influence of books such as Silent Spring we humans now realize the importance of all creatures to achieve a balance in nature between prey and predators.
Flores credits Walt Disney for popularizing the cult of the coyote and telling the coyote’s side of the story which Mark Twain and other disparaged by writing about what a “varmint” it was and the need to eradicate it from the earth. Disney popularized it cunning and attractive characteristics in films like The Coyote’s Lament and cartoons featuring the Road Runner to gain support for saving coyotes, the original trickster, from extinction.
The story of the survival and flourishing of the coyote can be a source of hope for the humans as we face enormous ecological challenges to the continuation of our own species. The basic evolutionary force appears to be for life and the coyote has shown us a way to overcome massive efforts to destroy its future. These four footed canines have continually adapted so that now they are stronger, more resilient and genetically more diverse than ever before. Can we learn from them? (Zipp, a retired working dog at Cox Arboretum is a cousin of coyotes.)