John Harrigan: Why hate the coyote but worship the wolf?

JOHN HARRIGAN April 26. 2014 8:28PM

On a morning enveloped by fog, or maybe a low-flying cloud, I could see no farther than the pasture across the road. The dog, Millie, perhaps the most spoiled dog north of the notches, had to go out, and I followed for her protection.

These days, with two coyote families all around, hungry from winter, I stay with her, particularly at the edges of dawn and dusk. She would be nothing more than a snack. Think "Millie on a toothpick," with olives.

Periodically, there are clarion calls to "do something" about coyotes. This connotes that (a) there is a mission of sorts, and (b) any "do something" initiative would work.

I don't get the (a) part. The collective "we" created a vacant niche when we finally, around 1900, managed to persecute the Northeastern wolf to near oblivion. We did this during a time when the landscape was more than half cleared for subsistence farming and for the hard money that sheep could bring.

The cleared landscape was not about cows, as many people continue to think, it was about sheep. Their legacy was the stone walls we stumble over deep in the woods today.

We are now at around 83 percent forested and have set the table for high-end predators (mountain lions, wolves) to attend the banquet. Why should we be surprised if the guests appear?

I don't understand this fixation on persecuting the coyote while wrapping ourselves in the righteous mission of having more deer. To me, the habitat in most of the state is about as full of deer as it can be.

Coyote kills occur in public when the coyotes are ravenous near the end of winter and the deer, confined to the yards, are most susceptible. Every year about this time, I get mail from people distraught about seeing this little drama carry itself out on the ice, the deer splayed, the coyotes circling and then tearing way. But both species seem to emerge in the spring, just about now, to go about raising their young.

Evidence suggests that the red wolf, whose genes today's coyotes in the Northeast carry, will eventually occupy its ancestral range.

This fosters the question: Why do we worship the wolf, with its soulful howl, as a symbol of conservation and everything we supposedly love about the wild, but on the other hand regard the coyote, "The Trickster," the wolf's close cousin, as nothing more than a rat at the dump?

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or

John Harrigan

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required