Coyote fences, gourds, and Canis latrans


My friend Iren has erected a beautiful coyote fence for privacy. Each day when I look at this wooden structure I find myself admiring it more.


Coyote fences can be made of a number of materials often spruce – fur latillas and this one appeals to me the most. The uneven wooden poles fit the surrounding desert like they rise out of the ground like willows will in wet places…


In the morning light the poles shimmer.


Naturally, I also think about coyotes being able to jump these fences if they actually surround an enclosed structure (this one does not).


Coyotes are brilliant and can eye immediately the difficulties presented when assessing the viability of jumping such an uneven barrier. A coyote could easily break a leg, or worse. However, coyotes are amazingly adaptable wild animals and rarely make stupid mistakes.


I have read that if they choose coyotes might be able to clear a fourteen-foot fence. This information seems a bit far – fetched. Even a starving coyote probably would not make this choice.


When Iren gave me a coyote gourd I was simply amazed. When halved these beauties reveal Nature’s superb packaging and intricate handiwork. According to Iren, Santa Fe has coyote gourds all over the place so I had to look them up. They grow wild and although unpalatable to humans, coyotes like them very much, because their scat is full of the flat seeds, three of which I just planted in one of my pots. The vine is to my mind quite beautiful to look at with it’s star –like variegated leaves. The smooth spherical fruits ripen from green to pale yellow gourds that are still used by Pueblo peoples as rattles in ceremony and the seeds were also once ground and eaten. These wild plants grow in sandy places and I am anxious to see if I can germinate a vine. Perhaps one day I will have a coyote fence on which the vines could grow…


A few weeks ago I met a coyote wandering across Owl Canyon. I had my two five pound Chihuahuas with me on leashes. Because I am a naturalist, my dogs have been taught that they can bark at people but not wild animals, and during this encounter we were able to approach this coyote close enough so that I could see his golden amber eyes. The coyote seemed quite curious and regarded us with intense concentration, especially after I called out a greeting of welcome. We all stood there quietly in the still afternoon sun until the coyote decided to continue along his way.


Wild animals are busy living their own lives and this brief interlude was a gift from the Mistress of the Desert. Had we met a pack of wild dogs I would have been alarmed because these animals can be dangerous but it is my experience that coyotes rarely, if ever bother humans. Of course, anyone who has cats, chickens, and unleashed small/medium dogs leaves their animals at risk to become an opportunist’s next meal if left free to roam at will, but it is our responsibility as pet owners to care for our two or four legged friends, and not blame an offending coyote for passing up a free meal. Coyotes do not have supermarkets to shop in like people do.


One fascinating fact about coyotes is that every attempt to extirpate them has failed, and in fact, coyotes have now extended their range throughout all of North America into Mexico and Panama. Killing them simply encourages the remaining coyotes to reproduce more of their kind, so these wily animals are successful in outwitting human cruelty. As a naturalist I am almost always writing about the loss of species so I am especially happy to write about the highly creative coyotes who have learned to thrive along side man, their primary enemy.


I have never understood why so many people fear and hate these beautiful animals who are excellent meso – predators who sing up the stars and fill an ecological niche without which the desert would be a poorer rodent ridden place.



halved coyote gourd


Coyote fence