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

Coyote Woman


As a woman and as a feminist I support Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next President of the United States.

I have struggled to understand the antipathy the public has/had for this woman who has lived her life so courageously, dodging countless vicious attacks from women and men, the press, and succumbing to none.

During the last election (when I would have voted for Clinton had she gotten the nomination) I was dismayed to hear so many women speak out against her. Baffled, I would often ask why and the most frequent answer I got from women was that she was not likeable. When I asked what not likeable meant specifically, women shrugged. Other stated that they didn’t trust her; she was too secretive. These value judgments seemed unduly harsh. I didn’t know then that Hillary understood before she became a governor’s wife (as a young woman) that she was not “likeable,” or that she became secretive as a result of being targeted endlessly and unfairly by the press. After asking many women this question I began to perceive that women’s envy might be part of the equation.

I thought about how many good things Hillary did for women and for children all over the world, her many other accomplishments, the skill with which she out maneuvered her opponents during her lengthy political life. When she finally got the nomination for President every facet of her public and private life went under attack, again. I winced privately, kept my opinions to myself and continued to query what it was about this woman that created such hatred in others?

I could understand that she might be threatening to many men, who probably unconsciously feared being “dominated” by a woman President. After all, we live in an  unbalanced Patriarchal society in which Caucasian middle class white collared male workers hold the most power, and one in which women continue to be marginalized and raped (Rape is, above all, about power and control of women). As I see it a perceived reversal of the present power structure could be experienced as a real threat.

But it was only recently that I came to understand that Hillary Rodham Clinton, was a woman to be reckoned with because she broke all the rules.

As a young woman of the sixties she was a feminist who refused to take her husband’s name; she wore glasses, was well educated, and practiced law in a predominantly male field. She was ambitious and didn’t attempt to hide it, yet when faced with deep humiliation she chose to stay with a man who had betrayed her.

Hillary is detested by many people because she doesn’t fit any particular mold. She spirals through her life first moving in one direction and then in another for her own survival. She isn’t predictable. She uses both her mind and her body (feelings) to make decisions.

As a woman, I know from painful personal experience that if you break the rules you are ostracized by family and culture, and this woman has broken the rules throughout her entire life.

It’s her refusal to be categorized that gives me the greatest amount of hope because no one knows what Hillary might do after she becomes President!

And yes, the fact that she is also a woman is critically important because we must address the imbalance in our thinking, bring feeling into the equation, and begin to make decisions that are more embodied and less abstract. As a rule women think less in either/or right/ wrong truth/lie absolutes. We need to elect a President who is capable of thinking in terms of “both and,” one who perceives nuances and is capable of using her intuitive skills to help solve complex issues. We simply cannot solve future problems using the same monotonous power over strategies and war mentality that we have used in the past because we are destroying the earth and ourselves. Humans have become the most destructive species on the planet.

Because Hillary has literally had to claw her way to the top to become a Presidential candidate I also think she has developed the necessary humility to lead our country away from further self/other destruction. One of her greatest accomplishments might be that she has survived personal suffering and has become stronger and more compassionate as a result of it.

In a few days we will be casting our ballots for the next President of the United States. I can only pray that we will choose a leader who is capable of leading our country with intelligence, keen judgment, strength, and one who possesses an ability to shape-shift if necessary. I believe that Hillary Rodham Clinton, a true coyote woman if there ever was one, is that person.


Postscript: I include some Datura flowers here to wish her well.