The coyote was limping, just slightly, and one could barely tell when she sprinted straight at me, veering away and down the street. I was standing about three house down from ours, just before I was leaving for work. Mari had told me there was a coyote on our street, which was strange, even though we are between the Santa Cruz River and Tumamoc Hill. The river being mostly a dried wash except in big rains, and Tumamoc being wide open and closed to people except for the road in the early mornings and evenings to walking and running. Still, we were only a mile from downtown Tucson, and in my mind it was only a depressing omen that a coyote was on the streets. After veering away from me, the coyote slowed to a trot and proceeded to the west of our house. I watched until I could not see her anymore and then waited, not knowing why, but somehow feeling more of the intruder than she.
Two mornings ago I was standing at the back of my yard checking on my chickens and surveying the large empty lot behind the house that may one day be the sight of a new FBI building (oh joy), when I noticed a red tail hawk skimming the wild grasses in search of breakfast. For a second it headed directly towards me in the fresh morning air, only to turn to my right and float up and over the mesquite trees that separate our houses from the open lot. Evidently the lot was not serving breakfast. I had little concern for my chickens, as even if the hawk did see them through the shade cloth, it would take some serious effort to break through into the chicken palace, not to mention hoist one of our well-fed hens up and out. The hawk flew past my view to the south, eyes scanning for furry morsels in the paved reaches of Tucson.
When I first moved into my house, nearly two and a half years ago, there was a roadrunner that frequented the backyard, poaching lizards off the walls of my shed in the morning sun. He once came within 5 feet of me, before deciding I had nothing juicy to offer and continued on. While I haven’t seen my flightless friend in the backyard for some time it is not uncommon to see one or two in the wash down the road.
It is a mixture of blessing and sadness for me, these sightings so close to home. When I saw the coyote on my street, I briefly thought the landscape of New York City in the movie “I am Legend” or the recent book, “The World Without Us”, both evoking a reality where nature takes over all the artificial landscaping we’ve been constructing for centuries and wildlife returns. Having a special place in my movie-going-heart for zombie and end of the world flicks, I must admit there was a certain part of me that felt like I was seeing a flash of the future as the coyote disappeared around the corner. Then it was gone.
Generally predators don’t find their way into cities unless their habitat is destroyed or severly encroached upon. At the same time, there is probably something to be said about the intentional habitat building within city limits to make our neighborhoods and communities more in line with what naturally grows in the Sonoran desert, and more inviting to its longstanding inhabitants. Though believing that Tucson has attained some level of ecological balance and friendliness is simply foolish, at least for the moment. I certainly hope the coyotes can manage without scouring our cities, but on the other hand they are scavengers and what better place to scavenge than at back doors of our consumerist culture of waste and overabundance. Either way, they are beautiful animals. But they better stay away from my chickens. I think that’s only fair.