Friday, June 15, 2012

Nature’s Calling Cards

            In Victorian times, people of good breeding and character with time on their hands apparently went “calling.”  As either a pass into another’s home or as a token of the visit, these folks left behind a calling card in a lovely dish placed on some sort of table in the entryway.  These ornate calling cards engraved with the caller’s name held special significance if one bent the left top corner one way or another meaning if a different corner were bent or torn. 

            While this seems terribly complicated, I have found that nature deals with calling cards of a different and much less difficult sort.  Having walked hundreds of miles down country roads and paths, I have observed more than a few calling cards left in the middle of the road to mark borders of local coyotes.  These calling cards, while every bit as clear in their message, aren’t nearly as ornate or as collectible as those left by our Victorian ancestors.

            In case I haven’t made it obvious yet, passing coyotes leave scat piles in strategic and clearly visible patches of road or trail. Over time, I have observed enough tokens of their visits to know they want other coyotes, my dogs, and me to acknowledge their presence in the neighborhood.  In fact, their frequent messages aim to tell me they claim my drive , pasture, and surrounding section roads.  I am the interloper.

            While Victorian cards present the visitor’s name in ornate script, surrounded by the filigreed designs of the time, coyotes leave simple little messages.  If, however, one is attentive, one can read volumes in those epistles.

            Over the summer and into this fall, I put together a list of messages I have interpreted in recent months.  Coyotes tend to be opportunistic feeders, and though they sport a lovely set of canine incisors, they will eat fruits, berries, and melons.  Late spring and early summer notes are more numerous as a result of the fibrous nature of the “ink.”  These calling cards never varied much in theme.  Some of the messages included lines saying, “Hey, check out the mulberries.  Who needs rabbits when the berries fall off the tree into your mouth.” Another card might read, “Mulberries rule, but watch out for the darn birds.”  Later in the summer, I might read a similar message along these lines, “If you thought mulberries were good, you have to try the currants.”   “This season’s currants defy description—flavor and bulk make them first choice of all coyotes.”

            As the berries shriveled and fell to the ground, these calling cards took on a new texture and dimension.  Rodents came back into fashion.  The messages might read, “ Whoa, that was one big bunny!” or “Packrats make great snacks.” Lately I have noticed coyote diets tend to include a little rodent fur and little round seeds I haven’t identified, hence the following motto, “Eat a balanced diet—a little meat, a little grain make a coyote sleek, sassy, and fast.”

            While it may seem odd to relate a coyote’s natural bodily function to calling cards left behind by Victorian gentlefolk, similarities exist.  Coyotes don’t have many options when it comes to leaving notes advertising their presence in home territory.  Left to natural devices then, they leave these scat piles in the road to serve the same purpose as old fashioned human calling cards.  Your dog reads it with his nose.  You read it with your eyes. Take note when you see one.  A wild creature has dropped by for a visit.  Hope it was pleasurable.


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