Nature's calling cards

Jun 22, 2014


In Victorian times, people of good breeding with time on their hands apparently went “calling.” As either a pass into another’s home or as a token of the visit, guests left behind a reminder of the visit in a lovely dish placed on an entryway table. These ornately engraved name cards held special significance if one bent the left top corner one way and another meaning if the deliverer tore a different place. 

While this practice seems complicated, I’ve found nature provides calling cards of a much different sort. After walking hundreds of miles down country roads, I’ve spotted many unique notes left by local coyotes in the middle of the road to mark their territory. These—ahem--deposits whose message is perfectly clear, aren’t as ornate or as collectible as those left by my Victorian ancestors, but their purpose is similar.

In case I haven’t made it obvious, passing coyotes leave scat piles in strategic and clearly visible spots on a road or trail. Over time, I’ve counted enough tokens of their visits to know they want other coyotes, my dogs, and me to acknowledge their presence in the neighborhood.

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

Over the summer and into fall, I assembled a list of messages I’ve interpreted in those months. Coyotes tend to be opportunistic feeders, and though they sport a lovely set of canine incisors, they do eat fruits, berries, and melons.  Late spring and early summer notes are more numerous due to the fibrous nature of the -- ink

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 discover a message stating, “If you thought mulberries were good, you have to try the currants, or 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 or were picked off by hungry birds, new reminders of a coyote visit took on  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’ve noted coyote diets tend to include a little rodent fur and little round seeds I can’t identify, hence the following motto, “Eat a balanced diet—a little meat, a little grain make a coyote sleek, sassy, and fast.”

While it’s odd to relate a coyote’s natural bodily function to engraved stationery left behind by Victorian gentlefolk, similarities do exist. Coyotes  have few options when it comes to leaving notes advertising their presence in home territory. Depending on nature, they deposit scat to serve the same purpose as old fashioned human calling cards.

 Your dog reads these with his nose. You read them with your eyes. When you see a message telling you of a coyote’s visit, feel fortunate. A wild creature shares your path.