Jack Simpson: A not-so-welcome neighbor



We recently noticed a new neighbor in the vicinity of our home down here in south Rockdale. No, his name isn't Smith or Jones or Barnes or any of those good old American monikers.

He looks like he might weigh from 25 to 40 pounds, has a bushy tail, and is kind of brownish-grey in color -- and is called Mr. Coyote. I'm told he has been seen in all 159 of Georgia's counties and is not particularly welcome anywhere he has moved in.

However, he doesn't care. There have been no reported attacks on people, but he is not all that finicky about his diet. He adapts well to the habitat around here and manages to find plenty of small animals to eat. He even likes family pets, berries, snakes, fawns and rodents.

For quite a while, we knew he was in the nearby woods because at night we heard his yowling, eerie howl and barking and high-pitched sounds. We suspected his presence but finally confirmed it with several sightings. My spouse was sweeping the front porch when she heard a rustling of leaves in the yard. She looked toward the area of the noise and observed a female deer chasing a coyote. The lady of the house suspected the doe may have given birth and the coyote had threatened the new offspring and was being driven away by the mother deer.

On another occasion, I entered the back pasture and was faced with six coyotes. Talk about surprise! I was unarmed, didn't even have my walking stick, and didn't know if suddenly I might be on the menu for a coyote dinner. I yelled at the pack and kept moving. They watched me and I watched them as they disappeared into the woods nearby.

Coyotes usually mate in February and may have five to seven pups. I expect I came across the adults and their offspring. Even though I had not heard of any attacks by coyotes on people in the vicinity, I had no wish to become the first such statistic. You can bet that I am more cautious as I walk around here alone. I am more apt to stroll with worry and care, and some apprehension, because when I did encounter a pack of coyotes, I really was not expecting to see so many of them at one time.

I am told they have become a nuisance in many suburban communities and can be hunted year round. Small patches of woods provide cover and places where they can den. People who see them are careful to protect their children and pets. They know once a coyote has moved in, he is hard to get rid of, and if he is removed, another quickly moves in to take his place.

So we all have ourselves a new neighbor -- like it or not. I believe the Bible tells us to "love they neighbor as thyself," but, frankly, in the case of the coyote or, as some call him, the prairie wolf, it is a real challenge.

Do you not agree?

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.