Coyote, a Spanish corruption of the Aztec word "coyoti", means prairie wolf. Until recently the term was fitting. The swift prairie wolf embodied the spirit of the plains. His yapping song at twilight was the finest music of the broad open spaces. No buffalo herd was complete without its coterie of coyotes.
Later, when the settler followed the hunter and the herder, the coyote was driven back to the barren foothills of the ranges. Wild game became scarce and the coyote was forced to take a few lambs and a few fouls from the settler's barnyard in order to survive. The settler did not approve and the battle was waged against the shy coyote with renewed vigor. Guns, dogs, traps and poison were to be found at every turn. Last year the hunters of the U. S. Biological Survey destroyed 105,619 coyotes and many were escaped only to die later from the effects of poison.
There was nothing for the coyote to do but seek shelter in the wilderness far from the reach of advancing civilization. Little real wilderness remained outside the National Forests and National Parks and the desert areas of the Southwest. There he has found partial immunity from his enemies and prospered. There are hundreds of coyotes in the Park, perhaps thousands, and here at least they are safe from complete extermination. As long as the ground squirrels and the grouse are plentiful there is room for the coyote.
Strange though it may seem, the immigrant coyote seldom sings his evening song on Rainier. Has he lost the heart to sing or does he find the deep forests depressing? Yesterday in the new snow we found hundreds of coyote tracks about timberline and out on the snow covered glacier.
Recently there has been snow in the high valleys, the first snowstorms of the year. Coincident with the snow the Gray Jays sailed into Paradise Valley on stiff wings. All summer the Jays have remained down in the shelter of the forests, and now that the weather is rough in the high country they, or at least a few of them, forego the protection of the forests and move to the wind-swept mountain meadows. As the same time most of the high altitude birds are seeking lower levels. A similar incident occurs each year with the Magpies. All summer they inhabit the arid plains were the thermometer registers 110 in the shade, and in the late fall when the high mountain meadows are in the grip of winter the Magpies fly over the Cascade Ranges and spend the bleak months on Mount Rainier. So far we have found no motive to justify these actions--one of the many mysteries of the wilderness.
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