Looney Tunes got it about right. The popular cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, depict the coyote as a scheming trickster constantly dreaming up new ways to capture his prey. The term Coyote is derived from the Aztec word Coyotl which means "Trickster". On film, the coyote consistently fails in his efforts. In real life, the outcome is often very different. But, don't be concerned, this anecdote has a happy ending.
Sallie, one of our Jack Russells, can attest to the extent to which coyotes live up to their reputation. The nocturnal calls, howls and yips of a coyote pack are part of country living where we spend the warmer months up north. When the winter winds howl, my wife and I program the GPS unit to guide us south. Our destination is the west coast of Florida where we have a home in a golfing community. There we expect to leave behind the fauna of the north and enjoy the change in wildlife in the pleasant sub-tropics. But, it seems, we are not the only snowbirds, or should I say, the snow mammals, for whom the warm breezes of the Gulf of Mexico act like a magnet. Yes, you got it, coyotes appreciate the warmth of the south too.
Our home backs on to a golf course fairway. We have the usual caged lanai. One evening, as the shadows were drawing in, our dinner guests for the evening were enjoying my wife's popular dessert, Pavlova. Suddenly, all hell broke loose. A series of coyote howls, very loud and close by, interrupted the conversation around the dining table. Immediately, our two Jacks, Simon and Sallie ran barking out into the lanai. Coyote calls, dog barks and the shouting of our dinner guests as we all rushed out to see what was going on, shattered the evening calm.
The presence of humans seemed to be enough to scare off the coyotes, so the cacophony of sound soon subsided and we returned to the dining table with our guests remarking on the unusual occurrence. I checked to see that the two dogs had returned into the house with us, only to find that the female had not come in. Somewhat concerned, we returned to the lanai, but found no trace of her. A pleading bark at the door on the other side of the house solved the mystery of where she was, but it did not explain how she was on the outside when all the doors were shut. We let her back in but didn't pursue the matter further.
By this time, the dessert had been consumed and our guests and I had rolled our chairs back from the table while the conversation continued.
Sallie enjoys the social scene and claimed her rights to a little fussing on my lap; a practice she has come to expect in that demanding way of Jack Russells.
As I stroked her head, the lady to the right of me exclaimed "Oh look, she is bleeding".
Further examination revealed two puncture wounds, one on her back and the other in her thigh. Tough as nails, Sallie seemed not to have noticed that a trickle of blood was running down her leg on to my lap.
Something did not add up. The dog could not have got out of the house or the screened-in lanai as all the doors were closed and the coyotes had been on the outside of the lanai. Yet, it was obvious she had been bitten by one of the coyotes. For the injury to have been inflicted, Sallie must have been able to get out and face the coyotes.
Eager for an explanation, I grabbed a flashlight and inspected the perimeter of the lanai cage. At first nothing was found amiss but one of our guests, pulled a potted palm away from the screen in one of the corners. There, hidden behind the terra cotta container, a hole in the screen was exposed. The screen had been ripped from the outside, with considerable force, to expose a jagged gap big enough for a Jack Russell to go through.
The mystery was solved. It was apparent that the coyotes, knowing that two small dogs lived in the house, had come by the previous night to tear open the hole in this inconspicuous place. Their plan appeared to be to return 24 hours later and entice the dogs out through the gap. They surmised that our inquisitive dogs would have found the escape route in the meantime.
Clearly, Sallie had fallen for their ruse. Their howling had caused her to rush out to defend her territory as only a fearless Jack would do. With the coyotes outside the lanai she took the fast route through the torn hole that she had discovered earlier that day. What the tricksters had not reckoned with was the agility and speed of Sallie. One of them had grabbed her. Her wounds were consistent with an upper jaw bite on her back and the corresponding lower jaw puncture on her thigh. She is all muscle and quick reaction. This enabled her to wriggle free and high tail it for the safety of the front entrance on the other side of the house.
The outcome was not serious for Sallie as the puncture wounds were clean. Some antiseptic wound powder which, as horse owners, we always have on hand, soon healed the incisions.
This is certainly not the first instance of coyotes attacking domestic dogs, but it does illustrate the intelligence of the wily coyote. To plan a set up such as this required a high level of intelligence.
Next time the coyote your hounds are following gives you the slip, he is once again showing you how he has earned his reputation as "The Trickster".