My Friend, Huehuecóyotl


Music, Dance, Mischief & Rodent Control

“coyote_01”by Jethro Taylor is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Aztec called the divinity Huehuecóyotl (we we koj-tl), roughly “Very Old Coyote.”  “Very Old,” I understand to denote “to be respected,” like other divinities, and not specifically the character’s advanced age.  I like the way the Aztecs thought. I’ll resist “him” or “her” pronouns, also, as coyote in mythic form could often be gender changing. Just one from mythic coyote’s versatile arsenal of tricks, but perhaps one of the most amusing ones.  But the common thread that unifies all descriptions is that Huehuecóyotl liked to have fun.  Singer, dancer, musician, and often benign trickster, this coyote was a tonic for relief of boredom.

Aztec Huehuecóyotl
By Unknown – This image was created with Adobe Photoshop., Public Domain,

Should you encounter a less mythic coyote on your Wild, Abandoned route, you’ll experience said relief from boredom, albeit as a racing heartbeat and perhaps excessive perspiration.  That’s a fair response.  Generally not considered to be dangerous animals, you should still not approach a coyote.  But you also should not run away.  This makes you look too much like prey.  I mean, let’s face it, you ARE prey; but, why flaunt the fact?  Coyotes are now common to all urban regions across the lower forty-eight.  So, you should know the rules in addition to not making like Road Runner (you aren’t fast enough):

-Don’t approach or pick up pups. They are not abandoned, but on their way into the world. Also, they will bite you.
-If a coyote approaches you, yell loudly, look large, and stand your ground (make like Huehuecóyotl).  This works. I did it on a walk in my neighborhood when one came prancing (no other way to describe it) toward me.
-Keep those small pets (cats, dogs) indoors.  Really, all bets are off on keeping the larger one’s out all day, as well. Keep all dogs leashed when walking in coyote prone areas. By the way, are you actually leashing and walking a cat? The answer “yes” might indicate that we need another rule.
-Don’t leave food (dog chow, etc.) outside for any animals.

I’ve seen groups of three or four move like electricity arcing over a stream in Goldsmith Gulch, Hutchison Park, South Denver.  I know, I know:  such quaint Western names.  Another lone coyote sun-bathed dead center in the Highline Canal bike path, not moving for anyone or anything.  I braked some thirty feet away and coyote just scanned me as I re-routed like a human navigation application.  “Coyote ahead, thirty feet, would you like to use this alternative route, re-routing, re-routing, re-routing.” I’ve seen them alone with prey in their jaws, leaping above high grass, burrowing in snow, in a parking garage (always tip your attendant), and perched on my backyard fence at 5 a.m.  I’ve seen them “here,” I’ve seen them “there”; hell, Sam, I’ve seen them “everywhere,” even “in a box ” (no lie, it was trap).  But never, never have I seen one “with a fox.” 

On that subject, I can say with some confidence that the abundance of rabbits and mice in fields and in our front and backyards here in Colorado have reduced tensions between the fox and coyote. There is no fierce competition for a food supply. Science says fox and coyote are changing their behaviors in the urban regions in which they are also thriving.  Maybe not cooperating, specifically, but not engaging in Battles Royale. I can attest, that coyote is forever entertaining.  Unless, of course, you own a poodle.  Coyote attacks on un-leashed poodles seem to be a thing in these parts.

So, when a few years ago a local suburban village hired a marksman to shoot a group breeding nearby, I was briefly saddened. But more so, amused.  Because taking them out doesn’t work.  Coyote are conditioned to something called “responsive reproduction” following a sudden population loss.  That’s right:  they will make more, “Huehue” more.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Pack litters also decline when food is scarce. This attribute is one of the reasons coyote are adapting so well to life in urban areas. Another, sadly, is that they are moving into areas of the eastern US where the poplulations of their primary competitor, wolves, have radically declined.

For us, the observers of the mystery of the natural world to which we are conditionally attached, let’s observe carefully and respectfully. Coyote, this very old, uninhibited entertainer is in our midst and is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Image attribution for banner photograph with appreciation to Jethro Taylor:

Published by Vincent Hostak

Vincent Hostak, vmh, is a writer, podcaster and filmmaker. His poetry has appeared in Sonder Midwest, Tejascovido and the Langdon Review of the Arts. Vince is Executive Producer of Crossings-the Refugee Experience in America Podcast.

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