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Creature Feature: From the Canyons to the Cul-De-Sacs

Forget that home on the range—Wile E. has moved in next door

Forget that home on the range—Wile E. has moved in next door

istockphoto.com/John Pitcher
For many outside the Southwest, coyotes used to be the stuff of legend, captured in the animated bumblings of Wile E. Coyote in Saturday morning cartoons or in the tall tales about Pecos Bill. Elusive and reclusive, coyotes were the inhabitants of dry lands and fertile minds, and city folk could catch a glimpse of them only on trips to the Grand Canyon and other desert areas—and only if they were lucky.

An American icon symbolizing new frontiers and tenacity, the coyote is ubiquitous on T-shirts and knickknacks sold in the Southwest, with the requisite saguaro cactus and a star-bright sky above him. But his stretched-neck howl at the moon might as well be a cry for help: The creature so celebrated in Native American mythology for his slyness and longevity is also among the most persecuted species in the country.

And like so many animals who’ve traversed into foreign territory to try to survive in a shrinking natural landscape, coyotes have abandoned their old geographical haunts and entered not just the collective consciousness but the backyards of urban dwellers who, at one time, could only imagine what they looked like in the flesh.

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