We have coyotes around here. That's right, the dog creatures that let out that familiar "ow-ow-owoooo" call in the night. That's not a sound you like to hear break the foggy silence at 1 o'clock in the morning when you're outside, alone in the dark.
For the most part, they stay across the road, living and hunting around the lake where there is plenty of food, water and shelter. Sometimes, they get all riled up for whatever reason, and a whole bunch of them will start yapping and howling. It usually gets all the dogs within earshot going at the same time. It usually raises the hair on my arms and neck too.
A couple times a year, they get chased over to my side of the road when the Dicks across the road have a big party and build a bonfire.
Now let me explain. This is not a derogatory remark. The Dicks are a nice family. That just happens to be their last name.
The old man, grandpa Dick, his name is Donald. That's right, Donald Dick. His son Darrell, his wife and their two kids live nearest the lake. Donald's daughter, Delma, and her girls, live in the house on top of the hill to the northwest part of the property. The family owns all but a small sliver of the shoreline around the lake and most of the adjoining property. The Dicks have been here for decades and everyone knows them.
The coyotes have them figured out too. They know all the game birds and small animals are going to head for shelter as soon as the Dicks set up their party tent and stack up the bonfire wood. So they head for better hunting grounds, which means they scavenge along the tree line of my property and the woods southeast of me.
Usually they are pretty stealthy, but sometimes I can hear them in the horse pasture east of the observatory as they travel across my property in packs in search of prey.
Once I walked out to the dome, armed only with a red flashlight against the darkness of a moonless night, and just as I got to the door of the observatory my flashlight caught the glint of a pair of eyes looking right at me from about twenty feet away. A moment later, another pair of eyes was staring at me, sizing me up for dinner in my mind. I'm not a sissy, but that will dampen your enthusiasm for the cold darkness, no matter how clear the sky is that night.
Every once in a while one will get a little close to the house. A few nights ago, I walked outside and was greeted by a growling voice feet away in the dark. I never saw the beast, he retreated into the trees in a hurry, but I assume it was one of the local coyotes.
This morning I looked out my office window as the sun was coming up and there were two of them just the other side of the fence in the horse pasture. I opened my window to get a better look with binoculars and even that slight noise got their attention. They ran away, which is fine with me.
I don't expect any problem with one or two of them in the night. But I am concerned that one night there may be enough of them together when I step out into the darkness that they will be less afraid than normal.
I hope to peacefully coexist with them for many years to come. Living in the country has its advantages, and I think the wildlife is one of them. But in the darkness I always feel they have the upper hand, and it's a little unnerving.