Photo by: Andy Marks
How many of you have awoken to the night time serenade of wild song? And why the song, and who is singing it? And where is the songster?
Or how many of you have experienced one moment of that Coyote stare when the two of you met by chance …Coyote then vanishing? What was Coyote searching for within you?
Or how many of you have come upon their scat on your hiking trail? Oh Wild Dog, what are you telling us or your fellow wild beings when you do so?
Coyote has many secrets that they keep for themselves….and we may never get to know their inner world, a most magical place that has evolved over the millennia upon our American continent. Our Native Peoples of this land I suspect knew some of Coyote’s secrets….but very few of the white man do…..
However, our science has come to understand Coyote’s invaluable role as a Keystone carnivore, and as a scientist here in Maine I delight in sharing with our Maine people what we do know about Coyote. They are the Ambassadors of the Natural world to us humans, who really have not been around on this continent for very long.
Around 150 years ago our wolves and cougars, who once kept our landscapes healthy, biodiverse and resilient were gone, victims of European world views. Now Coyote has expanded their range, coming to Maine to take on the role of Keystone. But what does a Keystone mean? Its core meaning originates from the stone arches the Romans built, placing the keystone top and center. With it in place the arch could last through the ages, but take it out, and it would crumble to the ground.
So Coyote’s presence here plays that role of stability, flexibility, adaptability, allowing each life on the landscape to remain strong and resilient. But how does this Keystone go about accomplishing this? It is through their hunting prowess as a carnivore, controlling the voracious appetites and populations of herbivores, as well as smaller carnivores and omnivores like raccoons, skunks and foxes.
This hunting prowess is essential in protecting Life as we know it. By controlling populations of their prey species, they affect two crucial dynamics on the landscape: they protect life from disease, and they protect green things from being eradicated, most especially our native plants. And these green things are essential to the life of our birds, butterflies and bees, who require them as habitat and food. And WE require birds, butterflies and bees for pollination, insect control, and much more!
I am in awe of what the Wild Seed Project here in Maine is accomplishing on the landscape of Maine: bringing back our native plants. These plants and trees are vital to our caterpillars, and parent birds require them to feed their chicks.
So together we are healing our landscape …a landscape where biodiversity and the renewal of life has been severely compromised. In honoring the presence of our Coyotes by understanding their important ecological role, and continuing to plant and nurture our native plants ….that our Coyotes are protecting……we are handing down a Glorious Legacy to future generations that no other material goods can match.