Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Coyote Way

Recently in Canada’s largest city of Toronto, wild coyotes have been the talk of the town. There have been sightings of these curious creatures so close to people’s homes, that one dog has been killed, a couple others injured, and numerous cats have gone missing.

The debate revolves around one constant theme – what to do about the coyotes?
Some say they should be trapped and relocated someplace else, further from the city. Others are saying they should be killed outright, and still others say it is nature’s way, and nothing can really be done.

Truth is, coyotes are top level carnivores in the food chain, and they are doing what all top level carnivores do when they encounter another top level being – they challenge its existence.

We human beings are the ultimate top level players in the food chain – we have something no other animal on earth has – technology. We build comfy climate-controlled homes to protect us from the elements, we can put up fences to block off areas we want exclusively to ourselves, and we have weapons which we can use from a distance, so when we are challenged in a fight, all one has to do is pull the trigger.

Coyotes don’t have anything but their cunning natural instincts, their claws and their teeth. They are very fast and highly intelligent hunters, but they just can’t compete against urban sprawl.

And that is what the real issue is – urban sprawl – the constant growth of human civilizations into natural habitats.

When forests and fields are bulldozed and paved over, with massive neighbourhoods taking the place of once barren land, the ecosystem that was once there doesn’t just disappear. The ecosystem continues, but all of its elements begin to fight for survival.

In a sense, it is very much like Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species” says – a fight of the fittest. Microbiological organisms, insects, gnats, and most of Mother Nature’s teeniest of living things will die off almost instantly. But bigger, stronger and higher levels in the food chain will continue the fight for some time.

That’s what we are seeing in Toronto with the coyotes. The coyote population is struggling for survival against a human-built neighbourhood sprawling onto its turf.

What is the right thing to do?

The coyote population has most likely always lived in the area, but because of people moving into coyote-land, it is becoming less fearful of humans and taking a more aggressive stand for the land and food sources from the land.

Relocating the population may have little value – coyotes are migratory pack animals and could just as easily find their way back. Or if the specific packs removed don’t find their way back to the urban areas of Toronto, other groups that have been there before probably will again.

Killing off the coyotes coming into the city may eliminate the problem immediately, but again, others will follow.

The only real solution is – sadly – to allow urban sprawl. As the city expands, and more of the coyote’s natural feeding grounds are paved over, eventually they will either die off from starvation, or simply move on, searching for other food sources, as there are none in the concrete jungle of a modern city.

That’s the natural way – call it the coyote way – and is just as Darwin wrote many years prior, survival of the fittest.

No comments:

Post a Comment