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“Mitzi! Mitzi, you get back here right now!! Mitzi!!!” Roxanne was starting to get seriously worried. Mitzi, her eighteen-month old white toy poodle, had more courage than brains. Roxanne was too kind for her and Mitzi’s own good. She hated to tighten Mitzi’s pink rhinestone studded collar down too tight, and the tiny dog had pulled herself free of the leash. Roxanne cursed her stupidity as she watched her pet’s white ears sporting pink ribbons bobbing through the low-lying chaparral.

Roxanne sprinted athletically after her. She knew from the first yip that the coyotes were baiting Mitzi to heroically chase them. Twenty yards in front of her, Roxanne’s worst fears became a self-fulfilling prophecy as a large male appeared from behind a saltbush and chomped down hard on Mitzi. He streaked away with four litter mates in pursuit while Mitzi was shrieking the shriek all animals do just before dying.

Roxanne hurled stones at them screaming through tears, “You dirty rotten bastards! Put her down! Put her down!” Mitzi fell silent and the coyotes yelped menacingly, triumphantly as they casually trotted away.

Coy Dennison had heard it all before. Outraged pet owners would storm into his office, stomp their feet, and scream at the top of their lungs that he had to do something about those bastards. The coyote population around Center City was growing in startling numbers with each passing year. The money they were paying Greg Sansburg to trap and hunt them was just going down the drain. The more coyotes he killed the more coyotes there were. The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s pest management and predator control programs seemed to be working in reverse. With the possible exception of cockroaches, coyotes are the most adaptable creatures on the planet. In response to threat the older females were breeding two litters a year while the newborn females were breeding at six months. On top of this, the average litter size had shot up from five to nine, and the litters were over seventy-percent females. There were more coyotes out in the chaparral than there were two years ago after the department had started its control program.

Coy had known Roxanne Hanes since high school when teenagers from several small outlaying towns got bussed as far as thirty miles to Center City’s regional high school. She was pretty, even though she dressed plainly and rarely wore makeup. Thin and standoffish with long flowing black hair she could well have been the girl Bob Segar sang about in “Night Moves” He had even considered making a pass at her during the lazy summers when they returned home from college and most days melted into beer belting evenings at Shays, a local establishment that had come into being right after the boys started coming back from World War II back in ‘46. Shays had been the site of many a summer fling, and they both had a few, only not with each other.

She just seemed to hang on and get weirder by the year. Now a vegan, she drove a car plastered with environmental bumper stickers predicting degradation, death, and destruction, and in the light of all this, begging the question – why can’t we all just love one another?

Coy didn’t find much need for his degree in biology when he returned to Center City after graduating college. He worked a series of odd jobs, none to much success, and was contemplating moving to the big city when Fish and Game ran their wanted ad for a class two biologist. He applied for the job, took the Civil Service exam, and landed a position in Idyllwild, smack dab in the heart of the San Jacinto wilderness within the larger San Bernardino National Forest. After twelve years he had worked himself up to head of the region. The job should have been easy, and Coy envied wardens from the other regions who were lonelier than the May Tag repairman. No such luck for him. That bleeding heart Roxanne was always on his case with one complaint after another about cruelty to wildlife, management practices, the length of hunting season, bag limits, and a whole slew of off-beat crap no normal person gave two shits about. She made his life a living hell, and although he called her Roxanne to her face, to everyone else he referred to her as, “that eco-bitch.”

She was bitching up a storm right now but Coy was amazed to realize that her message was completely different. “They killed Mitzi! It’s like they plotted the whole thing out like it was a, a, a gang hit!” “Roxanne, coyotes displaying luring tactics, especially with small dogs, is quite common.” “Coy, its not like they’re wild animals. They’re, they’re, they’re just like us. They’re treacherous and they’re crafty. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was awful, but it was powerful. They’re dangerous I tell you. I’ll never look at them the same again. They’re killers I tell you. They plot and they kill.” Coy couldn’t help admiring the supple roundness of her ass as she walked out.

The fawn was suffering a slow harrowing death being eaten alive by five coyotes. Closer to the dog than the wolf on the evolutionary scale, coyotes don’t go for the jugular, they attack from the rear where the skin is thinner and work their way towards a creature’s innards. Perhaps the lack of jaw strength is to blame for the unspecific way that they kill, but a better explanation, in the grand scheme of natural things, is that if killing were difficult and oftentimes risky by occasionally being struck by flailing hooves then the coyotes would certainly eat lower on the food chain and develop a taste for carcasses and road-kill. Coyotes are nature’s ultimate opportunists with an ingrained penchant to take the path of least resistance. They had just happened upon the fawn and seized their good fortune with a vengeance – or so it appeared. Sansburg was the real reason for their impromptu dinner. He had captured the fawn, snapped its legs and drug it out into the open where it was more conspicuous. The doe was beside herself bleating for help that didn’t come and would have been useless if it had. Sansburg observed the scene from a blind thirty yards away. He froze when the pack approached. Just as he expected, they were the Applewhite brood. The ones he had raised since they were three weeks old. Out on a killing rampage just for the fun of it. The scientist certainly feed them well enough so it wasn’t hunger that was driving them. He would follow them back to Applewhite’s research facility and confront him. Why was he keeping this family of coyotes? What could he possibly hope to learn that wasn’t already known? What was up with that?

The coyotes, Fang their leader, Paws his brother, and Twany, Scruffy, and Skitzo his sisters snuck back into their cage as the first glow of pinkish-orange sunrise emanated across the chaparral.

After the day warmed enough to be comfortable, Troy Applewhite appeared from his cabin, chopped up road-kill and entered the cage. The coyotes were overjoyed to see him. They had initially identified with him as their mother, and then as a father figure, and now he was quite simply the leader of their pack. They bumped against him rubbing their heads into his legs. Jealously, Fang pushed the others aside and assumed the most prominent position next to Troy. After they calmed down the scientist leaned his head back as far as it would go and let loose with the call of the wild, the sound of the west, the rallying call of the coyote, yip-yip-yiiiiiip. The pack gleefully joined in. Over and over they called building to a crescendo, lowering to a chaotic clamor, and building again. The cry was greater than the sum of its parts. Five howling coyotes sounds like twenty. What started out a gleeful greeting howl fast became an eerie wail.

Troy tired of this and took his usual observation post on a stump at the far end of the enclosure. He was going to observe Skitzo for the next hour. She was the runt of the litter, most likely mentally affected from food deprivation. He almost didn’t see her when he dug the litter out from under a woodshed. The mother coyote nervously circled and called to her brood but couldn’t summon the courage to attack him. She snarled from a safe distance as Troy placed five of the seven pups into a large box. Skitzo was the last. He noticed her wedged between two floor joists and had difficulty pulling her out. He left two for the mother to worry over, and with the reduction in litter size, he was sure they would survive into adulthood. It was good he had captured the litter when he did at just three weeks of age. At four weeks pups venture forth from the den, start to eat solid food, and begin to assume the wildness that cannot be tamed.

Troy saw the bounty hunter approach and became immediately indignant. He stood up bristling and shouted, “Get off this property Sansburg! This is private property. Leave or I’ll have you arrested.” The coyotes, sensing his fear and indignation, lowered their backs and tails and growled the growl of fear, distrust, and hatred. “Sure thing tough guy. I’ll go, but before I do, I just thought you would like to see what you little family here has been up to.” “What the hell are you talking about? It’s time to hit the road Sansburg, or I’ll have you locked up.” “Sure, sure nature boy, but aren’t you curious? Come over here and look at these digital pictures I took of your pack in action. Then I’ll leave.” “What? You’ve been here photographing this research facility? Sansburg, what’s going on?” “You really are clueless, aren’t you Applewhite? This is the first time I’ve been here, but it’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that your little family has been somewhere else.” Troy’s analytical mind took over. “Okay, I’ll look at your pictures to see just what it is you’re talking about. After that, I want you off this property immediately.”

There was no denying that the coyotes in the photographs were this clan which begged the question of how did they escape, and even more baffling, how had they returned undetected? On top of that, why did Sansburg photograph the pack rather that shooting them all and collecting the bounty? There was nothing left for Troy to do but ask him, “Why are you showing me these Sansburg? What’s your angle?” “This study you’re conducting Applewhite. It needs to come to an end. You and your girlfriend, little Roxanne-full-of-shit need to call off this crusade your conducting against me.” “Your one brick shy of a load Sansburg. Do you honestly think you can blackmail me with these? Coyote kill deer, especially fawns, it’s normal behavior.” “And these?” Sansburg asked as he handed the scientist several developed pictures. “What do you think your hippy-dippy girlfriend will think about this?” There was Fang captured on film tugging against Paws for his share of Mitzi’s corpse. “Nothing particularly horrifying about this. Coyotes attack and eat dogs. Christ, cats are their preferred meal next to road-kill.” “That’s not any dog Applewhite. That’s your girlfriend’s dog. Rumor has it she was pitching a fit in Denninson’s office this morning. Seems she’s rethinking this whole live-and-let-live philosophy of hers’. Keep the pictures, I’ve got copies.” “Get the fuck off this property Sansburg.” “Sure thing tough guy. Right away.”

Troy circled the coyote cage looking for any noticeable areas from which they could have escaped. Nothing availed itself so he was forced to deploy other options. He and his assistant Ralph hooked up a video camera, and then entered the cage, and outfitted each animal with a radio collar. This was not what he had in mind when he first proposed the project and sought meager grant and funding monies from an assortment of state and federal government sources. He had even dipped into his modest professional salary garnered from his teaching job at Santa Rosa College, but money was in short supply, and the research project was always in jeopardy of being shut down due to lack of funding.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife kept a box at the local post office as did everyone else in town. Although he could have easily entrusted an assistant or summer intern to check their box, Coy used the mundane task as an excuse to get out of the office, perhaps run into some single (or otherwise willing) women, and kill time.

He could wile away three-quarters of an hour sorting through mail at the courtesy counter keeping his ears pricked for local gossip and his eyes peeled for potential dates. One envelope had no return address and contained three pictures of two coyotes ripping apart Roxanne Hanes’s dog Mitzi. Little yappy bitch, just like your old lady. I don’t feel sorry for you one bit. When you go out in the wild you live by the law of the wild. “Have you seen these?” Roxanne asked as she held up some pictures to his face. They were the same as his. “Why Roxanne. Not very pretty are they? Where did you get them?” “Some sadistic son-of-a-bitch sent them to me through the mail. What kind of a person would take pleasure from something like this?” “Don’t know Roxanne. How do you know they did it for pleasure? Maybe they were trying to warn you.” “Warn me? About what!” “Don’t you recognize those coyotes in the pictures. They’re the ones Troy is raising.” Roxanne’s tanned face went white. Her eyes rolled back in her head. She whirled and ran to her car. The poor pitiful underpowered hybrid thing couldn’t manage to burn rubber although she had the pedal to the metal and blood in her eyes.

Troy wasn’t at home when Roxanne pulled into the driveway of their modest double-wide. She had tried to no avail to reach him on his cell phone for over an hour. No one was picking up the phone at the research facility. She headed over there somewhat calmer but still upset. The gate at the base of the hill leading to the research facility was locked. She laid on the horn every ten minutes for two hours but no one came down to greet her. Finally she drove back home. Troy didn’t come home that evening. He left no message on the answering machine, he didn’t call, and he couldn’t be reached. Eventually it dawned on Roxanne why he was incognito. He knows about this. Whoever sent Dennison and I the pictures probably sent them to him also. He knows I’m furious – that’s why he’s staying away.

Troy slept lightly in his tiny office at the research facility. He had positioned himself in full view of the television monitor that was showing the entire length of the coyote enclosure. Any extraneous noise woke him; the snap of a twig, the hoot of an owl, the bark of a fox, the cry of his and other coyotes communicating, harassing, taunting one another. Then up on the screen he noticed Fang mouthing the latch to the cage. Quickly he was out with the others hot on his tail. Troy looked at the screen dumbfounded. Coyotes are the most observant animals in nature. They have patience and stealth. They had learned how to open the cage by observing how he did it. Jesus they’re crafty. Better get the radio on and monitor their movements. This is going to be one hell of an evening.

The radio transmissions revealed that the pack traveled the periphery of a ten square mile territory just like their wild counterparts. At 4:30 in the morning they returned, entered the enclosure, and incredibly, Fang latched it behind them. The next morning’s feeding and socialization activities were as lively as ever. Troy couldn’t help but notice that their howling sessions were more committed, longer lasting, and more wild. It was the type of thing that could be best described as a fusion of the primitive with the blood curdling. Troy went about his tasks as if it were business as usual. He had come to respect the incredible intelligence his research animals possessed long before this evening had arrived.

Greg Sansburg sat with two other trappers and bounty hunters having breakfast at Shays. The conversation centered on coyotes, increased attacks on house pets in the last few weeks, and how the lengthening summer drought would make the vermin bolder and more brazen than ever in the coming weeks. Charlie Wicks, an old red-neck, was advocating coyote fights fashioned after dog fights. He delved into the logistics between slurping up eggs and gulping down coffee. “I know men down in Oklahoma who put gun powder in their pit bull’s feed. Makes em’ meaner than hell.” Roland Graves weighed in with his own enlightening information. “Back east, coyotes are getting bigger. Some say that they bred with the last remnants of the gray wolf population during their migration through Minnesota. Some say it’s dogs. Just like humans, when life is easy and food plentiful, they just get bigger.” “Well lucky for us that they’re so plentiful. Otherwise boys, we would have to get ourselves real jobs,” Greg stated as he slid out of the booth. Graves continued on with more macabre facts, “Did you boys know that 50 coyote attacks have been reported against babies in the last two years. Most of them occur at the fringes of the cities in the edge type environments created by sprawling subdivisions. It’s going to get worse before it is ever going to get better.” Sansburg gleefully interjected, “Jesus Graves, that’s good news for us!”  Roland continued, “Yeah, just spill a little baby’s blood and mothers will get stirred up more than Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” Charlie added, “Looks like business is picking up boys,” “Oil your traps and stock up on ammo,” Sansburg responded, as he placed his money on the table and silently walked out not telling his friends where he was going.

Troy finally went home to face the music which Roxanne played at full volume. “They’re just a pack of five very young coyotes. While I’m sorry about Mitzi, she did chase them.” “How can they be so calculating, so cold-blooded?” “They’re animals for Christ’s sake. What do you expect them to do?” “I expect them to eat other wild animals, not house pets.” “Honey, think about what you’re saying. Although it doesn’t seem like it, pets are animals too. We humans tend to anthropomorphize them and it’s a big mistake. We need to remember that they’re just simply animals.” Roxanne gave him her chilling look that told him he wouldn’t be getting any tonight and probably not for the week to come. “Oh come on Rox!” “Come on yourself Troy!” They were locked in a standoff that only time and mounting horniness would resolve. As they drifted off to sleep on opposite sides of the bed Troy fell into a dream that had plagued him most of his adult life.

He was lecturing to his all-girl class who were sitting at their desks in various states of undress. The more they stared at him in rapt attention the easier the clothes slid off. He was delivering a brilliant lecture on the life history and morphology of wolves. If the truth be known, he really wanted to study wolves, but their extinction in the area made that impossible so he settled for the next best thing. For some unknown reason the girl’s eyes widened, shrieks of terror emanated from some while others held their hand to their mouths. A few started to masturbate. He could hear his voice change. It became unintelligible, and then it turned to a howl. Most of the girls dashed for the door, but three of the more sexually aroused ones approached and started rubbing their genitals against him. They started purring loudly and he became aroused himself. As they crumpled to the floor he caught a glimpse of himself in the laboratory window. He oddly resembled a werewolf but instead of becoming horrified he became more amorous. Their bodies became a tangle of desire, lust, and grinding humping degradation. “Troy? Troy? Get off of me!!” Roxanne slapped his face hard plunging him back into reality. “Come on Rox, I didn’t kill her. This is like a thing with me. I have to have it.” “Well – not tonight. Go whack off. Go to hell for all I care.”

Troy lay staring at the barely visible ceiling. Out on the chaparral some coyotes were yapping. Perhaps his, perhaps some wild ones, perhaps hybrids with dogs or wolves. They were in the midst of a population explosion which was one of the reasons for his research. Although most humans didn’t realize it, they were interfacing with the creatures on a daily basis. Coyotes were in constant search of garbage and the rats and mice that sprang from the unending supply of it. The more new roads cut hastily into the chaparral the more subsequent road kill, especially of squirrel, rabbit, and deer for coyotes to feast on. The more man seemed to cohabitate with coyotes the more coyotes seemed to cohabitate with man. Troy’s reoccurring dream was nothing new to mankind. Lycanthropy, the belief that humans can turn into wolves, had been around since the middle ages. It got people burned at the stake during the little ice age when it was widely believed that witches were responsible for the inclement weather. If Troy’s innermost secret obsession was to be as one with the wolf, he was certainly out of luck, unless he wanted to move to the Arctic. If he wanted to live in these parts, and he did as long as Roxanne did, the best he could hope to commune with was a coyote. Although decidedly less physically endowed than the wolf the coyote was more cunning, and cunning was needed to eke out an existence in this changing world. Troy cunningly sneaked into the bathroom and released his sexual frustration.

Fang opened the latch to the enclosure and his litter mates followed him out into the open. They proceeded single file Indian style down the path by the brook each taking care to put its paw print in the previously laid print of the coyote in front of it. Direct registering is a tactic utilized by coyotes, wolves, and observant Indians to disguise their numbers. Sometimes, because too many would incite attack, but most frequently because too few would invite attack. With one not being worth the effort of the chase, one is often ignored. It is always an advantage in nature not to reveal too much.

The domesticated pack soon heard a pack of wild coyotes yipping and they answered causing another family to join in. All three packs warily approached each other. They met in a clearing created by a fire the previous season. Sniffing hind quarters, they got acquainted. Fang rolled and exposed his belly to a much larger male, the alpha male, the male that led the 16 coyotes to the edge of town to terrorize dogs, and rodents, and cats. At the edge of town they were joined by other packs. Soon they were over two hundred strong. The noise from their incessant yipping caused lights to come up all over town. This commotion was nothing new except to say it was the loudest it had ever been. Individually, and quite illegally, townspeople had taken pot shots at the coyotes in the past, mostly to run them off, but occasionally their aim was true and they wounded one who would limp off into the woods to die a slow death or an expiated death as once it became too weak to fight them off, it would be eaten by the others.

Soon other packs joined the fray. Eventually over 400 coyotes were howling out a warning, staking a claim to territory, reveling in the safety of numbers. Shots rang out. Several townspeople had had enough and retaliated against this animal insurrection. It sounded like a firing range hosting a turkey shoot prior to Thanksgiving. Shots were being rapidly fired in all directions. Once it started, it grew dramatically. Bullets crissed-crossed out into the outlying chaparral. The riotous packs of coyotes began to disappear. Edgar Beardsly rushed out after them in an effort to squeeze off a few more rounds. As he lifted his rifle and sighted down the barrel he was hit by a bullet. Thirty-seven year old Edgar Beardsly died instantly.

That got the whole town buzzing. As soon as his body was laid to rest three days later an emergency town meeting was called to decide what to do about the mounting coyote threat.

Fang and the pack didn’t return to the enclosure that night. They ranged out wider with the alpha male and his group. Hunger gripped them by early morning. They came upon open fields being grazed by sheep. Famished, eleven of them brought down a lamb. When Tom Haddy found its remains the next morning he cursed under his breath and rushed back to his ranch house to call Greg Sansburg.  Haddy upped the county’s bounty from $25.00 to $100.00 a kill. He wasn’t an idiot, however. No paws and no ears not even a tail. Bring him full carcasses and he would pay cash on the barrelhead.

Sansburg, Wicks, and Graves were hard at it by mid-morning. Unbeknownst to Haddy they had each killed a lamb as bait and then hid from blinds waiting for their quarry. They would work round-the-clock till exhaustion overtook them because once word got out of a reward as great as this other bounty hunters would flock to Center City. They shot 32 Coyotes in three days, and Haddy, afraid he’d go broke, retracted his offer.

Coy sat in his office, his legs popped up on his desk reading Tasmanian Tiger: The Tragic Tale of How The World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator by David Owen. The book had most likely been sent to him anonymously by some well meaning tender-hearted environmentalist. It probably had something to do with all this outlaw coyote business that the whole town was up in arms over. He dreaded this evening’s town hall meeting where he was expected to be the main speaker. What was he supposed to tell those idiots? Perhaps he could say that when a bunch of peckerwoods just take to indiscriminately blasting away somebody usually gets killed. No, that had probably dawned on them by now. Maybe he could explain that coyotes occupy a beneficial niche in the environment. That they kill a burgeoning rodent population that causes thousands of dollars in crop damage a year. The only problem was, that while that was true, the current coyote population had grown so large that all the rodents in Center City and the outlining regions combined wouldn’t be enough to feed them. They needed cats, dogs, road-kill, and garbage to support their numbers. He could tell them to reduce or eliminate the numbers of their pets, and to do a better job protecting their garbage cans, and the coyote population would dwindle in response to a decreased food supply while others would migrate out of the area. One sure thing about coyotes is that they go where the food is. He could reiterate the tale of the Tasmanian Tiger a rare carnivorous marsupial predator that looked more like a dog-like hyena than a tiger but was called such do to the stripes on its sides.

Dutch mariner Abel Tasman made land fall on the large island that bears his name (Tasmania) in December of 1642. Not long thereafter human settlement followed. In an all too familiar scenario enacted throughout the world, forests were quickly felled, substantial farmsteads sprang up, and grazing animals were introduced. The Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine as scientists soon tagged it, was doomed. Like most large carnivores’ of the wild the thylacine would occasionally attack and kill domestic sheep. Little thought was given to the fact that the fallen were usually sickly lambs and that they were being subjected to the process on natural selection in that when the weak are culled the strong survive. Such is the single-minded paranoia of Eurocentric herdsman that anything perceived to be a threat to livestock should be eradicated. By the 1880’s the Tasmanian parliament was debating whether or not to enact a bounty scheme to eliminate the thylacine. They finally did so in 1888. Scientist’s estimate that 5000 thylacine inhabited Tasmania at the time of European contact. Roughly half their population remained by the time the state bounty went into effect. Loss of habitat, and private bounty’s attributed to their early decline. Then, between 1888 and 1912, a span of  just 24 years or a quarter century, 2000 kills were verified. The remaining 500 were perused without mercy by ranchers, novelty seekers, and private orders placed by 200 zoo curators worldwide. The last known thylacine died in the Hobart Zoo in Australia in 1935. Today the Tasmanian government depicts the Tasmanian tiger prominently on its tourism logo, a tribute to not knowing what one has until one loses it.

While Coy found all this man induced extinction disturbing he couldn’t help but notice the difference in the coyote’s story versus the thylacine’s. Tasmania was an island from which the thylacine could not escape. Coyotes had spread over ninety percent of North America and were migrating their way down the Mexican Peninsula all the way to Panama. If they ever completed the journey and got on to mainland South America they could wreak havoc from the jungles of the Amazon all the way to the pampas grass steppes of Argentina. Thus, instead of decreasing, their territory was rapidly increasing. The Tasmanian tiger was shy and avoided contact with humans while coyotes are gregarious, and although not often seen, they inhabit human settlements. They are even found in urban Los Angeles. Most telling, coyotes were readily able to diversify their diet, which is probably their greatest survival mechanism of all. So while the thylacine population in Tasmania slowly but surely dwindled, the coyote population in North America is rapidly increasing.

Coy decided not to draw any analogies between the coyote and the Tasmanian tiger because they simply didn’t exist. So what could he talk about in the meeting? People mostly wanted to be reassured that something indeed was going to be done. No matter how plausible that reassurance would prove to be Coy knew that very little could be done. With the possible exception to man, the coyote was the most adaptable mammal on Earth. Coy was certain they would adapt to changes again.

Roxanne had formulated her own survival plan. She drove over to a breeder in Yucca Valley and purchased Devil, a one-year old jet black male Great Dane. Just let that pack fuck with him, and Mitzi’s death would be avenged. It was a comical scene when she loaded Devil into her hybrid vehicle and motored down the interstate to bring him home. She had to open the rear window so Devil could stick his head out and breathe. He slobbered all down the metallic blue car and relieved himself without even giving Roxanne any warning. She shuddered to think what he would do to her two bedroom double-wide. Roxanne temporarily chained him outside and planned to slowly acclimate him to the house. Devil went berserk when Troy drove up, pulled his stake out of the ground and kept Troy pinned inside his vehicle. Roxanne managed to drag him into the trailer, and Troy started the slow process of trying to introduce himself to the Dane and get into his own home.

Roxanne planned to speak at the town hall meeting while Troy felt it was a waste of time and effort to try and reason with these small town people that he called “Townies”. He pleaded with her to lock Devil in the spare bedroom, and by all accounts as could be determined by the noise, it was highly likely the room would be in shambles by the time she got back. Devil barked incessantly, and Troy drove off to the research facility for some peace and quiet. He would sleep there and drive over to the bank where Roxanne worked at noon the next day to take her to lunch. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, however, and Troy was determined to tell her that either the dog goes or he goes.

The cage was open when he got there and only Skitzo was still in it. “Poor little girl,” he cooed to her. “Poor little Skittzy always being ignored. They leave you behind honey?” He didn’t close the gate. He had purposely not bought a dead bolt because he wanted to continue to track the coyotes comings and goings. Wait until Dr. Leicester gets a load of this. It will get published in every scientific journal from here to Maine. Maine, hell, this will be circulated world-wide.

As he turned to go inside his office the large alpha male blocked his path. Maybe he’s attracted to Skitzo, She is in season. Oh Jesus! Maybe he’s rabid. Fang appeared followed by his litter mates. Paws seemed generally disoriented, caught between the instinctual family loyalty towards the scientist, and the mounting mob mentality of the pack. Troy could see at least 25 of them and when their yip-song started up there could have been hundreds. The safety of numbers, which wipe away the fear of attack, can quickly reach the tipping point and turn into the courage of going on the attack.

Troy backed into the cage and latched it. The coyote cage now became his cage. As the cry of the pack peaked even Skitzo seemed to turn against him. She barred her teeth and he circled around her as he retreated to the back of the cage desperately looking for a stick, a shovel, a rock, anything with which to ward her off if she did come at him. The pack circled the cage. Troy’s imagination boggled as his scientific mind tried to count them. Seven Hundred! My God, this is unprecedented. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Fang had initially felt the same pangs of loyalty as Paws had, but when the frequency of the yip reached critical mass, a rage, a blood thirst, unexplainable yet primeval, came over him. Soon he was howling with the rest of them for his father figure’s blood. He rose up on his hind legs, and unlatched the cage. Troy climbed up the side of the chain link enclosure and held on to the ceiling for dear life. The alpha male and others were leaping up at him and trying to pull him down. He cried for his life out into the chaparral. “Help! Help! Somebody help me!” He screamed in terror for what seemed like a half-hour. His arms were in agony. His legs, that were locked up against the upper most part of the side of the cage, were starting to cramp. “Help! Help!! For Christ’s sake can anybody help me? Is anybody out there?” There was nobody out there. Soon his legs gave out and he swung out his body hanging vertical to the ceiling his life hanging in the strength of his hands which was rapidly diminishing. He looked down to see the red glowing rage in their eyes. Fang, and Paws, and Twany, and Scruffy, and even little Skitzo. His pack, his family, had all turned against him. Insane is the animal that bites the hand that feeds it. This was insanity. Coyotes were secretive creatures not known for their courage. They attacked the weak not the strong. His strength was almost gone.

The alpha male leapt up and sank his teeth in the scientist’s side. Troy screamed in agony. Even in this moment of peril his analytical mind couldn’t help but notice the animal’s jaw strength. This one probably has some wolf in it. Fang and Paws sunk their teeth deep. At an average of thirty-five pounds each, the scientist was struggling to keep 100 pounds up. Another member of the mob-pack leapt up and its bite pierced the scientist’s testicles. He let go of his life grip. Snarling, snapping, evil death set upon him. He fought simply to turn his back to it. They tore at his buttocks and gnawed for his kidneys. They ate with the passion of a Viking war lord during a gluttonous feast. They ate as if they would never eat again. An enraged mass of coyotes, in particularly Fang, and Paws, and Twany, and Scruffy, and even little Skitzo ate with the others. They ate their father figure alive.

There could be no stopping it now. They had pierced soft human skin and eaten tender human flesh. It was better and more plentiful than cats. It was easier to capture than mice. Seven hundred coyotes howled up to the half-crescent moon. They howled in recognition and primitive reverence to a god not of man but of the wild. The only god they had known through centuries of time. A god not of love but of hunger – a hunger that could only be satisfied with the kill. The kill is the perpetration of life in nature. Something must die in order for something to live. That is the true law of the wild. But killing runs deeper than hunger. It’s an affirmation of power, and a creature’s status on the food chain. The higher one occurs on the carnivore/predator pyramid the fewer natural enemies one has. The coyote was never so lucky. Cursed with the lack of size it ate lower down the food chain. Cursed with lack of courage it was forced to be cunning. Cunning had now taught it the safety and advantage of numbers. The mob-pack howled lustily and triumphantly at the moon-god above. They cried so loud and so brazen that other packs joined them. Soon the mob-pack was 2000 strong. The alpha male trotted out in front of them leading them towards town.

The town hall meeting was like all the others. After the minutes were read, and the do-gooders took full credit for their rather unimpressive accomplishments it disintegrated into a series of skirmishes between people who had hated each other for years. When order was restored the Chairman introduced Coy Dennison, a local boy made good, a knowledgeable warden with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Coy here is gonna’ tell us what to do with our recent coyote problem,” the Chairman told the throng of townspeople. Men in the crowd snickered. One bragged, “Ain’t no problem a thirty ought six can’t handle.” Greg Sansburg stood up and said, “I’d like to address the crowd about this issue.” Coy hated Sansburg and all the predacious scum like him. “Sit your ass down Sansburg. It’s my time to speak. You’ll get your turn when I am finished.” Sansburg turned to the crowd and elicited their support. “Who you want to hear folks? Him? The man who does nothing? Or me? The man out there trying to solve this problem?” Grumbling turned to rumblings. Rumblings turned to chaos. The mood of the crowd turned to the ugliness of the mob. A human mob-pack about to erupt. And that’s when they heard them. The coyotes, howling at the edge of town. Yip-yiiiiiping so loud their canine voices drowned out the voices of the arguing, divisive humans. Sansburg shouted at the top of his lungs, “Arm yourselves boys. There must be 500 of them out there. Go to your homes, get your guns, and kill every one of those mangy sons-a-bitches you lay eyes on.” Officer Versack, who had previously done nothing to quite the crowd down got the courage to scream, “Don’t take matters into your own hands folks. Please sit back down.” He was shouting at their backs as they were rushing out the door nearly trampling each other in the process.

Versack turned to Dennison. “Looks like you really got them reassured Coy.” “What do you want from me Versack? They’re just a bunch of idiots.” The town hall was empty save for the two of them. Coy sat down while Versack slumped down the wall to the floor and lit a cigarette. “I’m sorry Mike. Jesus of Nazareth couldn’t control that mob. I don’t know what got into me.” “It’s okay Coy. This coyote thing is getting out of hand. I thought they were supposed to be afraid of their own shadows.” “Not when they hunt in packs. Their whole mentality changes. They can bring down a 180 pound deer. Won’t be long before they go after an adult human. Maybe a week, a month, a year. Sooner or later they’ll do it, and then it will be like a war. It won’t be safe to go out of your house.”

They sat in their places in a small town’s town hall listening to rifle, pistol, and shot guns blasting. It lasted over an hour as a hail of bullets departed Center City and flew out into the chaparral. Very few coyotes were killed, but the intensity of the townspeople finally caused them to scatter. Three men were shot, two killed in friendly fire.

Center City had something newsworthy to report, and news people descended on the town like a swarm of locusts on a prairie corn field. Coy Dennison phoned the state trooper station over by Hicksville, and they sent out their entire force. Roxanne was a bundle of nerves. She had made it out of town before the gunfire had gotten hot and heavy. She made it home and parked as close to the front door as possible. Then she summoned up all the courage she had and raced to the front door, unlocked it, rushed inside, and dead bolted it behind her. She calmed Devil and let him out of the spare bedroom. He nearly knocked her over, he was so happy to see her. She went frantically through the house looking for a firearm. She had laid down the law to Troy that there would be no firearms of any kind, not even a twenty-two in her home. She didn’t really think he would listen to her. He had.

Roxanne slept in her locked master bedroom her arms secured around Devil. As a master/canine unit she was determined they would bond, and the sooner the better. He pulled himself away from her at sunrise. His ears perked up and he started sniffing the air. He went to the window with Roxanne following after him. He was excited by whatever was out in the front yard. When Roxanne looked out she saw what it was. A randy female coyote in season was roaming suggestively in front of the window her ass turned towards Devil. Hormones overcame him and he jumped through the glass and raced after her. Roxanne cried out, “Devil! Devil, you get back here right now!! Devil!!!” He didn’t get far. The mob-pack pounced upon him. He killed two before they brought him down. The alpha male was dead. Fang dined with pleasure upon his flesh contemplating, if coyotes can contemplate (mostly they scheme), that he would be leader of the pack.

Roxanne steadied herself enough to place the call to Coy Dennison whose office was closest to her house. She was ecstatic to find out he was in when he picked up the phone. Hysterically she shouted, “Their in my yard! Two hundred, maybe three hundred, maybe more! They’re right outside my house!” “Roxanne? Roxanne is that you?” “Yes. Yes it’s me. Help me. You have to help me Coy. Oh my God!!!” Through the noise coming through the receiver Coy figured out what was happening. Roxanne was being attacked by coyotes.

Fang was first through the bedroom window. Roxanne raced to unlock the door and escape to the living room. She didn’t make it. Fang sunk his teeth deep in her thigh. Others swarmed on top of her. She went down to the floor, her kidneys being torn from her, the back side of her rib cage exposed. It took five minutes for her to die as she was being eaten alive. All the while she screamed for salvation that didn’t come. He could hear her through the receiver calling out his name. “Coy! Coy! Coy!!!” Poor little eco-bitch. She’s met her fate at the hands of mother nature. How fucking ironic is that? So long little eco-bitch.

Next Ralph Quills, Troy Applewhite’s assistant, called. His boss was dead as a door nail lying ripped to pieces in the coyote cage. There wasn’t much left of him but a blood stained skeleton with his decaying brain locked inside his skull. In Native American mythology the coyote was known among the tribes as the trickster. This wasn’t any trick, however. This was a malicious butcher job. He didn’t know what had set them off, he just knew he didn’t want to find out. The assistant stated he was getting the hell out of there before the coyotes came back.

Sansburg, Wicks, and Graves were hard at work setting out traps. They were sure, that after last night’s killing spree that the bounty would be raised, and that they would have lots of amateur competition. They wanted to get a jump on the action. They would be out there for days because a trapper has to check his traps daily, sometimes twice a day, for the will to live freely runs deep in the coyote and they will literally chew a leg off in an attempt to escape confinement. A loss of a coyote equated to a loss of income, and they couldn’t stand the thought of that. They stopped for a sumptuous lunch of poached venison and illegally taken trout. It was their last. The mob-pack, with Fang leading, descended upon them. They fought back swinging their hunting knives in fury. They killed seven coyotes before they themselves died. Poor little Skitzo was dead. Fang was wounded but would not allow himself to show it, for if he did the pack would turn on him. He would recover quickly to lead the mob-pack, for if he didn’t, his sibling Paws would be ecstatic to take his place.

Coy Dennison pieced together the events of the previous evening. He stumbled under the weight of pistols, and ammunition belts, and two hand-held rifles as he led the county coroner to Applewhite’s research facility and then over to Roxanne Hanes’ place. The coroner cringed at the carnage and demanded that Coy relinquish a firearm to him so that he was not walking about the evil scene unarmed. They made it safely back to his office. They hadn’t seen hide nor hair of a coyote and Coy was experienced in their ways. When he went out to the bush he always spotted a few. But not today. It was as if every coyote in Center City had vanished. And if they had, where did they go? Three nights later he got his answer. They hadn’t gone anywhere.

Out on the chaparral the coyotes were yipping. The voice of a dog gone wild or a wolf gone sly. Maybe five, maybe 20, maybe 200, maybe more. The coyotes were yipping like they had for centuries. And they were hungry.




 Cover work by:

Cesar Valtierra is a graphic designer from El Paso, TX and the creator of the webcomic, Balazo.


John C. Krieg (USA)

John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect and land planner who formerly practiced in Arizona, California, and Nevada. He is also retired as an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified arborist and currently holds seven active categories of California state contracting licenses, including the highest category of Class A .

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