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A Natural and Supernatural History
By Dan Flores
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Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
"A masterly synthesis of scientific research and personal observation." –Wall Street Journal
Legends don't come close to capturing the incredible story of the coyote. In the face of centuries of campaigns of annihilation employing gases, helicopters, and engineered epidemics, coyotes didn't just survive, they thrived, expanding across the continent from Alaska to New York. In the war between humans and coyotes, coyotes have won, hands-down. Coyote America is the illuminating five-million-year biography of this extraordinary animal, from its origins to its apotheosis. It is one of the great epics of our time.
Old Man America
In the remotest time of early North America, after he had molded mud from the ocean bottom into mountains, plains, and forests to create the essential topography of the continent, Coyote was going along. He had placed stars in the sky, some as pictures, some as a latticed road across the night, some tossed willy-nilly into the inky black. He had arranged the year into four seasons, and he had populated the world with humans. As the special helper of the Creator, who seemed not especially interested in any of this hands-on creation work himself, Coyote had killed monster after monster on behalf of his human charges, whom he’d then located in good, monster-free spots across America. He had released animals like buffalo from underground and—admittedly, with a few unlucky mistakes—placed salmon and other fish in many of the rivers. He had invented penises and vaginas and taught humans what to do with them. The first technology, in the form of fire, came from Coyote. Then, not without some remorse, he had introduced death into the world.
Now, with all these fundamental creations in place, Coyote had no intention of stepping into the background or hiding himself. He wanted to enjoy how much humans appreciated his creativity. And he especially wanted to see how quick-witted they might be when he offered them up some grand illustration of their own nature.
One morning Coyote was going along and spotted a handsome young warrior who told Coyote he was embarking on a journey of war against his enemies. Although Coyote was actually a peaceful sort who thought war and battles to the death were very bad ideas, he told his new companion that he was a famous warrior and would be indispensable on the quest.
That first night, the warrior said, they would camp at a place called Scalped Man by the Fire. Coyote did not like the sound of that, but he went along. At the camp Coyote relaxed while the warrior cooked and did all the chores. Then Coyote took the best pieces of the meal for himself, even laying extra meat over his chest and legs in case he awoke hungry during the night. Sometime in the night Coyote heard a sound, and when he looked, there was Scalped Man standing over him. Quick as he could, Coyote swung his club, but somehow he hit his own knee, which caused him to yowl in pain, waking the warrior. “I have taken care of Scalped Man,” Coyote told him, and they both went back to sleep.
Having clubbed his knee badly, Coyote limped through much of the next day but made it OK to a camp called Cooked Meat Flying All Around, which sounded more like it. But that evening, dining on the chunks of meat whizzing all around, Coyote heard the warrior describe the next night’s camp, Where the Arrows Fly Around. Suddenly his knee took a turn for the worse. Coyote lagged far behind that next day, hoping to camp somewhere else, but the warrior led them on. That night arrows began to fly from every direction. The warrior stood and caught one after another, while Coyote twisted and twirled and crawled on the ground trying to avoid them, until one arrow grazed his arm. I have been killed, Coyote shouted. But when the warrior pulled him to his feet and he found himself still alive, Coyote asserted that actually his hurt knee had caused him to fall asleep, and he had been dreaming.
The next night they would camp at Where the Women Visit the Men. This sounded like an excellent camp to Coyote. His knee improved so remarkably that day that he got far ahead in their march. That night, after much fidgeting and anticipation on Coyote’s part, a woman did come to him, but in the darkness he decided she was an old crone. Hoping for a much younger woman, he sent her away, only to see in the firelight as she turned from him that in fact she was young and very beautiful. Coyote cried out for her to return, claiming it had been some spirit who had told her to leave, but she vanished into the night.
The next camp was called War Clubs Flying Around. All that day Coyote’s knee hurt so much that he barely managed to arrive at the spot. Sure enough, that night clubs hurled at them from every direction. The warrior caught two, one for each of them, but Coyote dodged and weaved so much that a club finally beaned him. When he came to, Coyote told the warrior that in his boredom he had actually fallen asleep. That’s why he had been lying so flat and still.
Then the warrior told Coyote that their next camp would be at a place called Vaginas Flying Around. Coyote’s knee at once felt entirely well, and he was ready to depart then and there. He pleaded for more details, but the warrior fell asleep. Coyote sat by the fire all night thinking of vaginas and how many he might be able to carry with him. His knee now stronger than ever before in his life, Coyote left early and ranged far ahead the next day.
That night, as promised, vaginas began to sail into camp, and Coyote could tell they were just the kind he liked, very young and very plump. For most of the night, juicy vaginas sailed by, maddeningly out of reach, with Coyote flailing and chasing and panting until he was near collapse. Finally, near dawn, Coyote caught one. But exhausted as he was, when he finally pinned and mounted it, his organ refused to rise to the occasion.
The next night they would reach their final camp, and the warrior told Coyote this one was called Where the Enemy Attacks. Without delay Coyote’s knee began to throb, and all day he hung back on the trail, crying piteously. And sure enough, when the next morning came, enemies attacked from all sides. Coyote at once ran for far horizons but was overtaken, clubbed, and scalped. Meanwhile the warrior subdued all his enemies, then looked for Coyote.
When he knew all was clear, Coyote stood and announced that he was going along now, but the warrior should consider himself lucky that he had happened upon Coyote. Otherwise he would have had to engage in this adventure with no help at all from a famous warrior.
Stories about Coyote or sometimes Old Man Coyote—and rarely about Old Woman Coyote, although they are present in the canon—are the oldest preserved human stories from North America. The truth is that Coyote (capitalized to distinguish the deity from the ordinary coyote trotting by while you read) is the most ancient god figure of which we have record on this continent. When Siberian hunters first started crossing Beringia or boating down the coastline 15,000 years or more ago, at some point in their entry of northwestern America they began to encounter coyotes for the first time. Wolves they knew from Asia, and well enough that at some point in their migration, these first Americans arrived with domesticated ones, wolflike dogs whose wild ancestors in those times were recent. But at least by the time of the Clovis people, who spread across the grasslands of interior America from Canada to Texas more than 13,000 years ago, continental coyotes were familiar creatures, and something about them resonated.
Religious explanations for the world and how it works are at least 40,000 to 50,000 years old, so these former Siberians no doubt arrived with intact religions, mythologies, and deities. But as these first Americans settled the part of the continent that would stretch from today’s California all the way to the Mississippi River, from the Pacific Northwest to the future New Mexico and Arizona, Coyote emerged as the deity of the ancient continent. No one knows when this happened or exactly how Coyote became a principal figure in so many different peoples’ creation stories and ruminations on the human condition. We know only, based on the oral Coyote stories collected among American Indians and set down by nineteenth- and twentieth-century ethnographers, that over the centuries the various tribes fashioned many hundreds of Coyote tales. No other native deity in America came anywhere close to inspiring such a vast body of oral literature. The story “Coyote and His Knee” is from the Wichitas of the Southern Plains, but I distilled the opening paragraphs of this chapter from groups as geographically separated as the Navajos (Southwest), Crows (Northern Plains), Karok and Wasco (California), Menominee (Great Lakes), Colville and Klamath (Pacific Northwest), and Salish and Blackfeet (Northern Rockies).
West of the Mississippi, across the last 10,000 years, Coyote has been America’s universal deity, surviving as a Paleolithic god among agricultural peoples like the Wichitas and ultimately reaching as far south as the Aztecs, who knew him as Huehuecoyotl, Old Man Coyote. Or Old Man America.
For millions of years the grand expanse of the American Great Plains, extending northward to the boreal forests of Canada and southward to the deserts of the Southwest, was the biological Eden of North America, the continental version of Africa’s Serengeti or Maasai Mara. Today, if you can find a piece of native prairie somewhere on the Great Plains that’s away from the sounds of interstate traffic and beyond the stench of hog farms—anywhere will do, from Montana to West Texas—and if you’re good at opening your mind to the possibilities of deep history, a few moments of imagining can bring this landscape back to life. A hundred centuries ago, elephants and camels and lions could have been in view. For thousands of years after that, herds of buffalo and horses—likely trailed by wolf packs and bands of native hunters tacking across the grass ocean and navigating by the Pole Star—would have grunted and grazed past your spot like wildebeests and zebras on the African veld.
And right in the mix of this wild, Africa-like bestiary of the Pleistocene were ancient coyotes, trotting in the midst of the ungulate herds, competing with other predators—and scavengers—for a living in the kind of world that would, indeed, have been familiar to our own ancestors on another continent halfway around the world.
As a singular animal emerging from earlier evolutionary canid ancestors, the coyote is a relative youth. Coyotes share evolutionary youthfulness with us. We are also young, our genus, Homo, emerging between 2.8 and 3 million years ago and our species coming out of its own “hominin soup” in Africa fewer than 200,000 years ago. The Canidae family appeared at about the same time, 5 to 6 million years ago, but halfway around the world, in North America, with some of its species beginning to spread out across the globe soon after. The ancestors of the gray wolf (Canis lupus), as we will see, became cosmopolitan and eventually colonized almost the entire planet, continuing to evolve before returning, group after group, to their natal American homeland.
Coyotes, it turns out, are also a kind of wolf. They shared a common ancestor with gray wolves down to about 3.2 million years ago, when coyote and gray wolf ancestors began to separate, first geographically, then, as distance increased, genetically. Genetic research indicates that today there is about a 4 percent genetic difference between coyotes and gray wolves. For perspective, that’s roughly the same genetic distance as between modern humans and orangutans.
The histories of coyotes and humans have many parallels, but one difference is that across our own evolutionary history, we humans have created thousands of philosophies of meaning we call religions, while coyotes, so far as we can tell, embrace no religious tradition beyond being alive, sacred existence. Religions that feature animals as deities are probably the oldest forms of our own religious explanations; they are a type of religion called “animism,” fashioned by humans living their lives as hunters or hunter-gatherers. What we might call “Coyotism” is, in other words, a Paleolithic religion. The famed psychologist Carl Jung is only one among hundreds of individuals, from scientists to poets, who have found the Coyote deity enduringly fascinating in part because of how fundamental he is in human thought. In Jung’s view, Coyote is “a faithful copy of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness . . . a forerunner of the savior, and like him, God, man, and animal at once. He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being.”
The Western religious traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity sprang from later periods of human history following the domestication of plants and animals, which anthropologists call the Neolithic Revolution. Early Neolithic religions could feature animals—particularly the sacred bull—as deities. But over time, herding and agricultural cultures gradually replaced animal gods (along with gods of special places in the landscape, another feature of animism) with deities that assumed human form. The Greek gods, so foundational in Western cultures, are classic examples of this evolution. The Greeks replaced animal and plant deities with anthropomorphized gods and goddesses 4,000 years ago: Artemis became a “mistress of the animals” as goddess of the hunt, and Demeter evolved into a human-form goddess of wheat and crops. Coyote himself, it turns out, made at least a partial transmogrification toward human form.
One of the most intriguing questions about Coyote is this: Why did these first, ancient settlers of North America pick this particular animal as their deity? Ten millennia ago the first Americans would have had many scores of animal candidates for their deity figures. Charismatic creatures like mammoths or dire wolves or saber-tooth cats might seem to us more likely choices, and in the early stages of human settlement, perhaps they had been gods. I speculate that as the Wisconsin Ice Age gave way to a rapidly warming world, coupled with the great simplifying event known as the Pleistocene Extinctions (which took all three of my suggested species and many others), wild coyotes captured the imaginations of the Indian peoples of the time as creatures endowed with special abilities. I suspect that the coyote’s evident skill in surviving those profound changes, when the big, charismatic species could not, attracted human attention. An easy identification with the social lives of predatory wild coyotes also probably made them feel familiar to human hunters.
In Pueblo Gods and Myths, anthropologist Hamilton Tyler writes, “The ability of an animal to become a god is in part due to his symbolic potential; which is to say, the number of ideas he can stand for. . . . A god, even the simplest god, is based upon a certain amount of abstraction in the human mind.” Another anthropologist, Lewis Hyde, writes in Trickster Makes This World, “Coyote stories point to coyotes to teach about the mind; the stories themselves look to predator-prey relationships for the birth of cunning.” Hyde continues, “One reason native observers may have chosen coyote the animal to be Coyote the Trickster is that the former in fact does exhibit a great plasticity of behavior and is, therefore, a consummate survivor in a shifting world.” In a world of giant animals whose fates seemed so mortal, coyotes were almost magical.
Especially before our lives in cities, which obscured our deep dependency on nature and diverted our powers of observation, we humans were profound observers of the natural world. Early Americans would not have failed to notice one other characteristic of wild coyotes in a dangerous and changing world: that their uncanny ability to survive everything nature threw at them lay in a remarkable intelligence. The trickster that Lewis Hyde mentions is a very old human religious figure; found in many animistic religions around the world, he takes the form of many creatures—hares, spiders, blue jays, ravens, even humans, like the Norse trickster Loki. But across America, the coyote took up the mantle in the critical formulation of a god who lived by his wits. Having a smart god, after all, was crucial to survival, as well as to penetrating human nature and the animal within.
Soon after coyotes came to the attention of Western science, a debate raged among naturalists about whether these animals were in fact a kind of American jackal, related to the side-striped, black-backed, and Simien jackals of Africa or the golden jackals of Africa/Eurasia. Plenty of people in the nineteenth century looked at coyotes and saw jackals. Some still do. Biologist friends in Yellowstone Park told me about an African biologist who visited recently and had little interest in the wolves. Instead, he wanted to see coyotes, and when he did, he cut straight to a suspicion he obviously already held: “That’s a jackal,” he told them.
However much jackals and coyotes satisfy the old naturalist-derived kinship models of close resemblance, modern molecular genetics shows, as mentioned above, that some jackals separated from the wolf line 5 million years ago, about the same time that humans and chimps were diverging from a common ancestor. The golden jackal is genetically distant from the coyote it so strikingly resembles, again, by about 4 percent. We humans are also distant from gibbons, another of our primate cousins, by about the same amount. Perhaps to other species, humans, orangutans, and gibbons are tough to tell apart too.
The method for determining kinship among species has changed drastically in recent decades. A major 2009 publication on the evolution of North American canids, produced by the American Museum of Natural History, represents the classic approach to animal evolutionary relationships, determining kinship based on examinations of fossil ancestors and morphological measurements. I spoke with one of the study’s authors, Dr. Xiaoming Wang of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, who told me that the fossil evidence is clear that the Canidae family evolved in North America, probably in what is now the American Southwest, about 5.3 million years ago. Fossils indicate that wolves and coyotes indeed share a distant common ancestor. Dr. Wang posits this was a species paleontologists know as Canis lepophagus, a primitive Ice Age wolf that, like American horses, became geographically widespread by crossing the land bridges connecting America to Eurasia. Some of this primitive wolf’s populations spread beyond America as early as 3.5 million years ago. Others stayed behind.
Continuing evolution of this particular canid line back home in North America led to a species that may be at the center of several current scientific debates about wolves and coyotes. Canis edwardii was a small wolf of American roots whose oldest fossilized remains come from 3-million-year-old Blancan Age sites scattered from California to Nebraska to West Texas. Maintaining a presence in North America for the next 2.5 million years—as late as the 1960s and 1970s, some wondered if it had ever gone extinct—C. edwardii was somewhere in size between a coyote and a gray wolf, although in early forms it lacked the sagittal crest that characterizes both wolves and coyotes today. But Wang and the paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History are convinced that roughly 800,000 years ago, from some population of this early wolf, American environmental conditions began to select for smaller, quicker canids. But would these smaller, more refined successors replace the larger, wolfier ancestor in North America? Or would both survive?
We modern humans are fairly uncommon evolutionarily in having replaced all the progenitors in our line. But while we are the sole surviving species in our genus now, this was not always so. Modern humans evolved in Africa some 170,000 years ago, but especially once we spread out of Africa and into Europe and Asia 45,000 years ago, we had to share the world with two other species in the genus Homo. The Neanderthals and Denisovans had preceded us in leaving Africa and adapting to cold climates in Asia and Europe. So for at least a few thousand years—some argue for 15,000—down to some truly epic moment when the last Neanderthals passed, we lived alongside them. Probably, we also exterminated them. But most intriguingly of all, at least occasionally, individuals from these different groups of humans seduced one another. We preserve some of the genetic markers of those other genomes in our own, but we ended up as the only species of Homo left on Earth. That’s not quite how things have played out so far in the genus Canis.
The wolfy ancestor, C. edwardii, produced several lines of smaller canids, and Wang’s interpretation of the fossil evidence yields a better explanation for why some naturalists confused coyotes and jackals. Roughly 1 million years ago, a population of these smaller versions of C. edwardii migrated across a land bridge to the Old World and became Canis aureus, the golden jackal, the animal that had some early naturalists convinced that coyotes were American versions of this Eurasian/African jackal. Meanwhile, the related small C. edwardii offspring that remained and continued to evolve in North America became our own Canis latrans and other closely related forms. These early coyotes spread across America, with specimens appearing in the fossil record from California and Colorado to Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In North America, events seem to have unfolded with coyotes and their edwardii ancestors something like they did with us and Neanderthals. As closely related species in the same genus, they coexisted—one a wolf, the offspring a wolflike coyote—in an America where the ebb and flow of glacial ages produced not just the rapid evolution and extinction of many species but land bridges that brought grand migrations of new creatures into America. As the climate swung wildly from icy to warm, habitats changed with dizzying speed. At places like the La Brea Tar Pits in Southern California, the fossil assemblages of the late Pleistocene, from 1 million down to about 11,000 years ago, show that Canis edwardii and Canis latrans were in fact present side by side at kill sites, much as modern humans and Neanderthals appear to have shared different parts of the same valleys in France and Germany during the last Ice Age.
But what if another hominid, or better, a couple of them, had joined us in the Gorges de l’Ardèche in southern France 40,000 years ago? In effect, that’s what happened to the American canids in the late Pleistocene. For 3.5 million years the descendants of that original migrating American wolf, Canis lepophagus, had been evolving in Asia. Now, as the great beasts of the late Pleistocene—mammoths, mastodons, long-horned bison—migrated out of Siberia across the Bering land bridge to range among vast herds of horses and camels on the mid-latitude plains of North America, gray wolves followed them. A lepophagus descendant called Canis chihliensis, which lived in China around 2.7 million years ago, in the late Pliocene, seems to have been the progenitor of these newly migrating wolves. The first of its offspring to return to its American homeland was a wolf known to paleontologists as Canis armbrusteri. We know of this large wolf from fossils in the American Southwest dating to 2.5 million years ago, but it is most famous for begetting a species of giant wolves never forgotten by anyone who has ever read about them (or watched Game of Thrones). A quarter million years ago, Canis dirus, the gigantic dire wolf, seems to have emerged as a species on this Great Plains Eden of the Animals, where it joined American wolves and early coyotes in the hunt.
The world of American canids was about to get even more crowded because another large wolf stemming from the previous million years of Eurasian wolf evolution was coming. Canis lupus, the modern gray wolf, arrived in Europe (the famous “Wolf Event”) 1 million years ago. Its late origins may have been in Siberia, where it probably evolved in response to the presence of so many large grazing prey animals. But just as they followed the great herds in Europe—all those magnificent creatures our modern human ancestors painted on the limestone walls of Chauvet Cave 30,000 years ago—gray wolves also accompanied similar herds that followed ice-free corridors from Siberia into America. The gray wolf, much changed from its travels abroad, was coming home.
Canis lupus, like us humans, was a relatively late arrival in America. Both Asian humans and Asian wolves entered North America only in the last 20,000 years. But once it joined the hunting and scavenging of other American canids in the grand predator picnic of the Pleistocene, the gray wolf decidedly made its presence felt. Like velociraptors, the meat-eating dinosaurs that filled a similar niche in the Americas 65 million years earlier, gray wolves formed packs to hunt medium-size herbivores like bison and elk. A modern American ecology began to take shape.
No doubt to everyone’s relief, neither the frightening short-faced bear nor dire wolves the size of small horses were destined to survive the Pleistocene. Roughly 10,000 years ago, our last dramatic extinction event, the Pleistocene Extinctions, carried away many of the African-like giants that roamed America then. Late-arriving gray wolves survived, however, and so did America’s own early forms of coyotes. But losing thirty-two genera of the most dramatic animals of the continent forever changed the world of American predators, one of them particularly.
The evolution of a predator has more to do with its prey base than with its competition with other predators, but at this point in the coyote’s history, competition with wolves emerged as a powerful shaper. Studies of the fossils of Rancho La Brea Tar Pits show how this probably worked in coyote evolution. In the late Pleistocene, a coyote subspecies that paleobiologists call Canis latrans orcutti appeared most commonly at kill sites alongside gray wolves, dire wolves, and American wolves. This subspecies is intriguing for what its fossils say about its size, and presumably its niche, back then. Orcutti coyotes were almost wolf-sized, with far more massive heads and dentition than modern coyotes. As long as America’s Pleistocene bestiary had remained intact, packs of C. l. orcutti had clearly prowled the kill sites, competing with various kinds of true wolves for the largesse of the Pleistocene.
Finalist for thePEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing AwardWinner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award
- “A must read for all Americans, whether you are a farmer or rancher, a suburban or city folk.” —Mother Earth News
- "Captivating. Dan Flores looks at a creature whose howl sent shivers down the spines of generations of farmers and ranchers. They responded by waging war on an animal that not only refused to disappear, but began showing up in places like Central Park. The coyote turns out to be the Road Runner in disguise, and is having the last laugh after all. A masterly synthesis of scientific research and personal observation."—Wall Street Journal
- "[An] engaging study."—New Yorker
- "[An] absorbing book.... The coyote stories in this book are among the best, and Flores is a master storyteller."—Natural History
- “Fascinating… essential literature in university courses on environmental studies, wildlife management, and general ecology and public policy. This book will appeal to ecologists as well as to a general audience seeking to better understand how modern humans have treated coyotes and build a new paradigm for a reformed and more holistic vision of how to manage coyotes with respect and compassion… A copy of Coyote America should be given to all legislators to help in making informed and more cost-efficient and humane wildlife policies.” —Ecology
- “A must-read book if you are interested in knowing more about this persecuted critter, revered by Native Americans long before the settlers arrived.” —Virginian Pilot
- "Compassionate and captivating."—Christian Science Monitor
- “[A] fascinating scientific and cultural history.... Deft prose and wide-ranging research do their part to carry Flores through the grimmer chapters of his narrative.... Whatever the coyote may still be wanting, that list no longer includes a book to do it justice.” —New Mexico Magazine
- “It is often impossible to separate how animals behave ‘wild’ from how they behave around humans. Coyotes are a startling example.... Historian Dan Flores has fun describing how coyotes make a mockery of our attempts to put nature in order: ‘It turns out, the coyote really is The Dude, and The Dude absolutely abides.’” —New Scientist
- “Historian Flores has written about the American West for decades, so it’s no surprise his gaze should turn to the region’s scrappy mascot. Over the past 500 years, the original desert-dweller has expanded its territory as far north as Alaska, south into the tropics and deep into many cities. That ubiquity has created a host of problems for both the animal and its neighbors, human and otherwise. Flores captures all sides of the situation in this detailed portrait of an American icon.” —Discover
- “Wide-ranging, engaging, informative… Flores is both a fine scholar and a most engaging writer. He argues most persuasively that we need to learn to live with coyote and the other beings with which we share this earth.” —National Parks Traveler
- "A beautifully readable and meticulously researched book."—Forbes.com
- “The coyote should have been TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. This deeply engrossing study is part scientific, part mythological, and part personal observation. It is fully fascinating.” —Lit Hub
- “In a straightforward style, the author unpacks the myths and urban legends surrounding the coyote and conveys his admiration and respect for this incredibly intelligent predator.... Highly recommended for natural history enthusiasts interested in moving beyond the conventional wisdom about coyotes to gain a deeper understanding of their presence in our midst.”—Library Journal
- “Flores’s mix of edification and entertainment is a welcome antidote to a creature so often viewed with fear.” —Pulishers Weekly
- "A spirited blend of history, anthropology, folklore, and biology that is capable of surprises.... Well written throughout and just the right length, Flores’ book makes a welcome primer for living in a land in which coyotes roam freely – in, that is to say, the Coyote America of his title.”—Kirkus
- “As I was reading Coyote America by Dan Flores, a coyote walked through our backyard. Magic occurs in these pages.” —Terry Tempest Williams, author of the New York Times best-selling The Hour of Land, Refuge, When Women Were Birds, and Erosion
- “Dan Flores’s Coyote America is an utterly fascinating look at the life and range of Canis latrans. It brilliantly blends environmental history with old-fashioned storytelling. Flores is a master of the American West and a personal hero. A must read!”—Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of the New York Times bestseller, American Moonshot, and The Wilderness Warrior
- “A biologist once told me, ‘When the last man dies, a coyote will be howling over his grave.’ This splendid book makes it clear why that’s true, and why the persistent, enduring wildness of this remarkable neighbor should give us great delight.” —Bill McKibben, New York Times bestselling author of Wandering Home, Eaarth, The End of Nature, and Deep Economy
- “In this brilliant book, Flores traces the wane and wax of the coyote. Their story is interwoven with our story, but it is also like our story, that of a species that has faced challenges and overcome them. Read this book if you want to understand the wild canids among us and also, perhaps, a little bit more about yourself.” —Rob Dunn, author of Never Home Alone and A Natural History of the Future
- “With a deft blend of science and history, Dan Flores shows us the coyote as trickster, survivor, and, ultimately, a reflection of ourselves. Coyote America paints a vivid and long overdue portrait of an iconic animal. It’s a terrific book.” —Thor Hanson, author of Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid, Buzz, The Triumph of Seeds, Feathers, and The Impenetrable Forest
- “Think of Coyote America as a biography of our continent’s most enigmatic and successful predator, but don’t stop there. It is also a meditation, eloquent and insightful, on our relationship to wildlife, to nature, and even to our national culture. When you’ve read it, you won’t sing the book’s praises, you’ll howl them.” ——William deBuys, author of The Last Unicorn and A Great Aridness
- “A wily writer meets his natural subject. With erudition, pathos, and seductive humor, Dan Flores tells coyote stories that expose the animalism of Americans, and humans everywhere. The pleasure of his book is the cross-species love of being alive.” —Jared Farmer, author of Trees in Paradise: A California History
- On Sale
- Jun 7, 2016
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Basic Books