Monday, March 9, 2015

Thieves and Coyotes

Some folks used to think the two were indistinguishable. I can pretty much guarantee that's not the case here, except in that we've had visits from both recently.

Those of you who've helped with the move or who've seen the house will have seen the rocks I insisted be moved down here from Minnesota. You probably joined in the derision. Who moves rocks cross country? Arizona has plenty of its own, doesn't it? The thing is, I personally collected those rocks after getting the house built. I wanted a rock garden around the front of the house. Spaces where rocks sat wouldn't grow weeds that needed pulling. Rocks would decorate and organize spaces for plants to grow. Rocks were free, just a quick stop along the road or in a parking lot or construction site, one here, one there, maybe two if there was a particularly nice scattering of granites. They were whatever was convenient to grab, would be unmissed, and appealed to my esthetic sense.

They also had to be within my capabilities to pick up and load in the car, so ones over 50 lbs. stayed put. There were two exceptions to that. When the city was building its new Public Works building a half block away, I noticed two huge boulders along the curb. I asked the city clerk to inquire whether the contractors had a plan for them. Perhaps they'd insert them into the landscaping? Maybe they had a customer willing to take them off their hands? During my rounds I've passed piles of large boulders for sale to - presumably - landscapers. I was thinking if they didn't want them, I could locate somebody willing to relocate them a half block at minimal expense. I didn't get a direct answer, but that evening when I returned from work the two boulders were sitting on my front yard, reasonably close to where I'd have put them. Good thing, since they were going to sit forever right where they were.

The last couple years before the move, gardening became harder to keep up with, and the decision was made to shrink the garden. That left an excess of rocks. I managed to come up with a new home for them. The moving van got two sturdy wooden crates set way up front, then rocks loaded in, and the rest of the household furnishings packed in around them. Once here, and the "real" stuff moved into the house, the rocks were off-loaded to the ground, eventually mostly decorating a corner where driveway and sidewalk meet.

When the water-hogging bushes were removed from the front of the house and succulents moved in, many of the rocks were relocated to fill in spaces between plants to accent the greenery. The rest of the rocks were left at the corner, spread around to outline where white decorative rock had been placed. It was too much work to move them all right then. Or later. So we thought. Other chores always seemed to have priority. So they sat.

There weren't enough rocks to completely line the perimeter of the space. With a gap or two the expected sight, it was hard at first to tell whether increasing and more scattered gaps meant bad memory or someone was actually stealing rocks from our yard. I mean, who'd go around and actually steal rocks from somebody's landscaping? I hadn't done that when I was collecting. We finally figured out it wasn't our imagination when a particularly unique hunk of pockmarked limestone disappeared.

The gall of somebody!

It was evening when Steve and I returned home from somewhere and I glanced over while pulling into the driveway and noticed it missing. While he took care of letting the dogs out and smoking his pipe, I started moving rocks up into the bed along the house, one or two at a time. I had to pause after each trip, both to catch my breath from the unexpected workload and to apologize to my knees, but I was determined that nobody was going to think they could get away with stealing any more of my hard-collected rocks! Anger kept me going long past the point where my knees were willing to go. I even had to enlist Steve's help with his scooter, loading the largest onto its floorboard and wheeling it up to its new location.

So far there have been no further disappearances. I guess it takes a bit more nerve to steal from next to the house than from the outer edge of the yard. Perhaps our rock thief thinks the edge of the yard is their fair game, but the house puts our stamp of ownership on it. We have noticed, however, that fewer of the leashed neighborhood dogs are stopping for a sniff and a lift as they pass the driveway. Hmmm, good thing for that rain just before I did all that toting.

Our 4-footed visitors have been much less of a bother. When we first moved in, it took me several days to even hear them, and then it was only to accompany an ambulance siren. The surprise was not their presence, but their calls coming from three directions at once. While I was trying to earn a living down here, I actually spied one crossing the road while I was driving to work, carrying a dead rabbit in its mouth. Having recently lost an expensive lot of plants to rabbit predations, I was happy to politely stop to let the coyote cross the road, cheering it on to garner future meals the same way.

This fall everybody else but me was seeing and hearing coyotes. I was still wishing for more of them, with rabbits so plentiful and our dogs uninterested in chasing them. The rabbits can pass through the chain link with no problem, but does that really excuse the dogs ignoring them while they are peeing 20 feet away from the pests?

The local pack is frequenting our neighborhood more often recently. We hear them singing from closer locations, including one evening when they drowned out the television. We figured they must be at the back of the block across the street, and turned off the TV and opened the front door to better pinpoint them, hoping to even spot them if they moved closer.

They've gotten bolder, showing up during more daylight hours and closer to our line of sight, even across the street or on the other side of the fence. They do pause to scope out the source of that big deep basset hound voice, since Fred goes dependably ballistic whenever he catches wind of them. Steve still sees them more than I do, being out with his pipe more than I sit out. And so far I've never been near enough to the camera while they make their appearances.

A couple weeks ago we both got a drawn out sighting of the pack as they moved up the line along the back yards. The first were spotted only because I was looking that way and their movement caught my attention. Being downwind from us, the dogs never noticed their presence. Initially there were two. Then one, as the other disappeared behind a bush. Then two appeared much closer, coming from behind another bush. There was a gap where I should have seen them crossing but hadn't, so I started thinking we had more than two. Three? Then the first two reappeared while one of the second two still were visible. It went back and forth like that a while, with differences in size as well as changing locations helping us distinguish multiple animals. Eventually we both agreed that there were five in the pack. One was small enough to be last summer's pup, unless the pack tolerates runts.

There have been other recent sightings. While sitting out front waiting for the mail to deliver him a new pipe courtesy of eBay, Steve called me out to view a pack crossing the street a few yards down. I was too late of course, and they didn't reappear. There were five, so it was declared to be "our" pack. A couple days later, Fred was going ballistic in the back yard while the pack stared at him through the fence before moving off.

Between Fred and our 6' fence, they have not come into our yard, so far as we can tell. If they have, it would have been while everybody's asleep, and around here that's not dependable. Many nights somebody is awake for part or all of it. But as close as they've been lately, we are seriously rethinking our trust in being able to let the dogs out into the back yard unattended, such as while we are off on a short road trip. Later this week, for example, we're thinking of piling the dogs in the car while we hit the Apache Trail. Leave the rabbits to the mercies of the coyotes!

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