The coyote helped create the world, according to Native American mythology. The Navajo refer to them as “God’s dogs.” Other tribes describe them as transformers or tricksters, and they credit these scrappy canines with creating the first humans. Dubbed canis latrans by biologists, coyotes are found throughout North America. Utah is home to an abundant population of “song dogs,” an apropos nickname for these social animals that are more often heard than seen.
Coyotes eke out a living in the Park City area through even the harshest of winters by consolidating into family units or small packs. Healthy coyotes with full winter pelts—a common adaptation in the northern latitudes and higher elevations—look a lot like their first cousin, the grey wolf. As primarily nocturnal hunters, they are occasionally heard howling and yipping on winter nights as they hunt for rodents, rabbits, and the occasional house dog or cat. Ideas about carrying capacities differ.
Unfortunately, coyote quarry sometimes also includes domestic sheep and mule deer (highly prized game animals in Utah), resulting in a $50-per-coyote bounty offered by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Wildlife officials say this helps keep deer populations at levels favored by hunters. “Ideas about carrying capacities differ,” observes Nell Larson, director of Park City’s Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, a welcome sanctuary for wayward coyotes in Park City’s Snyderville Basin.
“We see coyotes as a natural part of the ecosystem and let nature take its course on the preserve,” Larson adds. Though the coyote population at Swaner is most active at night, Larson says people do see them during the day as well.
Despite control efforts, coyotes will likely always be regulars throughout the Park City area—and beyond. And if you believe in legend, they will likely get the last laugh, too; according to another Navajo legend, coyotes are immortal and will be the last animal on earth.