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Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History

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The New York Times best-selling account of how coyotes--long the target of an extermination policy--spread to every corner of the United States
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.

271 pages, Hardcover

First published June 7, 2016

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About the author

Dan Flores

16 books219 followers
Dan Flores is an environmental writer who from 1992 to 2014 held the A. B. Hammond Chair in the History of the American West at the University of Montana. A native of Louisiana and currently a resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Time Magazine. Along with appearances on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on CNN and on Joe Rogan's podcasts, he was a consultant for and is featured in Ken Burns's 2023 documentary on the story of the American buffalo. Flores's eleven books and numerous essays have won nearly three-dozen literary prizes. His most recent works are American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, winner of the Stubbendieck Distinguished Book Prize in 2017; Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History, a 2017 New York Times Bestseller that won the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award and was a Finalist for PEN America’s E. O. Wilson Prize in Literary Science Writing; and Wild New World: The Epic Story of Animals and People in America, a Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2022.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 662 reviews
Profile Image for Laura Leaney.
469 reviews106 followers
May 14, 2018
I have to give this book five stars for the impact it had on my understanding of the human species' drive to destroy what it doesn't understand or appreciate. The book functions as both an ode to the intelligence and beauty of the coyote but also as a mournful dirge to America's deeply dysfunctional relationship to nature. It's unbelievable that the country still kills 500,000 coyotes a year, despite the awareness that such wholesale slaughter causes coyote families to produce larger and larger litters. "That is only the current body count in a history that easily wins them the title of most persecuted large mammal in American history."

One of the reasons I picked up this book is the absolute hysteria generated by urban coyote sightings in my small city. Certain strong voices want them trapped, relocated, or poisoned. If these citizens had their way all three methods would suffice. Despite the occasional cat carcass, I've had a difficult time understanding this mindset (and I have cats). Perhaps I don't understand my neighbors' antagonism because coyotes and wolves have always fascinated me. In the dark nights at my grandparents' farm, all us kids could hear the coyotes do that howling-yipping thing they do with each other. It was so loud that we were sure they were right in the yard beneath our window. Somewhere back in those days I fell in love with wild animals. And, despite the fact that I would have no trouble killing one to protect my own life, I cannot fathom the wholesale slaughter of the planet's predators. Actually, that's not true. It's always about profit, isn't it?

Dan Flores's book is as much about human nature as it is about the coyote, and the news - at least for me - isn't positive. The sections on poisoning, especially strychnine and thallium sulfate, were difficult to get through and ultimately pissed me off. I wanted to punch something. Flores alludes to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and its terrible warning about "the profligate and unexamined use of insecticides" to curb weeds and pests, but his book is no less important.

Despite the blueness I felt after finishing Coyote America, there is some optimism in the author's belief that Canis latrans will survive our efforts to remove it from the planet. Flores writes, "Coyotes have been in North America far longer than we, they are not going anywhere, and history demonstrates all too graphically that eradicating them is an impossibility." I want this badly to be true. As soon as I quit my job, I want to to live in a place where I can hear their song once again.
Profile Image for The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane).
156 reviews11 followers
December 18, 2017
Dan Flores writes in Coyote America "I have borne witness to certain truth about coyotes as neighbors: you do not see them as much as hear them." I live in an area where there is a large coyote population, I hardly ever see a coyote but I hear them all the time.

Dan Flores has written a richly detailed look at the America conservation movement and its attitude toward the coyote for the last century and half. A native of North America, the coyote has a rich history, which today continues to grow.

The coyote is a fascinating creature it's ability to adapt and survive has spanned 10,000 years and made it a true American icon. When the first White people arrived in America they did not know what to make of this "prairie wolf" but they did sense a threat, I had no idea that the government has waged a century old battle for the eradication of the coyote.
Early on the National Park Service was devising methods to eradicate wolves, mountain loins and coyotes. It was all out warfare - they shot and poisoned these animals without regard. They murdered these animals in the thousands.

Once again you run into what I feel is a continuing theme in present day American life. Is what we are doing the best for all of us or are we catering to the few? I feel this book shows that once again we have lost our way, we are continuing to do what we always have and it’s not really working. Is there away we can co-exist with nature and the other inhabitants of this planet?

This review was originally posted on The Pfaeffle Journal
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,134 followers
January 30, 2019
To me Konrad Lorenz's essay "The Taming of the Shrew" in his collection King Solomon's Ring is a wondrous example of great field biology writing. In it, Lorenz delights in describing the behavior of the water shrew, and he does so with meticulous, loving detail, and through this tiny lens, focused on one tiny animal, I can't help but be struck with wonder about how beautiful and complicated the natural world is.

In contrast, Coyote America is filled with breathless anecdote and extends in every direction, introducing topics only tangentially related to coyotes. As a result it felt shallow to me. It felt like the author assumed I would need to be constantly entertained and distracted by interesting anecdotes or I'd lose interest.

It seems to be a style of science writing that has become pervasive, and maybe it reflects accurately the distractions of modern media on our reading attention, but I don't like it. By the end I was very much yearning for a re-read of Voyage of the Beagle, a book whose author knew that animals in themselves are worthy of being studied closely, and need no distraction or amplification to hold a reader's interest...what current science writers no longer seem to believe.
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,069 reviews241 followers
October 1, 2021
I live in an area where we almost daily hear of a coyote sighting, so this book spurred my curiosity. It covers the history of the coyote in the Americas, starting with legends of the past and moving into the dispersion of the coyote into areas where they have not historically been present.

Coyotes are now prevalent in all urban areas. Their biology predisposes them to survive and thrive, and the science behind their persistence is explained in detail. This book paints them in a positive light. It is geared toward treating coyotes with environmentally sound methods, rather than repeating the prior history of attempting to annihilate them.

I think the response to this book will depend on how much the reader already knows about the coyote. It is oriented toward those with little previous exposure. I found it worthwhile, but it does not cover much new ground.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,438 followers
September 30, 2016

Dan Flores has done something fascinating in this book, rehabilitating the image of a persecuted carnivore lowest on our opinion roster of animals, including cockroaches and rats. He makes the case that coyotes should be America’s national avatar, displacing the bison or buffalo. Extremely clever, adaptable, and pioneering, the coyote was designated a principal deity by American Indians--North America’s oldest deity, responsible for creating all of North America.

Flores tells us that coyotes live within a couple miles of us at all times now…even those of us in major metropolitan areas. Coyotes are cosmopolitan, and have been living in urban areas since the time of Columbus at least. They are perceptive, wily fellow-travelers with us.
”Suffice it to say here that as we humans head off into an uncertain and probably dangerous future of our own making, it might be wise to keep an eye on [coyotes]. I, for one, am going to be very interested in how coyotes cope with the twenty-first century and what insights we might draw about our own circumstances from a coyote history that so often seems to mirror ours.”
Coyotes are predators, feeding mainly on small mammals, birds, or fruits and they are sociable, hunting in packs. Contrary to the notion that coyotes were responsible for cattle kills, they were nearly always scavengers of large animals as befit their position in the ranking of predators in the larger ecosystem. Very nearly killed off as pests since the end of the nineteenth century, they have none-the-less persevered.

Flores suggests we look to the Indian coyote stories, of which there is a rich seam, to understand human nature: “who better to illustrate that than self-centered, gluttonous, carnal Coyote?”As we began to understand our own animal natures, the study of other social animals leaves “little doubt that…canines also understand equality and inequity…and experience both a rudimentary form of empathy and some basic theory of mind…an essential sense of what in human terms we would call 'right and wrong.'”

Employees of the Wildlife Services’ Predator Research Center, whose greatest advocate is the American sheep industry, is responsible for killing by aerial shooting roughly 35,000 coyotes from the air annually. Even they readily admit that coyotes have personality: “They’re individuals. Like people, some get into trouble.” Sheep farmers claim to lose some percentage of lambs to coyote packs every year. The federal government spends an equal amount of money (the cost of the lambs) to kill or sterilize coyote. Hmmm...a good use of federal tax dollars?

This book is a wildlife biologist’s dream. Readable, eloquent, well-argued, it looks at coyote history from many angles and leads even those of us with reason to dislike the disruptive canines to a grudging admiration and wonder. Of course, sport hunters probably don’t read peer-reviewed ecological articles, but Flores points out that ecosystems tend to develop some balances in response to threats and flourishing in their environment. Trying to kill coyotes takes natural balances out of the equation.

Flores ends with examples of coyote in art, and reminds us again how the animal is portrayed as a caricature of human nature, for example Wile E’s comic overconfidence (remind you of anyone?), unswerving obsession with a goal, and unfailing faith in technology. (Even that swath of red-gold hair has something of the coyote about it.) But I don’t want to carry the metaphor too far. After all, coyote in modern day parlance means a person who sneaks illegal aliens into the U.S. from Mexico.

NPR's David Greene interviewed Dan Flores about this book on coyotes.

Dan Flores is a historian, A.B. Hammond Professor Emeritus at University of Montana-Missoula, who has written several books about the American West and the animals who reside there. This year he also published a book called American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, perhaps in conjunction with the movement by Sean Gerrity, president of American Prairie Reserve, committed to wildlife conservation and hoping to create the largest wildlife complex ever assembled in the continental United States. "When complete, the reserve will comprise some 3.5 million contiguous acres (more than 5,000 square miles) of native grassland in northeastern Montana, with a goal of restoring the wildlife abundance the landscape once contained." [National Geographic bio].

Here is Dan Flores addressing the 32nd National Cowboy Poetry gathering about the history of America's Serengeti, and here is Sean Gerrity at an Aspen Institute gathering to elicit donations for his project.
Profile Image for Joshua Buhs.
647 reviews113 followers
December 19, 2017
Coyote deserves better.

I like coyotes. I like the animals. I like the idea of them--existing by their wiles in the shadow of humans. I like the representations. Speaking of wiles, I like Wile E. Coyote. I wanted to like this book. But it just never added up.

Flores was one of the scholars to bring environmental history into the academy, though he was never as famous as William Cronon or Donald Worster. Broadly speaking, this book is an example of environmental history: how humans have thought about and interacted with one part of nature, the Coyote. That's the core of the book.

Which is one of the problems. The ground that Flores covers here was already covered, and better, by Thomas Dunlap, years ago. The story beats are expected, following Dunlap closely: the rise of government agencies to help agriculturalists in the West; tension between basic biological research and killing programs; the expansion of government work during the middle of the twentieth century. The turn against killing programs in the 60s and 70s, as well as their continuation on a smaller scale as they are continually protested.

Flores adds some bits to the history, with an intensive look at how coyotes came to be named. But there's nothing remarkable about this part of the story. Lots of animals endured similar taxonomic confusion in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th. Otherwise, the book spends it's middle chapters on the attempts to destroy coyotes as varmints--ridiculous lengths taken to support the nation's vanishing sheepherders.

And it didn't even work. Despite continued pressure on the coyotes, including despicable hunting rodeos, the animals have held their own. Attempts to kill the animals may have even helped coyotes, as their reproductive rate seems to vary with environmental pressures, increasing in response to threats and stresses.

Otherwise, there's a brief cultural history of the coyote, at the beginning, and then squirreled away in an epilogue. The opening concentrates on coyote as a Native American trickster, and there's some throat-clearing about the symbolic connections between humans and coyotes that is never really followed up. The epilogue hides some of the best material--Twain on coyotes and Wile E. Coyote and a host of cultural representations that could have been infused through the book. Dunlap did so to make sense of changing responses to predators--it was culture that transformed wolves from villains to heroes--but Flores does not attempt to explain the changes he documents. The most surprising bit of the book's subtitle--a supernatural history--is a promise not kept.

The best part of the book, for my money, was a consideration of the coyotes history over the last few thousand or so years, as they spread out from the North American southwest, in part riding the coattails of Native Americans. They have always been drawn to urban areas. Flores wants this to be significant on some level, but he doesn't really explain how. He also misses a chance to take up recent themes in evolutionary studies. Common-ness has become a characteristic worthy of study. Only a few species are common, and remain so even in the wake of humans; coyotes are one. What does this say about them? And does it promise their survival? There's evidence that passenger pigeons, once the most common bird in North America, was vulnerable to extinction exactly because they were common: when their numbers declined, finding mates and food became difficult. Are coyotes similarly vulnerable?

Instead of engaging these questions, Flores blends together several narrative strategies in a melange that is not successful. He attempts to write (or re-write) some Native American stories about coyote in his own voice; but then leaves that technique behind. He does history--but then uses explanatory devices that jar with most history. He invokes "genetic memory" at least three different times (once to explain why humans dislike predators, once to explain why prairies are important to humans--even though eh also has to admit that prairies are much maligned.) He scoffs at Americans use of HVAC systems to keep their houses like the African savannah. (Is that really what's going on.)

Elsewhere, he blends in personal vignettes, often at the end of chapters, which are meant to show his connection to coyotes. But these felt mostly flat to me. Amid these various different styles, he will suddenly--and without warning--slip into something closer to science journalism, mentioning people he's talked to, the interviews and lectures he's done, the settings and looks of the people. I could see how these might be integrated into his story, but they mostly feel like sore thumbs.

For all that, the book isn't _bad_. It's disjointed and not particularly novel. But if you haven't read a lot of environmental history, it might be news. Still, I think of the opportunity missed. My standard for books such as this one is William Leach's Butterfly People, which brilliantly blended cultural and environmental history. There are hints of a Leachian story here--especially in the few pages that Flores narrates the tale of the Murie brothers--but it is never developed, the story sticking, instead, to familiar trails.

Coyote deserves better.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
1,007 reviews373 followers
December 10, 2018
This is an interesting book on the history of the coyote – an animal unique to North America (although related to the African jackal).

The coyote, when the first Europeans arrived, was found only in the South-West of North America. Now it has spread to all parts of the continent – in spite of concerted efforts to exterminate it! From shooting, to traps, to using poisons such as strychnine, all with the support government support; the coyote has thrived in the North American landscape and now inhabits cities!

It was thought for over one hundred years that the coyote was a malicious predator (similar in reputation to a rattlesnake) and thousands upon thousands were killed off. All to no avail – in fact as the author explains, unlike the wolf, the coyote prevailed. It is highly adaptable, has a variety of foods it can eat, and its litters can expand during periods of trauma.

The rise of the ecological movement beginning in the 1960’s led to a questioning of this perverted attempt at mass coyote elimination. One influence was the Wonderful World of Disney which had a few shows portraying coyote’s in a favorable and sympathetic light! This turned the tables on those who kept pressing for the complete removable of the coyote!

I did find the book to be overly taxonomic at times about the varieties of coyotes and wolves and dogs and how they may interbreed. Also I wish the author would have given the point of view of those affected by the predation of coyotes such as sheep and cattle farmers. I am sure that they have their reasons for detesting coyotes! And how would I feel if I saw a coyote in my backyard – and how would my cat feel?!

We get an excellent perspective on the whistle blowers who pointed out the problems with the ceaseless projects for coyote extermination and how coyotes were an essential part of the ecological landscape. This book provides us with a good natural history of the coyote and its spread across the North American continent.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
722 reviews140 followers
July 29, 2017
Numerous authors have already delved into the cultural and scientific research on the coyote, a uniquely American animal. Flores lists these works in his extensive bibliography and mentions some of them in the text of his book. In COYOTE AMERICA he documents a long history of destructive and inhumane government policies driven by that familiar triumvirate: fear, greed and hubris.

The “conquest of the west” has a familiar ring. Paired alongside it was the “war on predators.” (The metaphors roll off the tongue so thoughtlessly). It's disheartening to realize that only 125 years after Lewis and Clark saw their first wolves, those same animals had been driven to near extinction. Mission accomplished? Hardly. The government next turned its attention to coyotes.

Flores' book is particularly timely; his historical account is relevant to anyone attentive to the dynamic of government policy-making. In 1886 Congress created the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy within the Agriculture Department. Initially, its task was scientific and educational. It conducted field surveys and wildlife censuses. But a government bureau needs funding to stay alive. A little over a decade later, it morphed into the Bureau of Biological Survey. By 1907 the head of the Bureau, Vernon Bailey, was advocating an extermination program for wolves, coyotes and mountain lions. This was a mission that taxpaying ranchers and their Congressmen were happy to fund. Not even national parks like Yellowstone were off-limits. By 1914 Congress passed an explicit eradication appropriation. By the 1920's, the Bureau was upgraded to the Division of Predatory Animal and Rodent Control. Today, it's called the Division of Wildlife Services (the USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service Wildlife Service to be precise). Flores comments on this bland-sounding euphemism: “...Wildlife Services was a frontier subsidy carryover whose primary mission was still killing.” (p.171) Even today, it's primary methods are still poison, aerial gunning and trapping, honed by its labs at the Wildlife Services Research Center. “...Wildlife Services quietly spends $140 million of our taxpayer dollars a year not to serve wildlife but primarily to subsidize agribusiness.” (p.172)

Any discussion of political decision-making is complicated, and Flores condenses these events in a book of some 248 pages. His narrative meanders. He is unapologetic about his own passion, which in this book is contagious. To me, a parting conversation from his visit to the Wildlife Services Research Center was telling. He repeatedly lobs softball questions about research into non-lethal methods of predator control and collaboration with environment advocates. The answer he receives is dismissive: “Our greatest advocate is the American sheep industry. That's who we work with.” (p.179) It is unwitting confirmation of the point Flores has been making. Once a bureaucracy's mission and funding source are defined, it becomes impervious to a change of direction. New research and changes in public opinion fall on deaf ears. With robotic efficiency, such a bureaucracy will cling to the same agenda under the cover of euphemisms and opacity. Flores traces a parallel history of ecological research and resistance to the implications of that research by Wildlife Services.

However, this book does not use the coyote solely as a proxy. Flores is most engaging in passages specific to the coyote. We learn that ironically, wolf extermination created a coyote nirvana. Coyotes no longer needed to worry about falling prey to wolves. Second, coyote extermination triggered a change in their reproduction pattern. As their population diminished, their litter sizes increased, and females began to reproduce at earlier stages of maturity. Without enemies, they also became less cautious. A flexible social structure permitted them to operate either alone or in packs. Rodents form a large part of their diet. Areas where coyotes were eradicated suffered infestations of rabbits and mice. Despite the eradication policies, the coyote population expanded its range and size. Today, even major cities have spotted coyotes in their midst.

Flores also describes the gruesome way that poisons work. If nothing else, the practice is inhumane, as people whose pets have accidentally ingested the bait can attest. I was also shocked that public coyote hunting contests are permitted. A photo captioned “Coyotes discarded in the desert, the aftermath of a coyote-hunting contest in New Mexico, in 2015” (p. 185) depicts the ugly result of this so-called recreational sport.

Coyotes figure prominently in Native American myth. They are clever, mischievous, jealous, generous , selfish, lascivious, and amoral. Flores suggests it indicates a different world view. Like Coyote, man embodies all of these features. His curiosity fuels dissatisfaction; his dissatisfaction is the root of his ingenuity, invariably resulting in unintended consequences. Coyote is an avatar for man. As opposed to questions of good and evil, Coyote's world accepts wondrous surprise and grim outcomes. It's the obverse of a vision of order and fixed perfection. Those emotions were conveyed in a tradition of animated oral storytelling. “Coyotism tells us that while we may long have misunderstood the motives for our behavior, we've also long known how human nature expresses itself. And who better to illustrate that than self-centered, gluttonous, carnal Coyote?” (p.42)

Flores' writing is undisciplined and even at times awkward. I award Flores' book four stars because of the importance of his message. It is a thought-provoking overview of our relationship with this resilient animal.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews418 followers
February 10, 2018
Not a super fast read, but short enough that I wanted a bit more. I mean, it had lots of history, biology, philosophy... but it could have used just a couple more Coyote Trickster tales. It did have plenty of statements that make me feel outraged at how much taxpayer money has been spent murdering coyotes in a futile attempt to eradicate them, when the truth is that their population would stabilize at a reasonable level if they didn't have to over-breed and over-migrate to try to find a safe place in which to nurture their families.

"[For a] mind conflicted about 'sin' and 'virtue'; self-interest versus cooperation; games of love and status; new experiences to jolt neuro-chemistry and emotional states: [what better] for the long-ago Americans who selected a part human, part coyote as a suitable avatar for understanding themselves...."

"Because the are in large measure commentaries on human nature, Coyote stories belong to all of us for the same reason's Shakespeare's plays or Dostoyevsky's novels do."

(I need to look for art by Karl Bodmer.)

(And reread Aldo Leopold for his story about shooting a wolf, which experience contributed to his ideas about the 'biotic community' and the role of predators.)

"Although not many cat owners will want to hear it, increasing numbers of studies indicate that when coyotes come to town and pilfer the odd cat, the survivability of local songbirds goes up markedly."

"Just as coyote-wolf hybrids are preserving the genetics of nearly vanished wolves, we ourselves have preserved 20 percent of the genome of the extinct Neanderthals, dispersed in small snippets throughout global humanity." Including, it seems likely, blue eyes and fair skin.

Extensive "selected bibliography" but no annotation of same or direct notes, unfortunately. I trust that Flores knows his stuff, but there's no easy way to 'read further.'

Highly recommended not only to 'wildlife managers' but to any lay person interested in any subject related to predators of the US, ecology, land management, Wile E. Coyote, etc. etc.
Profile Image for Leo Walsh.
Author 3 books97 followers
June 3, 2017
Coyote America is a super interesting book that examines the science, history and cultural "markers" of our American original, the coyote. They look like smaller wolves, but they're smarter. And like the author, I thought they were a southwestern/ desert animal. So I was shocked when I first saw one in Ohio in the early 90's. I spent hours pouring over field guides, and was wavering between a fox and some kind of a stray sheep dog. I finally went to a ranger, and they pulled out a picture.

I was shocked when it was labeled 'coyote.'

Flores' treatment of the animal, and its relationship to both Native American and European peoples is telling. The indians worshiped Old Man Coyote as a trickster god. They accepted him and other animals as fellow travelers on this planet. While Euros hunted them down in a failed attempt to "tame" the untameable. He even takes the cultural history into my days as a kid, watching Wiley Coyote on Loonie Toons every Saturday.

Very informative and enjoyable. Especially when it get to post WWII American, where Flores uses the coyote as a window onto our environmental policy. Since it reveals a lot about American culture. From our desire to command and control. To our wanton destruction of predators using poisons. And very illuminating for the post-60's world. Since coyotes, it turns out, are sort of a cultural keynote species that shows the transition farmers and ranchers to college educated urbanites. Since the ranchers want coyotes dead since they kill livestock, while urban professionals who "worship" these wild animals... on PBS while sipping lattes and munching kale chips.

Great science read. Four stars.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,505 reviews31 followers
March 26, 2018
A very insightful book or should I say biography of the coyote. If there is one animal that exemplifies American exceptionalism it's the coyote. They even have their own reverse American manifest destiny. Native Americans revered it but we Christian Europeans have proceeded to kill it in the most horrific ways. And it has defied us in all our attempts and science. It's a resilient survivor who is unfortunately still under attack. The concerted attempts to extinguish it have lead to its spreading all over the country. Indeed urban coyotes are better off than rural coyotes. Flores talks about the coyote myths, Walt Disney, Wile E. Coyote, and the science of coyotes. Coyotes are as polarizing as religion and politics. They have been ruthlessly persecuted as pests and varmints by ranchers. When science discovered that their predation on livestock was not true it didn't matter. We still needed someone to blame for the death of livestock and the coyote was that bogeyman. Coyotes are the Rodney Dangerfield of the canid world. They get no respect. But if you have ever encountered them in the wild they are a sight to behold. I've watched them hunt and play and stare back at you with an indifferent acknowledgment of your presence. I have to concur with Flores that coyote howling is truly America's original national anthem.
Profile Image for Bobby.
300 reviews10 followers
April 5, 2016
Forced to describe Coyote America in one phrase, I'd call it a celebration of the resiliency of the underappreciated canine that has inhabited North America far longer than Europeans. Though the book does begin with an appreciation via Native Americans, much of the book is basically a history of the coyote and the lack of appreciation of, and persecution of, the wolf's diminutive cousin. Once mankind had essentially won the battle against wolves in the lower 48 states, we turned our attention and sights to the "archpredator of our time" via bounties and government agencies that have used everything from firearms to poison to helicopters to attempt to eradicate an animal that, for the longest time, we could not even claim to understand. The coyote persevered by being perpetually elusive, very smart, and producing more offspring during times of the most intense attacks. Eventually the coyote emerged somewhat victorious, showing up in unexpected places like major American metropolises like L.A., Chicago, and even New York City. In the meantime, a shift occurred in the American attitude towards coyotes, particularly during the 1960's as we came to understand the interconnectedness of nature through books like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac as well as films by the likes of none other than Walt Disney.

Coyote America shines a light on the underappreciated coyote, forever the little stepbrother to the wolf, via a Native American appreciation, history, the sciences, popular culture, and a modern ecologically friendly viewpoint. The reader will not be able to help but cheer a creature that has proven to be so resilient and has continued to evolve right before our eyes. In the end, one cannot help but appreciate the coyote for coming out on the other side of a man made attempt at their extinction prospering and, perhaps, even smiling, so to speak. Flores does a wonderful job at making us see this brilliant creature in a way that many of us may not have seen it previously.
Profile Image for Leftbanker.
835 reviews336 followers
June 19, 2020
About 75 pages into this book I commented to someone that I was verging on learning way too much about coyotes and that the pace of the book was a bit clumsy and slow. There were a few too many ancient stories of the animal handed down through the ages. But then I got past this phase and before I knew it, or expected it, or wanted it, the book was wrapping up.

I hardly had a mountain bike ride in Washington state without rousing one of these little wolves from whatever the hell they were doing out in the mountains. Along with the raccoon, another American invention, I’m surprised that the coyote hasn’t made its way on to European soil where it would probably fair very well. I’ve seen raccoons being sold as pets here, so why not coyote pups?

Anyone who knows anything about raccoons knows that they are cute when they are little, but then they reach a certain age and then they become wild animals with long teeth and claws. Probably the same goes for coyotes. My question is, where do the raccoons go when they are no longer suitable as pets? All it would take is a single breeding pair and they’d be everywhere in Spain, especially the marshy area just south of Valencia.

The American blue crab has established a firm foothold—or claw-hold—in the Albufera (the wetland south of here). Once I heard that these delicacies were being found by fisherman in their nets, I knew that the crabs would be here for good, and that people need to get used to them. The same is true of certain American turtles that are sold as pets.
Profile Image for Becky.
832 reviews155 followers
July 12, 2018
Review later, but this was one of my all-time favorite natural histories and I absolutely recommend it. Wonderful.
Profile Image for ༺Kiki༻.
2,000 reviews117 followers
April 2, 2019
Coyote America looks at the history of coyotes and their relationship with wolves and humans. Flores provides answers to why coyotes are so wide ranging, adaptable, and comfortable in urban areas. Coyote America includes an extensive bibliography and index, which I will be perusing for further reading. I learned quite a bit, even if much of it was disturbing and disheartening. While there are no graphic descriptions, this book discusses extermination and culling; if you are sensitive, this might not be the book for you.

I've always been fond of coyotes. For two and a half years, I lived at the edge of a forest preserve. It was wonderful, I could sit on my patio and enjoy the cool air from the forest while watching the wildlife. It was not unusual to see a coyote loping along the tree line, even during the day. I cherish those moments, every one.

The community I lived in clearly wasn't as enamored. Neighbors frequently complained about the wildlife. They didn't like the birds because singing woke them too early, raccoons out during daylight must be rabid, owls hooting (or coyotes yipping) were hunting their pets, and all other manner of nonsense. If you don't like animals, why choose to live next to a forest preserve? If you want your pets (and wildlife) to be safe, don't let them outside to roam alone.

Several times I woke to rifle shots in the forest preserve and the sound of panicking coyotes. For many nights afterward, the remaining pack would gather and mourn. It's the only word that can adequately describe their whimpering yips and howls, which were so different to their usual playful banter. It's one of the most mournful sounds I have ever heard.

I guess another complaint about threatening or "rabid" coyotes resulted in the culling. It's the animal equivalent of believing any non-white wearing a hoodie is a criminal. It's beyond sickening. Yes, unfortunately, pets and people have been attacked by coyotes and other wildlife. But, consider this, there is a higher chance of being hit by a car than being attacked by a wild animal. And yet, we don't poison drivers or cull cars, in spite of that fact.

You might also enjoy:

Of Wolves and Men
American Wolf
Crossing Open Ground
Wolves in the Land of Salmon
The Ninemile Wolves
The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild

Yellowstone Wolves
Shadow Mountain
The Company of Wolves
Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone

Urban Wildlife
The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild
Welcome to Subirdia

Fiction & Mythology
Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter
Green Grass, Running Water
The Wolf Border
Profile Image for Matt McLain.
101 reviews13 followers
January 13, 2022
Just read a book about coyotes, not sure how I got here.

I liked reading about a subject I knew nothing about. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to know. Coyotes have been hunted by humans, but they are just as resilient as we are. The authors prediction is that coyotes will warily coincide with humans to the point that every human will live within a mile of a coyote and not even know they are there. I love how he said you’ll hear them but rarely see them.

This book also exposed me to the idea of speciesism, which conveys the critique that we exploit other species out of an extreme preference for our own.
Profile Image for Mark Hartzer.
279 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2023
About 20 years ago, I opened up the back screen door to let out our dachshunds for their mid morning pit stop. Nothing unusual about that. There was the usual milling about on the deck when suddenly Wally started barking and took off. Bunny was also barking but didn’t move. I looked out into the yard and saw what I first thought was a pretty big German shepherd. It took a moment for me to register that no, that was no dog. I yelled while waving my arms around and took off after the fearless little sausage. Thankfully, the coyote loped away and I grabbed the dumb one and chased the smart one back inside. This was in the western suburbs of Chicago during the middle of the day, so I was pretty surprised. I shouldn’t have been. Coyotes had arrived in Chicagoland years ago, but I just had not seen any.

Anyway, Mr. Flores has written a nice summation of the conquest of America by the Grey Wolf’s smaller cousin, the coyote or Canis latrans. Even the Latin name for the coyote is subject to some dispute as Flores presents some solid evidence that both the Red Wolf and Mexican Wolf may be simply a hybrid variety of coyote. The genetics don’t lie. Further, he presents an excellent case that not only is the coyote not a jackal, but that it is older on the evolutionary (or phylogenetic) tree than the old world jackal.

I learned that “the Great Dog War” almost certainly encouraged coyotes to come closer to town and to make their way eastward across the country. (Short version is that 19th and early 20th century America had a great deal of semi wild dogs roaming around, and in the interest of controlling rabies and other reasons, the dogs were rounded up by dogcatchers. As the feral dogs were reduced, coyotes happily took their place.)

Here is Flores on p. 193: “One of the most common twentieth-century conceits in the Western world was that we humans, more urban by the decade and as a consequence seemingly divorced from the wild, were somehow ‘outside nature’, separate, by virtue of our specialness, from the natural world. Yet cities are ecosystems. They sustain what biologists call synanthropic species, or creatures that thrive in the ecosystems created by urban development. We are one of those obviously. Rodents are another. And so are coyotes.”

Lots of interesting tidbits and historical background. Very good. 4 stars
Profile Image for Clare O'Beara.
Author 21 books345 followers
September 28, 2016
This enjoyable and easily readable book looks at the coyote, from prehistory when it split with the grey wolf line and trotted across the Bering landbridge to form the jackal tribe, to modern times when, with wolves almost extinguished, it has free rein to reproduce in almost every American state.

I learnt a lot and have to admire the resilient dog which is the target of persecution by farmers and city dwellers alike. Coyotes prey on rodents and rabbits, keeping down pests, but are considered pests themselves. With native legends of the Trickster behind them and an uncertain future ahead, the coyote is a fascinating topic and reflection of change on the American continent.

I downloaded a copy from Net Galley for unbiased review.
Profile Image for Kathryn Kochunas.
72 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2016
I don't think any Native people were consulted while writing this. Too often Native beliefs and folklore as recorded by white men decades ago was leaned on heavily to construct the "mystic" heritage of the coyote. The colonial and late aspects of white man's relationship with the coyote was enjoyable and well researched, but every so often a ham-handed clunker would disrupt the rhythm. A lot of times Americans was used to mean white people in America. I think this book would have benefited from either a more limited scope respecting that he's not fluent enough to write on Native attitudes and historical experience with coyotes or a co-author who could offer a more nuanced inside view of Native experience.
Profile Image for Danielle W.
392 reviews37 followers
July 18, 2021
While there was some interesting information and references, I am fed up with the author's 1) completely false claim that how one pronounces "coyote" has to do with their political alignment and stance on coyotes and 2) the connected subtextual claim that people who pronounce "coyote" in two syllables are therefore less intelligent and anti-intellectual, that anyone who dislikes coyotes, especially sheep ranchers, are automatically unintelligent and cruel. Which is not a great way to make an argument if you want to see real change.
Profile Image for Lara.
4,154 reviews340 followers
July 10, 2018
I recently read American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West and loved it, so when I stumbled across this one I was hoping for something with just as much depth. This...didn't really have it.

I liked Flores's premise that coyotes and humans have a connection because we're so similar in so many ways; that the way they've managed to survive and thrive despite the all-out war waged against them can offer us hope in our own difficult times; that they're beneficial and inspirational and beautiful. But he's kind of all over the place--unfocused, clearly biased, and sometimes doing that thing that drives me crazy in nature writing: personifying what his subject must be thinking or feeling.

Still, there are definite moments that made me feel, and I certainly have my own coyote story, as I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house on Mount Helix in La Mesa, California as a child and they would leave food out for the coyotes, who would come right up on the porch and stare at me through the glass as I watched them in the dark (guys, DON'T FEED THE COYOTES).

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them because of that experience, but I feel like...I don't know. This book just isn't likely to win anyone over who doesn't already feel respect for coyotes because Flores so clearly has no respect for those folks. I found him...kind of a snobby jerk at times.

Definitely read American Wolf, but I feel like there may be better books about coyotes out there. Or if there aren't, there should be.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,408 reviews106 followers
December 20, 2018
Coyotes are amazing animals. I learned a lot from this book. Coyotes are also the perfect survivors. They will be here, long after we are gone.
Profile Image for David Rush.
346 reviews30 followers
June 27, 2018
Is the coyote howl beautiful or “blood curdling”, or nothing at all? How you answer that will likely determine what you think of this book, or even if you might read it.

Maybe it is the reverse of “familiarity breeds contempt” , but my unfamiliarity with wild predators makes them all the more fascinating. However stacked against a 100 year war of eradication against coyotes (and other species) my view seems pretty irrelevant.

Part of the book is obviously about the uniqueness of the coyote, and pointing out that many of the qualities people denigrate them for, when considered from a different perspective are shockingly the same behaviors and adaptability that allowed humans to succeed so well. In fact he begins by reminding us that many native American mythologies had coyote as a principle and complex character. BUT the other theme is how we view the natural world as opposed to our human world. And he tells the slow, slow story of awareness of non-humans as beings who at least deserve consideration.

(Aldo Leopold had argued)...a revolutionary principle in human affairs: a recognition that other species possess an innate right to exist. Pg. 161

Are coyotes, or any animal really, just “things” that can be moved like furniture, ignored or killed with no real need to consider anything other than our own personal whims?

BUT, it is actually more than that, because it goes beyond personal interest or need, since the drive to kill goes way beyond rational thought.

The science shows that putting bounties on coyotes does little to nothing to curb their population, but some states persist in paying bounties, as in Utah at $50 a head, so that in 2014 over 7,000 coyotes were killed. And by this time we know the coyote extermination project had been a decades long spectacular failure (as opposed to the work on killing wolves).

The determination and zeal of all kinds of people to kill, and kill, and kill coyotes is simply astounding. There have been millions of wolves and coyotes killed starting in the 19th century. And in our own times the government still spends millions of dollars to appease cattlemen, so much so that in 2013 four million wild critters were killed, with over ½ million coyotes killed between 2006 and 2011.

And beyond just plain human deadly cussedness, it can also be a political point, such as to fight the “specter of environmentalism” the political champion was Ronald Reagan. Reagan, who with an executive order right after taking office "...not only overturned Carter’s ban on killing coyote puppies in their dens but reversed Nixon’s landmark poison ban from ten years earlier." Pg. 170

You never hear about Reagan the puppy killer.

So, am I fool to think we should give thought to other creatures, consider they have a place in the world even if they are scary?

About some of the more renowned naturalists who straddled the old ways and new considerations...

“Concern for the coyote itself. Murie knew that once, in his Yellowstone research, his brother had stood rapt, watching a coyote trot along a trail with a sprig of sagebrush in its mouth. At repeated intervals it had tossed the sprig joyously into the air, caught it, then trotted on. Why had so many in the bureau,without any science to back them up, so hated an animal that took that kind of pleasure in being alive in the world?” Pg. 142

Of course I know there will be a big group of people who take the above as pointless sentimentalism.

I am sentimental, but I might also be right to think, like this author, that we all have a place in the world.

Final thoughts...yes a good book but I have to say it still left me a little wanting. Many years ago I read Barry Lopez's Of Wolf and Men and remember it affecting at a deeper level. So I may try to re-read it.
Profile Image for Richard Thompson.
1,967 reviews97 followers
February 6, 2022
The story of the coyote's history is quite interesting. The coyote's image among humans went from being a revered but flawed trickster god for native Americans to being seen as hated predatory vermin, deserving of extermination. But as we know, coyotes are survivors, expanding their range and spreading into urban areas where they seem to thrive. Where I live in Los Angeles, I see coyotes several times every year, sometimes in improbable places. From a distance they can be mistaken for dogs, but the black tail tip gives them away.

I already knew much of the story, but before reading this book, I had not understood the level at which coyotes have been brutally hunted down, with the slaughter continuing long after we came to understand the need to provide safe habitats for other more likeable wildlife. And I had not understood the mechanism by which they manage to regulate their breeding populations so as to replace the ones that are poisoned or shot and to maintain their numbers. I had also not known that Walt Disney was one of their great champions.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,394 reviews584 followers
June 24, 2016
This depth for the coyote is well worth the read. And I did know before reading this that how you pronounce it (the word coyote) may relate how you feel about their permanent fixture. This holds so much of the literal, myth, history, use as a avatar for this American animal- it gets the 3 stars.

But other than that, the verbose language, the heavily judgmental balance for observation, and other asides quite apart from the natural world analysis? It's overlong. Also, IMHO, this puts the survey into quite jaundiced eyes to the real physical evaluations of the present.

But the animal is mighty and the brain and physicality successful. I myself have seen a rout, band, pack (there are quite different words for this) of over 8 individuals, aside from the pups, move through the area behind my backyard about 3 am. Moving the pups a rout will do that, and the sound is LOUD. Unforgettable. I will never forget it, it sounded like something being devoured beyond 100 yips and snarls of high decibels.

Most of the time you will view singletons or duos. And these are often most seen at dusk and dawn. Every time I have seen one it has been right around sunset.

The author heralds the coyote, not only for its success, but on its supreme expansion. So I do think the book as a whole is rather one sided. In the past the coyote has been slaughtered in great numbers. Sometimes for real reasons.

And now their population has adapted to urban, urban. Watch your smaller dogs and all your cats. They take them in 30 seconds.

Profile Image for Jill.
550 reviews21 followers
May 31, 2019
Aka: how the white man needed to kill and control everything he didn’t understand. As per usual. But how the coyote was resilient as fuck anyway.

My only complaints: I wish he’d spent some more time on mythologies and native relationship to the coyote - like, what’s the coyote’s life like in Mexico? In Canada? And also: more explanation and details on their reproductive biology. He makes some statements about facts re litter size relative to local coyote population, but doesn’t explain how we know that or why it’s true, despite much of the rest of the book depending on the assertion.

Overall: fun read. Yay coyotes.
Profile Image for Blake Charlton.
Author 6 books441 followers
January 8, 2018
a big longer than it needed to be, but a wonderful examination of the phenomenon of the modern wild.
Profile Image for Ashes.
351 reviews42 followers
February 16, 2020
Coyote America will likely be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about the history of coyotes, and of American politics towards predators in general. 3.5*

Dan Flores goes through coyote evolution, taxonomic status, mythology, extermination, current politics and pop culture (he missed the music video inspired by the Light Rail Coyote, though.) He also writes about urban coyotes and coyote hybridization with wolves and dogs, and touches upon coyote behavior and ecology. Interestingly, coyote attacks are mentioned in passing only, as are coyote livestock depredations. It's clear where his sympathies lie, and of course, I don't blame him. I merely wish the other side of the issue was presented. Just as with wolves, the debate is never one-sided, as some authors would like us to believe.

Speaking of wolves, Flores writes about them quite a bit, which, I admit, at times interested me more than the main subject of the book. But it was nice to put some things into perspective, and to take time to understand and appreciate the wolf's smaller cousin.

I wanted to learn more about coyotes after reading The Daily Coyote, and I have, but not as much as I wanted. It did, however, make me interested in other books - several authors in particular, as I recognized some of their other works.

The Voice of the Coyote by J. Frank Dobie (author of The Mustangs), Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter by Barry Lopez (author of Of Wolves and Men and Arctic Dreams), and God's Dog by Hope Ryden (author of America's Last Wild Horses.) I was also surprised to learn that before he set his eyes on the wolves in Alaska, Adolph Murie (author of The Wolves of Mount McKinley) studied the coyotes in Yellowstone.

Other coyote books that could be of interest: Coyote Settles the South, Don Coyote, Coyote at the Kitchen Door, Coyote: Seeking the Hunter in Our Midst and The Way of Coyote (this is not a recommendation as I haven't read any of the above.)
April 19, 2022
Dès le début du livre, on comprend la place qu’occupent les coyotes dans l’imaginaire collectif des Amérindiens. Dans le deuxième chapitre on démontre l’évolution dans la compréhension de cette espèce, de ses débuts comme loup des prairies à celui que nous connaissons aujourd’hui Canis latrans. Les chapitres suivants sont consacrés à la dualité entre les coyotes et notre culture. Flores déconstruit les techniques et programmes gouvernementaux mis en place pour essayer éradiquer la population grandissante de coyote en Amérique. Ensuite, on brosse un portrait de la situation actuelle en répondant à diverse question; pourquoi sont-ils si près de nous dans les villes? Qu’avons-nous à apprendre d’eux et de la capacité extraordinaire qu’ils ont à s’adapter?

Dans un sens plus large, le livre de Flores s’installe parmi les ouvrages célèbres de Henry David Thoreau et Ralph Waldo Emerson dans le mouvement transcendantalisme. De plus on ressent la pensée de Flores est influencée par les mouvements de la Contre-culture et Beat generation. Plus précisément, parmi les livres qui traite du même sujet, on retient celui de l’écrivain et écologiste, Dayton O. Hyde, Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned American Original (1989). Celui-ci raconte l’histoire d’amitié peu probable entre un coyote et un éleveur de bétail. Hyde, livre un message semblable à celui de Flores, pour ces deux auteurs il est préférable de comprendre la faune et la nature pour travailler avec elle et non contre elle. Sans contredit, le forestier et écologiste Aldo Leopold à fortement influencé Flores à écrire plusieurs livres, cité à de nombreuses reprises dans Coyote America les deux auteurs ont compris le rôle essentiel que joue nos perceptions et notre culture sur notre relation avec l’environnement. « From at least 1940 Leopold had understood that to have an impact beyond their profession, at least a few wildlife scientists would need “to contribute to art and literature.” ». (Flores, 2016).
Le style d’écriture est fort intéressant, d’une part il convient à un public général. C’est un aspect fort important, tel que mentionné plus haut, pour exercer une influence dans notre société et faire évoluer notre pensée environnementale, il convient que le transfert de connaissance soit accessible au plus grand nombre de personnes possible.
Mission accomplie pour Flores, son livre est un New York Times bestseller. Coyote America est un travail colossal de recherche et de vulgarisation, l’auteur métrise très bien est sujet. Tout au long du récit, il y a des arguments pour nous amener à comprendre l’impact de nos actions au fil du temps. En essayant de les éradiquer avec des tournois de chasses ou avec des appâts piégés au cyanure, le résultat est le même. Les Coyotes s’adaptent à l’environnement que nous leur imposons.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,794 reviews36 followers
April 26, 2022
A fascinating book, full of info about both, the mythos and the biology of coyotes.

I picked this book mostly because I wanted to know more about the lore and legends involving coyotes, and I got that, sure, but I also got a lot more. The intricate way in which coyotes interact with humans, their amazing survival skills, their relationship with other canids... it's captivating and it gave me a new understanding of this smart creature.

Sadly, I can't say that I'm surprised about the lengths some people went to in hopes to erase this beautiful animal from Earth. As usual, those who took decisions are more concerned about paying back favours to friends than learning about what their job entails. And, as the book says,
(...) sport hunters don’t read peer-reviewed ecological articles.
It's ugly but not surprising, no.

Elijah Alexander's narration is very, very good.
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