Sedona was a different place 13-14 years ago, and undoubtedly much more so when its first residents started building homes and planting gardens. Shortly after we moved here 1 August 1988, we were greeted by the sights and sounds of a red fox chasing and killing quail. A ground-level bird bath became a favorite stopping place for quail families. We have counted as many as 14-16 young quail perched on the bath drinking. In many instances, they could not have been more than a day or two old. We have watched and video taped deer eating apples right from the tree branches in our front yard.
My newly-planted tulip bed disappeared one night when javalina dug up and ate the bulbs. One morning we were greeted by what looked like open graves under our trees. The javalina had been determined not to miss any of those bulbs.
While on a morning walk, I observed a doe allowing her fawn to nurse as she warily kept an eye on me. Another day, a friend and I noted mountain lion tracks in loose, fine dirt near a house under construction.
There was a time my husband glimpsed a mountain lion coming down the hill behind our house. Bruce didn't stay around to observe the lion's destination! One hot summer afternoon, we watched a wild cat resting in the shade near our house, in the midst of flowers and ground cover. He napped there for several hours. Check out his picture at Wildlife Photos, taken of him through a window glass of our TV room.
Gardening in Sedona has always been an adventure with spiders around. I have dodged tarantulas in my flower pots, and Bruce has narrowly evaded black widows when he's moved vegetation, tools, etc. We have had both in our home, along with small lizards and centipedes. But, when we lived in Hawaii, we encountered cane spiders that were bigger than most tarantulas. The latter are not dangerous--just ugly. On numerous occasions during the night we have heard raucous sounds on our deck next to our bedroom windows. Perhaps, it was javalina groups or larger animals exploring or scavaging for food? The sounds of coyotes calling to their mates (or the neighbors' dogs) have disturbed our sleep on many occasions. In the past, it was not uncommon to learn of someone's pet cat or dog disappearing. Actually, we didn't think it that surprising.
The following is borrowed from Mark Twain's Roughing It. It is a story about coyotes that many of us can identify with!!!
Mark Twain's Description of A Coyote
From--Roughing It, 1872
Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquainted with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence.
The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolf skin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck, and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it. And he is so homely!--so scrawny, and ribby, and coarse-haired, and pitiful.
When he sees you he lifts his lip and lets a flash of his teeth out, and then turns a little out of the course he was pursuing, depresses his head a bit, and strikes a long, soft-footed trot through the sagebrush, glancing over his shoulder at you, from time to time, till he is about out of easy pistol range, and then he stops and takes a deliberate survey of you; he will trot fifty yards and stop again--another fifty and stop again; and finally the gray of his gliding body blends with the gray of the sagebrush, and he disappears. All this is when you make no demonstration against him; but if you do, he develops a livelier interest in his journey, and instantly electrifies his heels and puts such a deal of real estate between himself and your weapon that by the time you have raised the hammer you see that you need a Minie rifle, and by the time you have got him in line you need a rifled cannon, and by the time you have "drawn a bead" on him you see well enough that nothing but an unusually long-winded streak of lightning could reach him where he is now.
But if you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it ever so much--especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something about speed. The coyote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind him, and marking his long wake across the level plain!
And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind the coyote, and to save the soul of him he cannot understand why it is that he cannot get perceptibly closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him madder and madder to see how gently the coyote glides along and never pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more incensed to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire stranger, and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot is; and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the coyote actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away from him- and then that town dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach for the coyote with concentrated and desperate energy. This "spurt" finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild new hope is lighting up his face, the coyote turns and smiles blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it which seems to say: "Well, I shall have to tear myself away from you, bub--business is business, and it will not do for me to be fooling along this way all day"--and forthwith there is a rushing sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude!
It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs the nearest sand mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his head reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs along back to his train, and takes up a humble position under the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever there is a great hue and cry after a coyote, that dog will merely glance in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself, "I believe I do not wish any of that pie."
The coyote lives chiefly in the most desolate and forbidding deserts, along with the lizard, the jackass rabbit, and the raven, and gets an uncertain and precarious living, and earns it. He seems to subsist almost wholly on the carcassses of oxen, mules, and horses that have dropped out of emigrant trains and died, and upon windfalls of carrion, and occasional legacies of offal bequeathed to him by white men who have been opulent enough to have something better to butcher than condemned Army bacon. He does not mind going a hundred miles to breakfast, and a hundred and fifty to dinner, because he is sure to have three or four days between meals, and he can just as well be traveling and looking at the scenery as lying around doing nothing and adding to the burdens of his parents.
We soon learned to recognize the sharp, vicious bark of the coyote as it came across the murky plain at night to disturb our dreams among the mail sacks; and remembering his forlorn aspect and his hard fortune, made shift to wish him the blessed novelty of a long day's good luck and a limitless larder the morrow.
Thank you, Mark Twain.
DesertUSA It has the best stuff. The photos of scenery, animals, and creepy critters are superb. I never tire of the content there.
Arizona Highways Always full of great material. Shirley & Paul Berquist's December 1999 "Animal Portfolio" is awesome!!