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Howl!

Varmints are wild in the streets of Park Hill.

It is at this point, and this exact point, that I would like to channel the Ghost of Bill Owens Past and boldly proclaim, "All of Colorado is on fire." Of course, by "Colorado," I mean "Park Hill," the neighborhood that belched me out of her fecund loins, and by "on fire," I mean "has recently experienced coyote sightings."

That's right: coyotesin Park Hill.

And no, I don't mean Mexican human-traffickers bringing in women to clean our houses.

Loyal readers will recall how my parents, who still live in Park Hill, have a goose. Her name is Penelope. Having a goose requires a certain level of care, including, but not limited to, feeding Penelope, giving her water, trying your hardest not to honk at her until she feverishly honks back ad infinitum and all of a sudden the whole neighborhood is outside trying to determine the source of the racket -- and always, always, always, making sure that Penelope is locked up safely in her cage before dusk. Because predators are most active at dawn and dusk, and nothing entices a fox like a fat, human-raised goose who never learned how to fly. There have been numerous incidents; once I had to leap out of a window and scare off a fox that had Penelope by the throat.

The other day, my mother heard Penelope's distress call and ran to the window, no doubt expecting to see me antagonizing her with honks. Honktagonizing. But I wasn't the culprit. Standing in the street not twenty feet from our yard was a coyote. My uncle, who was visiting, ran outside to scare him away. The coyote shrugged him off, then slowly ambled along.

Now, we've spotted plenty of foxes in the area, as well as filthy raccoons that scrambled down the sewer. We've even seen a Cooper's Hawk form a bizarre relationship with Penelope that none of us really understands. But a coyote! This was something new.

Reports of other coyote sightings soon spread. A friend told us they'd seen a coyote around 16th and Grape. A colleague related how she'd been sitting at dinner with her children when an ambulance roared by, sirens wailing, and then they suddenly heard howling. They sprang to the window and saw a coyote -- braying in that classic silhouette -- on the 17th Avenue Parkway. A friend of hers had seen a coyote, too. I phoned that woman, and she told me that when she walks her dogs -- big dogs, a Great Dane and an Australian shepherd -- before sunrise, she'll frequently come across a coyote slinking toward her. It's an eerie pre-dawn sight, particularly since the coyote is so brazen it will come within a few feet of her pups, almost as if it wants to get to know them.

So what gives? What's with the sudden spate of coyotes in Park Hill -- a park-filled neighborhood, sure, but a very urban, very central-Denver burg? Is it the blizzard? Construction in nearby City Park uprooting them from their dens?

"I'm not sure why Park Hill," says Jennifer Churchill, public information officer for the northeast region of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "But this is the breeding season, so coyotes are a lot more active."

Coyotes typically give birth from January to March -- and so the males are out at this time foraging for food to bring back to the den. Goddamn lazy females. Fortunately, coyotes will eat almost anything. Churchill directs me to an old Yellowstone study in which they examined the contents of a coyote's stomach and found, among other things, a canvas leather glove, eight inches of rope and a live human baby! Okay, not the baby.

"Coyotes can pretty much live anywhere, and they're opportunistic; they'll find a meal wherever they can," Churchill says. "Unfortunately, neighborhood cats are pretty easy meals."

So what should we, the concerned citizens of Park Hill, do? Pool our resources and purchase a bunch of ACME products and roadrunners?

"With outdoor pets, it's kind of difficult," she says. "You should keep an eye on what's going on in your back yard. If a coyote stares you down or hangs around, that is behavior the DOW wants to hear about. But they should scare off if they find it's an area that's inhospitable. Air horns would scare them off."

Air horns! Now we're talking! That's almost as cool as roadrunners and dynamite. Awesome!

You heard it here first, Park Hill. Get yourself some air horns, and when you see a coyote, blast those fuckers loud and hard into the deepening Park Hill dusk.

Nestled safely in her cage, Penelope will no doubt chime in.

 
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