Tuesday 21 January 2014

Words, comments and name calling

Words are strange things, 
 the power they hold is immense.
This blog is mostly about this power,
the associations we form and
a reaction to a Facebook comment.

The associations we make with words, are directly linked to what our parents teach us. 
Calling a penis a penis is embarrassing,
talking about sex and other “difficult topics”
 is just easier when a penis
becomes a …willy.

Words shape how we think about certain topics.
Language is powerful, and easily creates a mental picture,
 results in a negative/positive attitude towards a certain subject. 
Racism is full of examples where,
 the use of specific words,
 are used to create a negative image of the person or race involved.

 Associations with certain words soon evolve into “beliefs".
If we say something often enough,
we actually start believing what we say.

Now, onto the power of words in relation to predators
and our tenacious attitude towards them.

Does our attitude towards predators simply depend on the  way we talk about
or describe them?

Think of the word “coyote”,
 for most people when you say the word "coyote",
most  think immediately of the smaller, wild canine.
 Add in the word “marauding” or “killer”,
then the mental image that is created..
becomes heavily associated with negativity,
 a feeling of slight fear and apprehension enters our thoughts.

This form of describing animals is often,
 the initial introduction we have as kids,
 to many predators;
“the big bad wolf” the “man eating Tigers”, “marauding coyotes”
all imply evil,
something to be feared and a direct danger to ourselves.
 The media world lives off the use of these emotive evoking words.

If the only way we ever hear a coyote being described is as being
evil, killer, varmint etc,
then soon,
 this becomes the mental image we create about  the animal.
 The feelings created by the association of these words,
 soon becomes our belief pattern...
irregardless of the fact,
 that we may never have met a people killing coyote before.

Although I was raised with willy's, rather than penises,
 I was always told that a wolf is a wolf,
a jackal is a jackal,
 a lion, is a lion.
Simple and  neutral.
Never vilified.
I cannot remember my parents ever using negative words to describe any wildlife.

 I believe this attitude and neutrality has shaped me, and that way I see animals.
I never had fear ingrained in me;
I did not grow up believing that all wolves were bad,
and that all coyotes are marauders.

 I wonder,
if this is why so many people have an irrational fear towards predators
simply because of the language used to describe them?

Did, Little Miss Red Ridinghood,
really cause so much damage,
 that we have an irrational hatred towards wolves because of this fairy tale?

I believe,
 if we want to strive for co-existence,
then attitudes needs to change,
we can only change attitudes,
 if we can change the way we think about and describe things.

If we can leave out words such as killer coyotes, and marauding packs,
perhaps the first step can be made towards co-existence! 

So, this leads me to a recent post on Facebook,
this comment,
 instigated, this blog post. 

I did edit this post, I took out  names and corrected some spelling:

They (coyotes) are increasing in numbers here in TX and they are attacking and killing people in the Houston suburbs, who venture outside to save their little dogs or cats who come under attack. Feeding coyotes is the worst possible suggestion. They already have no fear, are experienced killers and when fed or when they find a reliable source of food their numbers explode. For the first time ever in 35 plus years of owning livestock they found my dog food bins on the feed shed and ripped them apart. The female who kept tearing into my feed room now has a pack of 15 to 20 marauders constantly crossing the part of my property that is un-fenced and without a LGD. I now walk out my door with a pistol or a shotgun after several recent deaths just south of here that was the result of coyote attacks on elderly people or small children playing. I have invested in spring loaded coyote proof barrels with lock down lids for my feed. Now they come in daylight hours within several feet of my door. Fencing the rest of my property so that my Akbash can protect our entire place is a greater priority than ever before my 88yr old father in law meets with some tragedy. I've had just about all the coyote sympathy I can stand.......

I read such posts with a sense of amazement..
(and this post is fairly mild in comparison to others I have read)
the descriptive adjectives, the blatant untruths and the ingrained fear/hatred
towards coyotes just astounds me.

 I did a few internet searches, looked up some stats to try and verify the allegations in this comment.
I did numerous  searches for "coyotes killing people in the Houston suburbs", "deaths by coyotes",  etc
 I did not find one case in Houston.
 I then looked up for all Texas..
and then USA..
and could also not find evidence that coyotes were "killing people" in the numbers suggested by this poster.

  If a coyote kills a person it makes headline news, no matter where they are.
Any wildlife, killing a person makes the evening news.

What I did find was;
only two fatal coyote attacks have been recently documented by experts:
 In August, 1981, a coyote attacked a 3 year old child in California and in October 2009, a 19-year-old Canadian women was killed by two coyotes.
There have been more documented cases of coyote bites and attacks,
 and also a few in Texas, in the last few years
this statement made by the poster:
They are increasing in numbers here in TX and they are attacking and killing people in the Houston suburbsand,
after several recent deaths just south of here that was the result of coyote attacks on elderly people or small children playing
is simply not true.

I am not ignorant to the fact that coyotes kill livestock,
nor that they can serious injure a child.
I am not blind to the damage they can cause.
I am aware of the "nature of the beast".
 You have to respect the wildness of a wild animal,
but surely,
 rationality and common sense must also prevail?

What oozes from this statement is the irrational fear,
the negativity in the description and of course the loathing of  the coyote.
I wonder if the poster ever had "sympathy" for a coyote?
When I see a coyote, I view it as a mouse catcher extraordinaire,
I see an animal that is smart, intelligent and doing what it was meant to do.
I do not have "sympathy" for this animal,
it does not need sympathy.
It is simply a hunter.

Not all coyotes are “experienced killers”.
Killing is a learned behavior; the pups need to learn how to kill sheep.
Unprotected livestock creates a “learning opportunity”.
 It is very difficult to teach a coyote to stop killing your livestock once it has learned how to do so,
it is not that they are evil, or demonic,
it is simply, a coyote being a coyote.

 Preventing them from learning this behavior in the first place,
 is a very important part of the process of keeping your stock safe.

I do agree with the poster that feeding wildlife is a very bad idea and should be avoided; improving fencing to allow the dog (s) to patrol more,
 is an excellent step to take to prevent conflicts between coyotes and stock.

I would like to hear what people do to promote co-existence,
however making unfounded, irrational and fear based statements adds nothing to the conversation.

Mouse killing cats?
Now, that is another story..


  1. enjoyed your blog article very much. It certainly made a lot of sense. We have a few cattle and see coyotes often but never a bother for us.

  2. I enjoy your blog. Coyotes should not be villified or idolized. They are neither villians or heros. Just hunters. They have eaten a sheep or two of mine, but I try not to demonize them.

  3. I didn't think there could be "several recent deaths" in Houston. If one death occurred they would eliminate or relocate all coyotes in the area (yeah, I know, it couldn't be done even if it needed to) just like they do with bears, or mountain lions that go into suburbs. People would not be hiding in fear in their houses, peaking through their windows to see if there was a coyote in their front yard. If that person really has that much of a coyote problem then one Anatolian isn't gong to do it for him and he better put spiked collars on them.
    Also, wasn't the death in Canada in the east actually from a bush wolf (only found in the east)which is a hybrid of a coyote and a wolf?
    We need to look at these predators for what they are actually doing, not with myths and fears.


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