Dr. Dan Flores was a guest of Weber State University on Aug. 21 as he regaled listeners with the history of coyote in the Garden Room of the Alumni Center. The lecture was organized by Mason Lytle and Amber Bell, both WSU students.
The coyote, he said, has a history strikingly similar to that of humans. Coyotes have a remarkable intelligence, and over five million years, have developed a nearly unparalleled level of adaptability. Over several decades focused on the destruction of bears, wolves and other predators deemed a threat to American life, the coyote has not only survived but thrived.
Social science major Bryson Wilson said, for him, the lecture was an opportunity to learn about a subject too infrequently explored at an academic level.
“The work done in the historical field as far as animal research and their overall impact with humans is very limited, and Dan Flores provides a unique insight that hasn’t been available beforehand,” said Wilson.
Flores’ latest book, “Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History,” explores the history of the coyote and why we should stop trying so hard to eradicate them.
Flores’ fascination with coyotes began as a child in Louisiana. He purchased a call in a hardware store for $3 meant to simulate the wailing of a dying rabbit. From the perches of a deer stand in the woods a couple miles from his home, he used the call in hopes of seeing a fox. What he saw, however, would serve as a lifetime of inspiration.
“As (this animal) is coming toward me it passes through an opening in the trees, a glade where the sun is shining. I distinctly remember seeing the sun rippling on the fur on its back, a kind of chestnut color, and I remember it had yellow eyes,” Flores said.
Flores was struck not only by the beauty, but the intelligence of the creature he was seeing. As it got within 30 feet of the Flores’ perch, its expression changed from one of inquisitiveness, to one of alarm. The animal immediately turned around and fled in the direction it had come, looking over its shoulder until it was out of sight.
When Flores was finally able to regain his composure and return home, he wrote a letter to Louisiana Parks and Wildlife saying, “I just saw a wolf in Louisiana.”
The reply he received told him that it was certainly possible he’d seen a red wolf, as they were still in Louisiana. It was more likely, however, that what he’d seen was a coyote. In Flores’ book, he argues that what he probably saw was a wolf/coyote hybrid.
His childhood experience, and an endless fascination with the world, is what drives Flores to continue writing.
“One of the things I love about writing, is it allows you to burrow deeply into a topic that you have some interest in. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you think about something until you sit down write about it. The act of writing forces you to be rational, to mine your inner depths and is a mechanism for understanding the world itself and how you relate to it,” Flores said.
As part of his continued work to educate people on the breadth of the natural world, Flores acts as an ambassador for Project Coyote. According to theeewdfgn mir website, Project Coyote is a non-profit organization based in Northern California and founded by Camilla Fox, whose mission is to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy.
Flores has worked with Fox to promote her films about the mistreatment of coyotes, and spreading the awareness of what Flores calls “brutal and senseless” coyote hunting contests. Flores hopes that after getting California and Vermont to ban these contests, New Mexico will be next. Following that, Project Coyote will set its sights on Nevada.
“This animal has been howling the original national anthem of North America for a million years,” said Flores. “Long may that song reign.”