Killer Coyote gets Creamed in Canyon
November 2005

Our friend *&^%$#@. has lost several cats to coyotes in the canyons of Pt. Loma. This is unacceptable since his cats did not come in a bag of Purina Coyote Chow or as a prize in Coyote Cracker Jacks. The story is below the photos. It is, you should pardon the expression, a "killer" story! 

(As usual, click on the little picture to see the big picture.)

Names, faces, beards and hats have been changed to protect our friend, who we believe is innocent, but we're not taking any chances.

The yellow arrow indicates the entry point.

(To any law enforcement types who may be reading this, it is a work of fiction. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.)

This yellow arrow indicates the pellet which dispatched the coyote to a better, more hospitable place.

The famed Sumatra, gun choice of coyote hunters, everywhere.
(Well, maybe not everywhere, but certainly in San Diego.)

Sumatra vs. Coyote,
How I became an Urban Guerrilla Coyote Killer

Actually, what got me back into shooting after many years away from  the sport was the appearance of coyotes in my local SoCal  neighborhood, where they had not been seen for at least 60 years. I  live on a small pocket box canyon, about 300 yards long, 150 yd.s  wide, and around 100’ deep. Yep, that makes for some steep slopes,  more like cliffs covered with  the chaparral that grows all over  coastal Ca. This chaparral has never burned, either. Surrounded by  houses on all sides.  There’s houses on all three ‘rim’s’ of the  canyon, as well as at the mouth  down below. We had a nice little  mini-’ecosystem’ in there, with possums, raccoons, tiny little foxes,  all feeding on the mice and rats that live down there. No ground  squirrel, no rabbits. It was a great place for the neighbor’s and my  cats to play, too, and they helped to control the rodents as well.

    Then the coyotes arrived.  Nobody knows for sure why, but it’s  thought that they came down the river channel and worked their way  into the suburban streets, finding the numerous small pockets of open  space like my canyon, which they used as a place to den. The possums  and foxes disappeared quickly, followed by many cats and the  raccoons. Although coyotes are supposed to eat rodents, these ones  did not seem interested in such small fry as long as bigger, easier  pickings like people’s pets and their food  was available. 3 of the  semi-feral cats I was feeding disappeared. Small dogs and puppies  disappeared from 6’ fenced backyards. For the sake of all these  little critters, plus my cats and my neighbors' pets, I decided that  the coyotes had to die!

    So a friend of mine gave me his Diana 24 in .177, a sweet little gun,  but it became obvious that  I was gonna need more than that in order  to reach out and ‘touch’ these ‘yotes with enough force to properly  administer some real “negative reinforcement stimulus” ( this term  was related to me by a local F&G official, who recommended shouting,  hand-clapping, pot banging, throwing rocks, and finally, a “BB  gun!” ). I then ordered an RWS model 40 in .22, with leapers 3-9X40  scope. I was able to hit a target jug I hung about 80 yd.s out with  the 40, 8 out of 10 times with some practice, so I felt a bit more  ready.

    Then came a night when the ‘yotes were running in force in the  canyon, and I got my girlfriend to light them up with my million  power flashlight while I aimed at the glow of their eyes. The range  was a bit beyond the 80 yd.s I was used to, and the elevation was  higher, so the result was  2 misses before they ran off.

    That’s what clued me in to the need for the Sumatra.  The multishot  magazine would enable me to get off several shots at the varmints.  What I didn't realize was the increase in accuracy and range it would  bring. I got another Leapers’ scope for it, a 4-16X50, with IR. Of  course, since I am shooting in a neighborhood setting, care about  safety and noise had to be taken, so I established a set of ‘safe  target zones’ where I could fire at the yote’s without anyone’s house  being in the line or liable to get a ricochet.  Also, being an  environmentally responsible chap, I went to considerable lengths to  control all of that nasty lead dust that those of you who have fired  a Sumatra know they tend to make. With some practice, I was able to  hit a ‘yote head-sized target 110 yd.s up the canyon 5 out of 6 times  from a rest, shooting Kodiaks, with or without wind.

    About then, when I was ready for ‘em, the county trapper stepped in,  due to pressure from the local politicos, and took out about 15 in a  6 week period. Everyone was a bit blown away about how many he got,  including me, but he told me he didn't think he had gotten them all.  I thought he was being overcautious, but I kept my eyes and ears  peeled , and sure enough, about 2 months later, I found unmistakable  signs of yote in the canyon.  I stepped up my security regimen with  my 3 remaining ‘regular’ cats, keeping them indoors most of the time.  They began to hate me.

    One morning, as I was getting dressed for work, I looked out the  window to scan the canyon below, as has become my habit, when, “holy  crap!” there was  a 'yote in broad daylight with a neighbor’s cat  pinned up against the fence down below.  Although the ‘yote dwarfed the  cat in size, I was surprised to see that it didn't want to just rush  right in and grab the cat from the front. Instead, it was trying to  get the cat to chase it up the canyon, or get behind it any way it  could. But the cat was not buying it. it stayed put, not daring to  turn and try to run for it, as if it knew it could never reach safety  in time. I grabbed up my trusty Sumatra and jumped into the fray........

2 B continued........

    In my previous post, I left off at the point where I was hurrying to  the aid of a neighbors’ cat, under siege by the coyote who had taken  shelter in our neighborhood pocket canyon. I ran out onto my balcony,  and tried with some difficulty to sight in on the ‘yote, who was  bouncing back and forth in an effort to get the cat to turn away from  it, presumably so it could grab the cat from behind by the neck and  avoid any scratch injuries to its eyes/nose while killing it. I’m a  fair shot from a rest.... as I mentioned earlier, but here, due to  the downward angle I had to shoot at, I was forced to shoot offhand.  So between the bouncing varmint and my less than perfect offhand  technique, I missed 2 shots. The ‘yote did not hear the Sumatra  fire,  but it did hear the sound of the Kodiaks’ thwocking into the  dirt , and it distracted it for a few seconds, but then it turned  its’ attention back to the kitty. In hindsight it is easy to see what  I should have done, which would have been to adjust my aim and keep  shooting.

    But another concern of mine was regarding the fact that there I was,  standing  up out in the open, like Davy Crockett at the Alamo,  wielding a large scoped rifle. Somebody in the neighborhood could  easily get the wrong idea.  Instead of continuing to fire, I put down  the Sumatra,  picked up a piece of brick, yelled at the ‘yote and  heaved it in the varmints’ general direction, getting it’s attention,  and causing it to dive into a nearby thicket. With the adrenaline now  flowing freely, I ran out the front door and lurched down the  ice plant into the canyon ,narrowly missing the patch of Cholla  growing in its midst. When I got down there, the cat was nowhere to  be seen, but I was able to flush the ‘yote out of the thicket and up  the canyon with a barrage of rocks and unkind words.

    Afterwards, not knowing for sure whether or not I had saved the cat,  I went down to the cul de sac and knocked on the door where I had  grown accustomed to seeing the cat waiting on their windowsill every  morning. As I was relating the news to them, the cat was seen on the  front lawn of the house whose back fence it had been pinned up  against. The owners’ son walked across the street, calling to it. It  didn't move. Crap, I thought. It’s dead. When the owner got within 6  feet of it, the cat suddenly raised its head. It had been sleeping!
I wondered at the time what that cat’s chances of living another week  were. The cat’s owners were grateful for my intervention on their  behalf, so that made me feel like all was not totally in vain. As it  turned out, that cat is still alive, as of this writing.

    Another development that came out of that incident was a gift to me  from a friend, of a tripod, with a nice padded ‘v’ mount, which I  placed out on the balcony, just in case.

    Ten more days elapsed before my next ‘yote sighting, when I thought I  saw something moving on the  far side of the canyon, above those same  houses in the cul de sac below. I took off my glasses to check thru  my binocs( like they say in Hunter Safety, NEVER use your rifle scope  to scan the distance),  and yes it was the ‘yote again. I always have  the Sumatra at the ready, so I was able to pick it up and get the  barrel at rest and sight in on the area, only to have trouble seeing  clearly thru my scope, which had been in perfect adjustment for that  distance. I suddenly realized that I needed to put my glasses back  on, and almost as suddenly realized that I was sitting on them.  Another opportunity lost. I began to succumb to the lure of ‘”magical thinking”, like maybe  this ‘yote has some Castaneda-like mojo going for it. It was  preferable to the truth at that point.

    I got the glasses fixed, but in the meantime I reverted to wearing my  contacts, which actually correct out to much better vision at  distance than the glasses, which are an old Rx. A few days later,  while wearing the contacts, the ‘yote again showed up on that same  canyon terrace, and this time I was able to get off another couple  shots, one of which made it really jump. Good solid negative  reinforcement, I figured.  That night I spotted it moving slower than  usual. I thought I might have injured it, but once again it vanished  into the dark.

    I wasn’t really feeling guilty about the ‘yote possibly suffering,  since after all, it or one of its’ comrades had accounted for the  disappearance of three cats I liked, and some local dogs as well. At  any rate, 4 days later, in the early AM light, it was apparent that I  had not done that much damage when I saw the ‘yote come bounding out  of the lower corner of the canyon and lope over to where the Cat  Incident had occurred, and start gnawing on something that was there  on the ground. You can guess what I figured that ‘something’ was.

    Once again, the Sumatra was loaded, although the charge gauge showed  the needle to be just in the green, or ‘good’ range, about one mark  above the yellow, or ‘questionable ‘ zone. So as I went out onto the  balcony, I  cocked the lever, and thumbed the power wheel all the way  over to high, hoping for enough pressure to send the Kodiak the 65  yards or so with enough sting to get the ‘yotes attention. This time,  I had the benefit of the tripod, set up and waiting. I  placed the  Sumatra in the V, sighted in on the ‘yote, (at about 10X),  Aimed 2  mildots low to compensate for the downward angle, and squeezed off a  shot. The pellet gave off a little bit of a sizzle, which I take to  mean that it was going  pretty fast.

    The ‘yote  didn’t yelp, or jump, or do much of anything at all.  Instead, it dropped, like a sack of wet cement. Halfway into cocking  again, I stopped too, in disbelief. Through the scope I had seen  it  fall, twitch just once, and stop. That was it.  And just like the  A.M. of the Cat  Incident, I was in my office clothes, but being Friday, it was  ‘Dockers day, so all I had to do is take off my office shirt, throw  on a t-shirt, and then go down there, hoping that as usual nobody  would take notice. I approached the ‘yote from behind, mindful of  stories about animals that were just knocked out, only to revive and  bound away. In doing so, I followed along the path of the trail that   the ‘yote had worn, one that I had not checked out closely before,  since it ran right behind several homes, and I felt like I would be  intruding, even though it was outside their fences. As I approached  the ‘yote on the trail, I noticed several droppings, all of which  were full of fur. Any tendrils of remorse that were forming in my  mind immediately retreated as I recognized the source of that fur.

    Upon reaching it, I observed the eyes to be open, the pupils fully  dilated, and no movement of the chest or abdomen, as in breathing .  It was dead. It was a she, just about ready  to get impregnated and  bear her first litter. My Kodiak had entered her skull just below and  forward to the left ear right where ‘I aimed, a perfect brain shot.  Apparently the Sumatra at half-charge had more than enough zip.

    One of my cats weighs over 20 lb.s, and the ‘yote felt about twice  his weight, so I figured she was somewhere in the 35 lb. range. I  lugged her up the canyon wall, (no easy feat), and ran down to the  store to get 60 lb.s of ice, to keep her cool until the evening. I  had to get to work!

    That evening , my friend drove us up to our taxidermist friend’s  house, where he skinned her out for me. He also boiled out the skull,  and the nice round Kodiak hole is very evident.

    Cause of death; acute lead poisoning!  On the other side there is  also an exit hole. When he boiled out the skull, he found the  pellet.... it had exited the skull after passing thru the brain, but  lodged in the jaw muscle on the other side. Another interesting find  was a nice round hole in her right ear, that had begun to heal over.  Apparently my shot from a few days before had pierced her ear. Very  stylish. The pelt ought to be coming back from the tanner in a few weeks.

    I learned a lot from this coyote. I guess I have them to thank, in a  way, for getting me back into shooting, which I did a lot of in my  younger days.  I probably would not have gotten interested in air guns  at all if it was not for this suburban ‘yote infestation. I’m hooked  now.

    For now, the canyon is back to normal. This time the coyote was a  loner, and within hours of her death, I saw cats going right up to  the ledge she was living on, sniffing around. Whether they are smart  or stupid, I don’t know, but I suspect I’ll find out in a month or  so, when the next ‘yote comes around. I’ll be waiting.

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