Sonoran Desert Experience…thru “lens & pen!”
Hi … I’m Cyndy Warnier, the Program & Development Director here at Spirit in the Desert. I am the shutter-bug of the photos you see on our website. I am also a lover of the desert, and along with my husband, Al who also works here and is an arborist, study the desert through my lens as well as through forums to learn about its unique flora and fauna. So, from my “lens & pen”–welcome to a “Sonoran Desert Experience!” Each month I will post an article, with pictures-of course, about life in this beautiful and diverse desert. Birds, mammals, reptiles…even an arachnid or two, plus a variety of plants whose botany is specific to Arizona’s portion of the Sonoran Desert–and all whose existence are endangered. And just so you know…our bookstore features many of my photos in a variety of matted sizes, as well as on 5×7 photo cards, complete with all occasion sayings. You can always “take away a bit of the desert” in my pictures to remind you of your stay at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center.
Wily Coyote … Just call him Mr. Smart! —canis latrans—if you were asked “what is the smartest or most intelligent animal in the Sonoran Desert?” what would you say? For many, it probably wouldn’t be the Coyote–but it should be! In fact, this fellow is considered to have one of the highest intelligent quotients in the animal kingdom! Let’s take a quick look at this “cousin” of the wolf that has become so iconic with the desert. There is a lot we can learn from how they live and interact with each other!
The following sentence can’t be overstated enough: You would be hard-pressed to find a more intelligent, often-conniving, and most certainly culturally surviving critter outside of the Coyote. Besides the normal struggle for food and shelter, a coyote’s daily life is constantly fraught with territorial challenges, quarrels over dominance–which includes human efforts of erradication, environmental threats, disease, and hunter peril. Their survival is constantly challenged, but in spite of all the threats, they have flourished. Why? Let’s highlight the answers because they represent something we humans can aspire to and learn from:
- Coyotes learn quickly
- They constantly build up their memory
- They mature quickly and become masters of survival
- The elders practice the “teach your children well” theory
Because the coyote is so intelligent, it has a longer learning and maturity curve. Coyotes have a relatively complex social life which is a major part of their ability to adapt. They are considered one of the most adaptable animals in the world! The coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats. Imagine if we would work better at living in community, sharing what we have in knowledge–our time, talents and treasures. We could truly make the world a better place! So–unlike the cartoon where the coyote loses over and over again to the feisty road runner, we find this intelligent animal has a very important place in our Sonoran Desert (and beyond)–and gives a great example to us in learning to adapt and survive in this ever-changing world.
Fun fact: why, like the wolf, do coyotes sing? Some think it’s because they just got a “kill” and ranchers used to think yipping and howling was used as a warning, but it is neither of these. Coyotes sing because they communicate and their songs are unique to each pack as they share their stories!
To the Navajo, the Coyote is both helpful yet a trickster! They say, “It will avail nothing to be angry with Coyote, wrathy words and loud commands will not influence him.” Ah…the Wily Coyote–don’t underestimate them, they are just too ‘wily!’ … beep beep!