We have a pair of coyotes that include the castle grounds in their territory. Coyotes here are small, about 30 pounds, and eat anything they can find. The coyotes at the castle specialize in looking harmless. They beg food from the people eating in the picnic area and they look so cute and harmless – just like the pet dog at home – that people “ooooo” and “awww” and give them food. We have a sign out in that same area that says “Don’t feed the animals” but people routinely ignore it. One of the coyotes pretended to have a limp so that people would feel sorry for it and feed it more.
As Rangers, we have to enforce the park policy. Animals that routinely approach people are relocated. If an animal attacks a person the animal is killed, even if the person was acting unwisely or is at fault for the attack. Coyotes are still wild animals and have been known to bite people and kill small dogs in the park. The pair of coyotes in our picnic area have been relocated twice already, and after a third relocation they are considered dangerous and may be shot. So the rangers throw rocks at the coyotes with the intention of giving them a fear of people so they will stay away. The visitors think we are heartless, but we are trying to save the lives of our coyotes.
After a month of getting rocks thrown at them, the coyotes stay on the edge of the picnic area until all the people leave and then scavenge the picnic area for any leftover food or crumbs. Again, as rangers, we patrol the picnic area and pick up trash and leftovers so that the coyotes won’t find anything at the end of the day. Hopefully this will help to keep them wild – and alive.
We also have a pair of ravens that hang out around the castle. They must have a nest nearby but I have never seen them roosting. The ravens are even smarter than the coyotes. They can open zippers and routinely open bags on motorcycles. They especially like to steal leather items and food. We watched a raven fly away with a motorcyclist’s glove the other day.
The ravens also like convertibles with the tops down and open jeeps. If they can fly in a window and peck at a car seat, the activity is very entertaining to them. One of our visitors found the leather upholstery in his convertible picked apart, stitch by stitch, and the stuffing pulled out by the time he got done with his tour. When a different guest returned to his convertible, the raven had opened the glove box, taken the food in it, and was reading through the owner’s manual. Tom and I make sure all the storage boxes on the truck are locked in case the ravens figure out how to open the latches.
The coyotes and ravens in the park have learned how to take advantage of their opportunities. Their skill and cunning makes me think, sometimes, that they are much smarter than we are.