It’s eat or be eaten – in your backyard!

coyote (DIFW photo)Dozens of snapping turtle eggs litter the roadside in front of our house, dug up and eaten by foxes. A few years ago a neighbor called, hysterical after a Fisher cornered her cat in their basement. An eagle sometimes sits in our pine tree, eyeing the birds in our feeders, eagerly anticipating a meal.

The single Loon chick on our lake disappeared quickly last month, most likely consumed by a snapping turtle. In Florida, I once saw a largemouth bass jump two feet out of the water to grab a songbird sitting on a water plant. Perhaps you know that deer are eaten alive by coyotes.

Yes, it’s eat or be eaten out there. I used to enjoy arguing with Baxter Park manager Buzz Caverly, who liked to talk about “nature at peace.” Believe me, it is not peaceful out there in the animal kingdom!

The other night Linda and I saw a story on the news about a coyote who had attacked a young boy. Coyotes have moved into the cities, including New York City and Boston, and are getting way to aggressive to suit the residents there. They are smart animals and have learned that they don’t need to fear those residents.

A friend emailed me a link recently about coyote attacks all over the country. In California, a warning was issued after four attacks on children in the past month in the Irvine area. The most recent was on a two-year-old child. One of his parents opened up the garage and a coyote barged in and grabbed the kid by the neck and cheek. The kid is ok, as are the other children in these recent attacks, but trappers were called in and captured five coyotes, one of whom was – through a DNA test – confirmed to be the animal that attacked one of the kids.

If a coyote approaches, California wildlife experts advised people to make noise, pick up small children and pets, and not turn their back to the animal. Yes, stand your ground!


coyote DIF&W photoThere are lots of coyotes in my town of Mount Vernon and you can often hear them howling at night. I can tell you from first-hand experience, when you hear a pack of coyotes coming down the ridge toward you, all of them howling, it does cause concern! Fortunately, I was deer hunting that day and had my rifle. The coyotes veered off before they got to me. Smart animals, for sure.

Given that everything from bears to moose have been seen in Portland (indeed, game wardens shot a bear in the city last year, as a school bus was approaching), it’s just a matter of time before an ugly incident occurs with a coyote.

I sat next to a woman at a meeting last week who said her cat had just disappeared. She asked if a coyote might have killed it, and that’s a possibility, but I told her it was more likely a Fisher.

Another friend, after reading the story about the coyote attacks on kids in California, told his friend to leave his cat out overnight for coyote snacks. OK, that was really bad advice.

If you’ve had a close encounter with a coyote, I’d love to hear and write about it! (

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.