By the Way

Urban coyotes: A scourge on South Mississippi

By Lauren Walck

lwalck@sunherald.com @laurenwalck

Clementine, a fearsome predator, lounges on the back porch.
Clementine, a fearsome predator, lounges on the back porch.

Apparently I’ve discovered the perfect bait for coyotes.

I’m just glad they seem to prefer sweet basil over my cat.

For the third time in two weeks, my lovingly planted basil has been ripped from its planters and strewn about the porch.

I figured the culprit was maybe a raccoon or a possum or another cat, all of which wander through the unfenced field behind my apartment. I even suspected my own cat, who is known for chewing on house plants and general vengeful behavior.

I was wrong.

I’m not much of a plant person, but this year I was feeling domestic enough to indulge my undying love for Italian food with fresh basil and oregano.

In hindsight, I probably should have given up when, the day after I planted seeds, my neighbor’s toddler promptly dumped each planter onto the sidewalk.

But I was determined, though impatient, so I bought three already-grown plants: two sweet basil and one oregano. I moved them to the back porch, away from tiny, destructive hands.

The poor basil would probably prefer the toddler at this point.

At 3 a.m. Friday, I was awakened (an uncommon occurrence) by the vicious, toe-curling noises coyotes seem to make no matter what they’re doing.

If you haven’t heard it, it sounds like they’re gleefully ripping apart some gentle animal limb by limb.

Hearing that chorus of banshee howls nearby isn’t unusual. I live within coyote-walking distance of Gulfport’s old Veterans Affairs property — now known as Centennial Plaza — and I suspect packs of them have formed an organized community in the still-empty buildings.

Friday morning, the racket was unusually loud. It sounded like a single coyote was snarling way too close to the back porch. I ran to the door, heart pounding through my ears, knowing my cat was outside.

I was half-asleep but already prepared to find the porch covered in blood and fur and delicate green leaves.

But I opened the door to find my cat, Clementine, crouched between a coyote and the ravaged basil. The coyote immediately skulked off toward the treeline and Clemy darted indoors.

Disaster averted. For now.

I prefer to think Clemy was finally earning her keep, intimidating the coyote with the low growl she uses on everyone but me. But she’s not known for heroic acts of bravery, and prefers preying on lesser lizards and the occasional mole.

For those of you already planning to comment on what a bad cat-parent I am, know Clem is like most cats and does what she wants. She’s half feral and enjoys completely ignoring me when I call for her to come in at night, especially when it’s too hot for daytime lounging.

Oddly, a bite-size chunk was missing from dirt around one of the basil plants but the plants themselves just had a few bite marks.

The oregano was untouched.

I’m writing this to crowdsource a solution. As much as I would enjoy the nuclear option of hiring coyote snipers, firing a weapon is illegal in the city limits.

And efforts to trap them haven’t been successful.

In the meantime, I’ll bring the basil inside.

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