Flores (American Serengeti), emeritus professor of Western history at the University of Montana, looks at the coyote and its history on the North American continent in this educational volume. Having lived for a decade in the piñon-juniper mesas south of Santa Fe, N.Mex., “the evolutionary heartland of America’s native canines,” Flores considers the coyote’s howl “the original national anthem of North America”—one that dates back “nearly 1 million years.” He traces the animal’s roots, giving lessons on both physiology and mythology. “As a literary character,” Flores notes, the coyote is a “complex figure full of nuances of all sorts” as well as a “trickster who is forever falling for the oldest trick in the book.” Flores also presents accounts of coyotes in urban environments and their depictions in pop culture. For example, in Chicago during the 2007 heat wave, a coyote walked into a sandwich shop and jumped onto a freezer to cool down, to the surprise and amusement of employees and customers. Similarly, considerations of fictional characters such as Wile E. Coyote, introduced by Warner Bros. in 1949, provide entertaining counterpoints to the coyote’s status as “North America’s oldest surviving deity.” Flores’s mix of edification and entertainment is a welcome antidote to a creature so often viewed with fear. Illus. Agent: Melissa Chinchillo, Fletcher & Co. (June)
Whether referred to as a "prairie wolf," "desert dog," or "junior wolf," the coyote is an exceptionally resilient canine that has spread from its original territory in the deserts of the Southwest to every state in the continental United States and now thrives in some of our largest cities. Flores (emeritus, Western U.S. history, Univ. of Montana; American Serengeti; The Natural West) considers the animal from several perspectives: its evolutionary history and the biological adaptations that have enabled it to endure decades of brutal persecution, as well as its once-prominent status as a deity in a number of Native American cultural traditions. In a straightforward style, the author unpacks the myths and urban legends surrounding the coyote and conveys his admiration and respect for this incredibly intelligent predator. VERDICT This title would make an excellent companion to Hope Ryden's God's Dog and Shreve Stockton's The Daily Coyote and is highly recommended for natural history enthusiasts interested in moving beyond the conventional wisdom about coyotes to gain a deeper understanding of their presence in our midst.—Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ
A thoughtful study of Canis latrans, that quintessential North American mammal."The coyote is a kind of special Darwinian mirror, reflecting back insights about ourselves as fellow mammals." So writes historian Flores (Emeritus, Western History/Univ. of Montana; American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, 2016, etc.) from his perch outside Santa Fe, where, he fondly recounts, he lives within howling distance of any number of the song dogs. Many urbanites have assumed it to be an invader of ecological niches that has been colonizing cities only recently owing to an annihilation of its wild habitat. They are to be forgiven, given that Los Angeles alone is estimated to harbor 5,000 coyotes, forcing Angelenos to "go Aztec and learn to live with them." However, writes the author, the coyote has long been a fixture of human settlements in North America, drawn to them by "our close fellow travelers, the mice and rats that flourish around and among us in profusion." That more coyotes are being seen in Chicago buses and on rooftops in Queens would seem to be more a function of there being more ways to report on their movements, since coyotes have been merrily swimming across the Mississippi for millennia as well. Flores' portrait sometimes carries over into outright advocacy on issues such as bounty killing to control coyote numbers, but on the whole, it is a spirited blend of history, anthropology, folklore, and biology that is capable of surprises; for instance, Flores writes in detail of a kind of coexistence among wolves and coyotes, supposedly traditional enemies, that has emerged in places like Yellowstone, even as the return of Canis lupus from the brink of extinction has come as a bit of future shock for the smaller canids. Well written throughout and just the right length, Flores' book makes a welcome primer for living in a land in which coyotes roam freely—in, that is to say, the Coyote America of his title.