The Massachusetts board might have broken new ground in wildlife management if it had considered testimony not only on the coyote's natural history, but also on its spiritual history. The board could have admitted as exculpatory evidence the animal's special role as mythic figure. Surely a species deified by some Indian tribes from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest could be spared even a score of accidental encounters with hunters who had some other animals in mind.
The minutes of the April meeting ignore the coyote's renowned ingenuity and intelligence and don't suggest that the chance to observe the animal might be more enriching than the opportunity to shoot it.
"I have trailed a coyote often, going across country," writes Mary Austin in The Land of Little Rain..."and found his track such as a man, a very intelligent man...and a little cautious, would make to the same point...and it is usually the best way...with the greatest economy of effort."
Those are Western observations, but a coyote, says J. Frank Dobie, author of The Voice of the Coyote, is a coyote anywhere you find it. He writes of George Frederick Ruxton, an Englishman who, while traveling through Colorado in the mid-1880s, declined to shoot a wolf that followed him from camp to camp, cleaning up the food he and his guide left behind. Few contemporaries would have failed to draw a bead, but it occurred to Ruxton that the wolf was interesting. And perhaps that's the simplest, most compelling claim for sanctuary in the case of the coyote in Massachusetts. It's too interesting to shoot.