From The New York Times:
With a chorus of howls and yips wild enough to fill a vast night sky, the coyote has ignited the imagination of one culture after another. In many American Indian mythologies, it is celebrated as the Trickster, a figure by turns godlike, idiotic and astoundingly sexually perverse. In the Navajo tradition the coyote is revered as God’s dog. When European colonists encountered the species, they were of two minds, heralding it as an icon of the expansive West and vilifying it as the ultimate varmint, the bloodthirsty bane of sheep and cattle ranchers. Mark Twain was so struck when he first saw that “long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolfskin stretched over it” that he called it “a living, breathing allegory of Want.” And Twain’s description itself was so vivid, it inspired the animator Chuck Jones to create that perennial failure known to cartoon-loving children everywhere, Wile E. Coyote of Road Runner-hating fame.
Yet as familiar as the coyote seems, these animals remain remarkably poorly understood. They have remained elusive despite fantastic ecological success that has been described as “a story of unparalleled range expansion,” as they have moved over the last century from the constrictions of their prairie haunts to colonize every habitat from wild to urban, from coast to coast. And they have retained their mystery even as interest has intensified with increasing coyote-human interactions — including incidents of coyotes dragging off small dogs and cats, and even (extremely rarely) attacks on people, from Los Angeles to the northern suburbs of New York City, where four children were attacked in separate incidents this summer.