Stepping into one of the local college book stores I was shocked by a huge
banner, “SAVE THE WOLVES.” Earlier that week coyotes had killed a valuable
newborn calf on a neighbor’s farm. He said that these small wolves are
attracted by the odor of fresh blood and they seize the baby calf immediately
and kill it. They leave unmistakable evidence. The young woman was alone at a
sort of indoor garage sale of student miscellany, so I said, “Why save
“Well,” she said, “they might become extinct.”
“Good riddance,” I said. “What do you have against baby calves?” Her face
went blank. “Newborn cows,” I said. “Wolves kill them. We have wolves on
our farm and you can come save all the wolves you want.” To my surprise, she
had me write my name and address, and said, “I’ll tell the fellows and they
might come get them.” They didn’t.
Coyotes, sometimes called “ky-o-ties,” are scrounge-looking prairie wolves a
bit smaller than shaggy hound dogs, and have yellowish-gray fur. They feed on
mice and rats and other pests, but in winter when their food supply is short,
they may attack a farmers’ poultry, cattle or sheep.
Misty barks at their night screeching in our woods. Sometimes it’s mating time
and other times it sounds as if they’re playing games. They used to screech,
like clockwork, when a big 10:20 p.m. plane roared overhead, preparing to land
at Regional Airport. And on nights when we’re firing the wood pottery kiln,
the smoke and flames upset them.
Because coyotes killed that calf, I called Denny Russell and asked if he’d set
his traps here. He came the next Saturday morning and drove around over the
farm and set traps in places where coyotes crossed a dry branch from a bluff
to a flat pasture, on ridges, and where they came out of Lloyd and Velma
Bennett’s woods onto our place.
Denny was trapping for pelts as our ancestors did generations ago. He set the
heavy steel traps after putting powerful coyote scent on the pan or trigger.
The jaws, surrounding the bait, snap together on the animal, sometimes killing
it instantly. He carried a pistol to kill the animal if he found it alive and
he ran his traps daily about daylight. Boots and gloves prevented his leaving
a human scent, and he disguised the trap with twigs and leaves and tied it
down. The first day there were tracks, the third day he had a wolf. They look
small when we see them on the road, but this one looked huge in the back of
Trapping was one of man’s first methods of getting food and clothing. Fur
trading was important in pressing the frontier westward through Missouri.
Denny trapped for pelts as our ancestors did generations ago and drove a long
way to accommodate us when we needed to reduce our wolf population.
Soon after we bought the farm in 1952 there were so many wolves that the
county court paid a $10 bounty to anyone who’d bring in the right ear of an
adult wolf and $5 for the ear of a pup. Frank and Jim Crockett, neighbors,
found a coyote den in a hollow log and called Lloyd Bennett to help get the
pups out. Lloyd cut a long stick with forked end and got down flat on the
ground, reaching far into the hole of the old tree. He twisted the forked end
into the fur of the pups and handed them to the older men one by one -- seven
coyote pups that didn’t live to kill farmers’ livestock!
They took seven right ears to the court house and got the $35 right then -- no
computers or interviews, no paper work, they just collected the cash. It was a
win/win event for all.