In a reply to my last post, The Return Hypothesis:We Are More Than We Think, Sangit Agnihotri writes, “Very true. Yet it is now so difficult to return to nature after building up a technocratic civilization.”
This comment is not only a common response to my hypothesis but also crucial. If it cannot be addressed creatively, then the hypothesis is dead in the water. Let’s extend Sangit’s observation even further by raising related questions.
How can we humans return to the cycle of life when most of us are urban dwellers surrounded by concrete?
How can we incorporate the untamed aspects of ourselves when there is so little left of the wild?
Must we go back to being hunter/gatherers in some romantic version of the noble savage in order to make this hypothesis valid?
Why is a deep connection with the eco-fields so important to our spiritual evolution?
To address these questions in a beginning way, I want to tell the story of the coywolf, arguably the most successful land mammal on Earth. Maybe I exaggerate, but let’s see.
A Fence Post Strategy Backfires On Humans
The coywolf narrative begins for me in the 1940’s. As a boy I saw miles of fence posts with beautiful animals hung on each post. When I asked about the tragic sight, I was told these were coyotes and needed to be eradicated. But why kill them, I asked, and why put them on the fence posts afterwards? The men who hunted explained to me that the coyotes were a nuisance, and other coyotes would see their kind nailed to the posts and would learn a lesson. Such explanations fired my already questioning nature.
I examined the creatures. I noticed that some were smaller and some, larger. The larger ones especially captivated my eight-year-old eye. Even to this day I can see their beautiful bodies, long legs, large ears and reddish coat. Their fur was a mixture of buff, tawny, cinnamon, and brown streaking along the long body and reaching an apex on a black tipped tail. Hanging on the fence post, they stretched out taller than I was, at least from black nose to black tipped tail.
Such was the practice in rural ranching and farming in Northwest Texas where the grizzly, buffalo, and wolf populations were completely wiped out in my parents generation. The Southern Plains had been basically wild until the turn of the 20th Century. Now, as a boy I witnessed the next step in erasing the untamed not only from the ecoscape but also from human consciousness. The so-called coyotes were simply next on the blacklist. Such was the advance of civilization where I lived. Whether it was forests, water, or even mountains humans engaged a strategy of mowing the landscape down to the nub, then allowing the soil to be blown or washed away. In most cases well-meaning people did not know that their version of civilization was killing an essential, spiritual side of themselves.
Only a funny thing happened on the way to extinction: the strategy failed with coyotes. The coyotes had their own strategy, their own intelligence, an intelligence greater than themselves. And this intelligence may be exactly what we need at this moment in the planet’s narrative to guide us humans back into the life cycle.
The Coywolf’s Evolutionary Strategy
The coyotes I saw as a boy on the fence posts were evolving into a hybrid breed. The small ones on the fence posts were likely coyotes, but the larger ones with the long legs and large ears were a hybrid of the coyotes and the Mexican gray wolf. This hybrid had the cleverness and individuality of the coyote, the strength of the wolf, the wolf’s capacity for pack or community, and the coyote’s ability to monitor its number of offspring. When the ranchers in my area sought to eradicate the coyotes, the coyotes chose two strategies. First, they expanded their litters of puppies. The more they were hung on the fence posts, the more they reproduced. As the dangers lessened, the litters shrank, an important point for humans to take in. Second, they joined with the gray and eventually red wolves to produce a super canid capable of thriving in urban life.
This hybrid coywolf then migrated over the ensuing decades from Texas to Canada and New England where it bred further with Eastern wolves to create one of the most successful land mammals on the planet today.
Call Of The Urban Wild
Back to Sangit’s question. How can we return to a natural order when we have built an urban, techie culture? Is it possible that the coywolf can call us to a balancing both our natural, untamed aspects with our urbanized selves? Is it possible for the best of our western civilized aspects to lie down with the indigenous past? Are the coywolves nature’s way of calling us to human hybridization? Are they telling us we can actually adapt to urban life and grow stronger through this hybridization?
Wildlife ecologists at Ohio State University studied coyote populations in Chicago over a seven-year period (2000–2007) and found that coyotes have adapted well to living in densely populated urban environments while largely avoiding contact with humans. Since this study was published, it is likely that some of the creatures they were studying were actually coywolfs. But, for the moment, I will refer to them as coyotes. (http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=227226)
They found that urban coyotes tend to live longer than their rural counterparts, kill rodents and small pets, and live anywhere from parks to industrial areas to suburbia. The researchers estimated that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in the greater Chicago area and that this circumstance may well apply to many other urban areas in North America. Certainly, that is the case in the Austin area where I live where a large coyote/coywolf population that balances suburban white tail deer and feral cats through predation. (www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/30/coyotes-monogamous-study-faithful-cheating-urban_n_1923649.html)
Unlike rural coyotes and coywolves, urban dwellers have a longer lifespan and tend to live in higher densities, but rarely attack humans , according to one report. This point is important because the urban myth is that coyotes and coywolves are likely to attack children and runners. The governor of Texas carries a gun with him and shoots at the animals as he takes his daily run since he views them as a threat and nuisance rather than a possible model of evolution. The coywolves are urban/wild and need to be treated with considerable awareness and respect, as well as energetic connection. They are beautiful and somewhat approachable but still wild.
The animals generally are nocturnal and prey upon “rabbits, rats, geese, fruit, insects and family pets”. One study found that urban coyotes had similar antibodies and pathogens as coyotes in general, and had a survival rate in the city of 72% for any given year, much higher than their rural counterparts. Reports of mysterious, even spiritual encounters, between humans and coywolves suggest a growing respect is possible.(http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21573167-coyote-quietly-conquering-urban-america-dogged-persistence)
Bottom line: the coyote/coywolf population continues to adapt to urban life, live with large human populations, contribute to the balancing of the eco-fields, and still maintain a basic element of the wild. This research jolts and points us to a possible paradigm shift for humans.
Is it possible for us to hear the call of becoming hybrid humans who integrate the wild with the civilized in creating a new civilization? Is the evolutionary development of the coy wolf one of nature’s way of developing human hybrids? The elements of this deeply evolutionary and spiritual call for humans to return are implicit in this blog.
In my next post I will flesh out in a more explicit way some of the characteristics of the human hybrids who learn from the coywolf. Then, I will examine other instances in current evolution in which the Sacred Mystery calls us to develop a new human hybrid.