Week before I was outside midday when I heard prolonged and excited yapping from not too far away. I am fairly sure the enthused voices belonged to coyotes, the ones I’ve heard before in winter and presumably have a den in a rocky face north of me. A wildlife authority would know if they heard coyotes or an “argue” of foxes.  I’m not as knowing and can only go on limited past experience and some conjecture. My experience pool began young, however, and I’ll wager not many North Landers can claim my level of wildlife exposure at age ten. We lived in Chicago then, so there has to be more to the story.

   At times during summer vacation I was farmed out (a vacation for mom and dad) to friends in a nice house outside Brookfield Zoo. In the boy dungeon of the non-air-conditioned second floor I slept with window wide open as possible and with fear as gaping as that hole in the wall. In the dark spread like an X on the bed I’d hear the zoo creatures. Many of the scariest are nocturnal and blessed with voices able to frighten their intended prey to death. Sweating in the ovenish heat I’d pray to survive the night. I was sure those noisy beasts were starved for ten year old and were keen to make me their meal. I knew all that would remain would be a set of pajama buttons. In defense I made a habit of walking the mile to the zoo to study in day the creatures terrorizing my sleep tossed nights.

   Brookfield had many outdoor paddocks, and I can tell you for fact that the lion who roars in the black of night is little more than a dozy tan lump in the day. Apply the same for tigers, except coat color. Hyenas on the other hand were loud as they were ugly. Their vocal carrying on along with that of some African wild dogs filled in the higher area register of the things that roar in the night. There was one good thing about Hyenas. I was sure they couldn’t climb. That made my second floor boy roaster safe from them. Lions and tigers were known climbers. They’d be the ones to eat me to my buttons. I’d fall asleep wondering what tender parts they’d take first.

   You have probably seen enough wildlife programing to know the noisiness of lions, jackals, wolves, and so on. Territory is proclaimed by call carrying distance and important distinctions in the pack are made loudly clear in expression. So really, when I off handedly remarked to a friend over coffee that I’d recently heard coyotes yapping I was not expecting to promptly be the subject of a lecture. All I’d said was that I was surprised (much by the time of day) to have coyotes yapping near my place. It must have been use of “yapping” that doomed me to correction by (prejudiced by dress and appearance) a wildlife expert from Edina or Minnetonka. Why, the advocate asked interrupting, was I disparaging those beautiful creatures?

   Some will tell you otherwise, but I do not go out of my way to start verbal battles. My style, as I see it, is to be generally annoying to all sides without incurring much risk anyone will come after me with malice. I was unprepared and caught off balance by a paean about glorious wildlife and their true primacy above that of man. (The person saying that does not, I assume, intend animal primacy to mean humans belong on the menu, but in this case I’d heartily approve.)  Rather than slug it out I tried deflection using any number of devices. “If they were here first who was here second?” “If animals are so wise and knowing shouldn’t we be teaching baboon speak in the schools?” “What charity do saved whales support?” I think relatively useless questions go well with certain levels of conversation.

   I’ve got to tell you. It was mighty tempting to slip into bone breaking predator mode and shred the safari guide from North Oaks. But, such things are like killing baby seals or saying you’ve snuck up on a sleeping walrus. The walrus doesn’t care. It knows you can’t bite worth a darn so it’s safe to ignore you. Well, that’s what we hope, but I’d still keep my distance. Camera stalking is good enough for me.

   But then another line of thought began to inject. Aside from the waste of time discussing topics with the unreasonable I started to think. As the yap of coyotes stakes a territorial claim and asserts primacy a quite similar human behavior put claim to the moral high ground of animal “they were here first” ethics. Yappy coyotes do it their way. Humans are little different. For years I wondered why in an otherwise going-along-smoothly chunk of chit chat a speaker would suddenly inject scrip of poison writ over Bush, or Obama, or Trump. (Got to admit, the last in that series does attract it.) Coyote yap is about “this is our territory, keep away” or it settles who will be having sex and who won’t. The human version yap lays down a patch of turf with party name or identity they can proudly lift a leg giving their scent if not sentient approval.

   Brings me back around circle to end up appreciating the yap critic as a yapper as am I. People stake pack claims all the time; same as canines except leaving out the sniffing of tires. In many a case assertion of claim is far more important than any content. “Nother words, MY is writ big when the content bag may prove empty. The aim of my critic that day is unclear other than set claim to some patch of virtue highland. If (going by dress) the critic was status marking or mate seeking I think they’d do better in Roseville or White Bear ‘mongst similar pack beings. Keep in mind that ‘stead of yap to identify the proper pack members the coyote butt sniff could be used; but far too personal in my view.