The Plight of the Song Dogs

mc1What dogs? “Song” dogs? you may ask. Unless you’re quite fond of them, you may not know that this is a term of endearment for coyotes. In general, they’re not very popular and quite a number of people call them varmints or pests and like them about as much as cockroaches. And because they dislike them, they want to eradicate them, wipe them out, get rid of them once and for all. In fact, close to 400,000 coyotes are being killed each year by state, local, and private agencies. That’s over 1000 animals a day!

By far the most successful killing outfitter is a little-known tax funded government agency with the misleading name of Wildlife Services. Besides coyotes, they’ve destroyed mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, black bears, beavers, porcupines, river otters, and wolves. They have killed millions of birds, from nonnative starlings to migratory shorebirds to federally protected golden and bald eagles. Primarily, the activities of this agency benefit private enterprise such as livestock producers. Wait a minute — with our tax money? Unfortunately, that’s right. They spend over $100 million every year to help agribusiness with predator control, with many unintended victims caught in the carnage.

They use some very nasty methods to deal with what they call predators, namely cyanide poison capsules called M-44s, leg-holds, snares, and body-grips. The Sacramento Bee published a graphic that illustrates how these barbaric instruments work. It belongs to a three-part article published in the Bee, appropriately called The killing agency: Wildlife Services’ brutal methods leave a trail of animal death.

But that’s not the only threat our coyotes face, not by a far stretch. Another particularly cruel and bloodthirsty method of coyote mass extermination involves organized killing contests where so-called hunters come together to shoot as many animals as they can, and the winner gets a prize. Yes, you guessed correctly, often it’s a semi-automatic rifle or something equally precious. The organizers promote the event as good, clean family fun. I’m not joking. What is going on in the mind of a person who happily and indiscriminately kills as many animals of a certain kind as possible? The coyotes have strong family ties and a strong social structure. By shooting adult animals, any pups or offspring will not be able to learn the necessary survival skills that their parents would teach them. But participants in killing contests don’t see them as living beings, only as commodities that can be disposed of. Children as young as six or eight years of age are encouraged to take part in the killings. They’re being indoctrinated that animals have no feelings and will grow up to become killers themselves.

The New Mexico legislature just voted down a bill that would have banned such contests. The bill was introduced by State Representative Nate Cole, in part because of strong public outcry against a few such events which recently took place in New Mexico. Even a number of hunters supported the bill, because of the unethical aspect of competitive killing. Please click on the link if you want to sign the petition to help stop the killing contests in New Mexico. Although New Mexico lawmakers struck the bill down, the opposition to such cruel animal slaughter remains strong.

Maybe by now you really want to know why coyotes evoke so much hate. Sheep- and cattle ranchers on the one hand, and the Game and Fish Department on the other are their most vocal and powerful enemies. Ranchers claim financial losses due to livestock killed by coyotes, although National Agricultural Statistics Service data show that more than 95% of losses are attributed to causes other than predation. And scientific studies claim that indiscriminate killing of coyotes actually results in a higher animal population because more females are likely to breed and the litter size and survival rates increase. Plus, there are numerous alternative methods from keeping carnivores away from domestic animals. However, these methods require a modicum of innovative and creative thinking, definitely not the strong point of largely conservative ranchers.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department considers coyotes to be competitors in the deer and elk killing business. The G&FD sells licences to hunters who want to shoot game in New Mexico. A deer brought down by coyotes means less revenue for the Department, or so their reasoning goes. Facts show, however, that carnivores largely feed on small animals such as mice (who carry the deadly Hantavirus), rabbits, and other rodents as well as berries and cactus fruit. They’re not a serious threat to the game population. It might be useful to notice as well that some members of the New Mexico Game Commission, the governing body of Game and Fish, have strong ties to cattle ranchers and to the NRA. They are appointees of Governor Martinez, and at least one study shows a relationship between donated money and her appointments.

Here are some images which were taken from contest participants’ websites and Facebook pages. They’re gruesome.

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New Mexico’s Gorgeous Fall Colors

Fall would be my favorite season if it wasn’t for the fact that winter is just around the corner, which here in northern New Mexico means that temperatures can drop into single digits; snow can fall in May; and spring is often skipped altogether. One day it’s still freezing cold, and the next day it’s summer with temperatures in the 70s. I’m not kidding. And yet, the parade of orange, yellow, gold, rust, and many shades of brown in October is so spectacular, it almost makes up for the icy cold that follows!

Up in the Santa Fe Ski Area, the dark evergreens really let the golden Aspen trees shine.

This was taken on the Aspen Vista Trail in Santa Fe,

and this view is close to where I live, in Coyote/NM.

I love the creamy gold of the leaves against the bluish-grey sky!

The three pictures above show the view right outside of my house.

From the parking lot of the Abiquiu Inn.

The National Forest all around Coyote.

Oh, one other thing I love about fall — the wild turkeys are back, about 40 or 50 of them, right in the meadow below my house. They are shy and startle easily, but once they’re used to me walking around, they don’t fly away any more. Even my dogs don’t bother them! Maybe it IS my favorite season, after all…

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Paintings by Peter Rowntree

A section of this year’s work.

If you wish to purchase one of these, or to see more paintings, please visit

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Faded Beauties

It’s customary in New Mexico to keep old, almost dead, cars somewhere around the house. One never knows when one might need a spare part for the currently working car, or when one has to start the old clunker in an emergency. Except for Santa Fe — the County created an ordinance that makes it unlawful to park cars on the front lawn. It’s considered an eye-sore. However, some of those old relics are actually quite beautiful — some are still in use and are well kept up; others develop a patina of erosion, rust, and decay that I find endlessly fascinating.

Here is a collection of recent portraits.

This one is a deliberately preserved fire engine from the Regina Volunteer Fire Department. It is indeed noteworthy because it establishes the age of the fire department; the vehicle looks like it’s from the 1940s or 1950s (I can’t tell because I’m no expert).

The next car was parked on a lot in Youngsville. The original paint has been stripped by time and weather to be replaced by more dramatic patterns.

We discovered this beauty off some dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

Spotted from the train between Albuquerque and Santa Fe —

and at the parking lot at Bode’s Store in Abiquiu:

This lovingly polished old Chevvy is still in use!

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Abiquiu Lake

It takes me 15 minutes to drive to the Lake. As soon as the days are warm and there is no more chance of a night frost — usually between May and October — it’s ideal for swimming and kayaking. There are some jet skis and speedy motor boats, but mostly on the weekends; during the week, it’s fairly quiet.

Cerro Pedernal, the mountain immortalized by Georgia O’Keeffe’s many paintings, features prominently in the scenic views of the lake.

The clouds, like everywhere in northern New Mexico, are endlessly entertaining.

Picking your way across the rocks can be fun.

And the light is always spectacular.

There are some great spots for sun bathing.

Sunsets can be out of this world.

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Summer, with monsoon rains

Here in New Mexico this means that one doesn’t have to water the garden any more, everything turns lush and green, and the air is humid. However, due to the high altitude (I’m almost 7000 ft. above sea level) it doesn’t feel like a steam bath, even with temperatures in the high 80s or 90s.

The light can be absolutely magical!

I can barely keep up mixing sugar water for the hummingbirds, and I easily go through 10 lb of sugar every week.

Lots of other birds come to visit: Finches, Towhees, Mourning Doves, Bluebirds, and those that I can’t identify.

My flower garden is still sparse. Luckily, there is a number of wildflowers that pop up after the rain.

After a rocky start in a hot and dry spring, the vegetables are growing fine. We already ate some zucchini, Swiss Chard, and Kale; there’s lots of green tomatoes with a fair chance of turning red before the first frost; beans, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and melons are growing and may produce something to eat — we’ll see.





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Crazy weather

I moved to New Mexico from Berkeley/California, where the temperature difference between summer and winter, day and night was negligible, compared to here. Last Sunday it was about 75 degrees and I was walking around in a tank top and shorts, no socks. At night it dropped down to about 36, but that’s to be expected in early April. On Monday it started snowing until Tuesday morning, adding almost 7 inches of snow to the ground, and the highest temperature on Monday was about 42F. That’s over 30 degrees difference from one day to the next! I know, I shouldn’t be surprised any more after living here for over 10 years, and yet…

Apricot Blossoms

Apricot Blossoms

Snow Blossoms

Snow Blossoms

Early Green

Early Green

Green and White

Green and White

Snow Flakes?

Snow Flakes?

Looks Pretty

Looks Pretty

Stella, Mieze

Stella, Mieze

Beer Mug?

Beer Mug?

Yeah, right...

Yeah, right...

Posted in digital photography, environment, New Mexico, photography | Tagged , | 1 Comment