When Music Is Beautiful, Disturbing

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – From Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

If you’ve ever heard a pack of wolves or coyotes howling (“Dracula” was speaking of wolves), you may understand what Stoker meant.

The music they make is, in a way, beautiful. When I heard it the other night, though, it was unnerving.

It was about 10 o’clock at night when I stepped outside to allow the family dog to make one of her frequent visits to the backyard. Through the cold air, clear as a bell, came the howling of a pack of coyotes. They could not have been more than 400 yards from my home – more likely, about 200 yards.

Like many people who love nature, even if we don’t get to commune with her as often as we’d like, I enjoy watching and photographing animals we don’t see very often in this area. Sometimes I wish creatures such as wolves and mountain lions had not been hunted to extinction in West Virginia.

For some time, many people thought coyotes were gone for good from the East. But they’re back, in large numbers. And that forces people like me to face up to the contradiction in how we think of wildlife. It reminds me of the admonition that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

When I was young, the sight of a deer near a road was exceedingly rare. Now, it’s a rare night that I don’t see several on my way home.

They’ve become pests, in a way. Farmers and gardeners aren’t at all happy to see them. Neither are some motorists.

Coyotes are an entirely different story. They’re predators, and they’re not especially picky. Family dog missing? Cat not been seen for several days? Where I live, there is a distinct possibility the coyotes got them.

So now, I face a dilemma. I’ve seen foxes in my backyard, and celebrated the sight. But they’re not big enough to pose a threat to domestic animals – or small children.

What happens when a coyote trots through the yard? Will I reach for my camera – or my rifle?

For now, the camera. But once my granddaughter gets old enough to play outside, or after a neighbor tells me about a missing pet, that could change.

In more ways than one, that’s a disturbing prospect.

Sometimes, even the most beautiful music is enjoyed best at a distance.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.