Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Coyote, by Wyman Meinzer

Wyman Meinzer.  Coyote.  Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1995.  128 pages.  Cloth: $19.95; ISBN 0-89672-353-4.

Coyote is classified as a “pictorial work,” a coffee-table book.  Of its 128 pages, only the first 44 contain text; captioned, gorgeous photos of coyotes that the author took himself during his many years of coyote research fill out the book’s bulk. 

The textual material of Coyote contains just enough information about C. latrans to help me form more precise questions about the animal’s nature and habits.  On one hand, I felt the book’s imparted insights rather on the lightweight side.  I had hoped that it would reflect in greater depth and detail what Meinzer learned about this intriguing animal after over three decades of study.  Instead, he gives readers slightly more than the basics.  He remarks for instance on how coyotes have about 11 categories of vocalizations, but he only lists 3 of them, offering only slight elaboration on those.  The coyote’s vocal repetoire is one of the most fetching of this animal’s qualities.  Why not at least touch upon the other 8 categories? 

On the other hand, I learned enough from the book to gain a fair starting point for my investigation into this creature with whom I’ve begun crossing paths more frequently and intimately.  The book’s beautiful 70 plus pages of photos are instructional in a deeper way.  People able to read animal body language will find them engaging and meaningful.

Some of Meinzer’s writing is bumpy, requiring the reader to guess his meaning.  For example, p. 34: “If excavation allows, I have observed dens with nursing quarters or enlarged rooms with side tunnels to accommodate the young whelps.”  Deciphering who or what excavation allows to do what takes a bit of work.  Does Meinzer mean that if conditions permit him to excavate a den (which he has done in his research), then he observes in the process these den structures?  Or does he mean that if excavation conditions prove favorable for the coyotes, then he’s seen them build dens having these characteristics?  Also, “young” modifying “whelps” seems unnecessary.

Well, like I said, Coyote is a coffee-table book, maybe a bit light on information but packed with eye-catching pictures, which in this case do more than simply enchant the eye.  These pictures reveal important information about coyote body postures and behavior.  However, if you want greater precision in expression or are looking to learn about the possible range of coyote vocalizations and gain greater insight into marking practices (which I do), you have to look elsewhere.  Where?  I’m not sure yet.  If anybody has suggestions, please, do tell.