I’m still a bit awe-struck when either of these amazing critters crosses my path. I’m particularly fond of roadrunners, which, except for the coloration (I was quite disappointed to find that they are not purple.) look astonishingly like their cartoon counterpart. They do not emit a “beep, beep, choinggggg,” noise, however, as they scurry through the mesquite in pursuit of lizards, insects and small snakelings. I have never encountered one poised above a pile of ACME birdseed, cleverly coated with magnetic particles to allow a wily coyote to pull the unsuspecting fowl into a cook pot.

I occasionally see a coyote, slinking along a hay field or slipping across a country road. I have seen them within a good ACME rocket roller skate ride of Vista Ridge Mall, apparently undisturbed by the raucous noise of Dallas rush hour traffic speeding by a few yards away.

(By the way, what’s the proper pronunciation: ki oat or ki oat ee? Just curious.)

I watched one in a pasture, also near Dallas, one evening, just before dusk dark. He appeared to be enjoying a pleasant game of dance with the rat. He’d peer into the grass, jump high into the air and pounce down on something wriggling through the vegetation. He then tossed a writhing and unfortunate creature into the air, watch where it landed and repeat the process. Playing with its food, no doubt.

Apparently about a thousand coyotes reside within a hundred yards or so of my fishing buddy’s back yard. A fire engine, police or rescue vehicle siren can go off in the vicinity and you’d think all the demons of hell had just emerged to bedevil mankind. They do make a racket.

But the last coyote I encountered was during my recent vacation. I was driving from Dallas to South Carolina (a fur piece), and about 10 miles from my mother’s house in upstate South Carolina, a lean, bedraggled, hangdog-looking coyote, came slinking down the Interstate, looking as out of place as an octopus in the High Plains.

Come to find out, there’s scads of them back east, where they are no doubt helping farmers and ranchers cull out the weak links in their cattle herds and making a mess out of some crop land. I’ve heard that a coyote will ruin a watermelon patch just taking bites out of the best ones.

Mom said one of her neighbors had recently eliminated a den of coyotes from a patch of woods where I hunted as a boy. No coyotes around back then.

So I was more than a bit interested recently when a news release from Denton County Extension Agent Rebecca Parker came across my desk. Ms. Parker noted that coyote predation is the biggest cause of death for sheep and goats statewide. “And as rural lands are developed, we hear more and more reports of livestock and pet losses to coyotes.”

She says if folks wonder what killed a pet or some livestock, the first clue should be the track, which is longer than it is wide. Often, the front two claw marks will be visible on a coyote track but not for a dog.

Also, a coyote most likely will kill an animal with a throat bite; dogs usually attack hindquarters, flanks and head.

Parker says fencing may help prevent coyote predation but may not be economical or effective. “There is probably no economically feasible coyote proof fence,” she says.

Guard animals, such as dogs, donkeys, ostriches, emus, llamas and mules may help. Trapping and shooting offer more aggressive solutions. Parker recommends snare traps in Denton County.

She also notes that a new state law allows landowners to capture or kill coyotes or predatory dogs that harass livestock, a fate they could easily avoid if they’d just stay out in the mesquite and harass roadrunners.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com