Prairie wolf. Song dog. The coyote.

A few nights ago we heard coyotes howling and yipping. Pretty sure it was a coyote mama calling its offspring and the young 'uns calling back.

The actual sound of a coyote does not at all resemble the ow WOOOO of Hollywood movies. It's more hyena-like, a maniacal yapping that can seem quite freaky at two o'clock in the morning.

Cousin to the domestic dog and the wolf, native to prairie and desert canyon, the coyote is an intelligent, adaptable critter. They vaguely resemble a cross between a skinny German Shepherd and a fox, only greyer, and they carry their bushy tails kind of pointed down. They have a way of moving that I can only describe as tough and urban. You know one when you see one.

They mate for life, stick together, and often hunt in family groups. Good: they go after rodents. Bad: they go after kittycats. I'm not even sure our two pooches would do all that well against a pack of coyotes. Back east, people say KY-oats. Here, it's ky-OAT-tees. Great photos and videos at this University of Toledo site.

Anyway, coyotes are quite a bit more impressive than the big, brave yorts and morons with enormous guns who hunt them and make hats out of their fur.