Hidden Wilderness: A Coyote Story, by Claire Gilchrist

I haven’t always been interested in coyotes. In fact, I lived in Vancouver, Canada, for over a decade before I even realized that coyotes were living there! That all changed one fateful night, a night that spurred my fascination with coyotes and eventually pushed me to write my novel Street Shadows.

It was late one evening and I was biking home from a friend’s house. I was almost home, passing through a dark cemetery with my dog Baker running easily by my side. I had done this route many times and was pedaling on autopilot, lost in thought.

Suddenly, a yelp caught my attention and I saw a grey shape surge out of the darkness, heading straight toward Baker. I had no idea what it was, and screamed. Baker, equally terrified, raced away from me. Pursued closely by the shape, he did a lap of the cemetery before turning to head back toward me. As he drew closer, fear made me jump off my bike and lift it above my head, yelling incomprehensibly. A few moments later, the shape retreated into the darkness, and I fled from the cemetery with Baker, feeling like I’d just barely escaped with my life.

It wasn’t until later, when my heart had stopped racing and I was sitting at home in front of a computer, that I realized that the mysterious shape was actually a coyote, and that it most certainly was not trying to kill me! In fact, judging from the time of year and local online reports, it was most likely defending a young litter of pups and threatened by my off-leash dog, who weighs about twice that of the average urban coyote. I’d probably caused the coyote a lot of panic, racing past its home with an unleashed dog by my side.

The encounter surprised and fascinated me because I’d always drawn a line between ‘urban’ and ‘wild’. I love nature, and have spent immeasurable hours getting myself and my family out of the city and into the wilderness, to places so remote we didn’t see another human for a week. What I hadn’t realized until this moment is that I didn’t actually have to leave the city to tap into wildlife. A hidden wilderness was happening right outside my front door. I had never seen it because I wasn’t looking for it.

Over the next few years, extensive research and a very active imagination turned into Street Shadows. An adventure tale of two urban coyote friends, the story focuses on what happens when humans develop some of the coyote territory into a housing development. It’s fiction, but explores a conflict that happens in our cities on a daily basis. I hope young readers will enjoy the glimpse into this hidden world, and perhaps even start to see their cities in a fresh light, with a new appreciation of all of their neighbours, both human and furry.

Street Shadows is geared toward kids ages 8-13, and launches across the USA on September 24th. I am excited to be able to share my fascination and imagination with others who are curious about this hidden wilderness.