When you come to Sky Meadows State Park take a moment and listen, what do you hear?
After hearing about a recent sighting at the park, I recalled a memory from last Fall:
A small crowd gathered near the back porch of the Mt. Bleak house, a historic home on the property of Sky Meadows, on a cold and quiet night in October. Huddled together, the group crowded in to listen to an astronomy lecture followed by stargazing .Only the speaker’s voice and an occasional rustle in the audience broke the silence.Then, suddenly, barks, yips and howls from the campground interrupted the stillness. As it grew louder, I walked closer to the sound. The crowd maintained focus on the speaker. No one turned their heads, but in the darkness I saw the outline of a man standing on the sidewalk. He, too, listened to this sound. I recognized him as a program participant who worked on a neighboring sheep farm. “Coyotes” he said in the confident voice of one well familiar with the sound.
If we stood by this same porch 160 years ago, we might find Abner Settle, enjoying a moment of rest. Born in this locality, Mr. Settle would have been well aware of sounds echoing from the woods that bordered his farm. The raucous sound of foxes might have been present, but not the call of the coyote.
In the mid 1700’s the first settlers arrived in what is now upper Fauquier County. With axes and saws they transformed forests to farmland. This shift in landscape occurred throughout the east coast. The now open farm fields of the east created a suitable habitat for coyote, an original resident of the Great Plains. As George Slater dug his plow in the fields of Mt. Bleak in 1930, the first coyote arrived in upstate New York. When the Scotts cared for their herd of Hereford cattle in 1960 at their Sky Meadows Farm, the first coyotes arrived in the southeast.
Whether we want them here or not, Coyotes are now an active part of theSky Meadows State Parkecosystem, but it is often only their distinct voice in the night air that gives clue to their presence. It is a good reminder that when visiting our Virginia State Parks, visit with enlivened senses.
Listen to the Coyote Call below in the video: