Iipay Aa name: Hattepaa
Common name: Coyote
Scientific name: Canis latrans
Common predators of these small canines include bald eagles and golden eagles. Humans are another threat to coyotes, but we generally don't eat them. Coyotes are resilient and can adapt to different kinds of environments. Fun fact: Coyotes used to live in the southwestern portion of the United States. Because of European settlers, coyotes were forced to spread across North America to survive. Now they can be found in every state, except Hawaii.
Kumeyaay people know Hattepaa is always trying to involve himself in what is not his business! He is greedy and selfish and sets an example of what not to do. Hattepaa plays a very important role in the Kumeyaay Creation Story, and his behavior provides many lessons in how not to behave! He steals the Creator’s heart in an effort to become leader, defiling the Creator’s funeral ceremony. He is a trickster and cannot be trusted.
Photo courtesy Neil Nurmi, National Park Service.
Have you seen a dog in the woods before? Were they small? Pointy ears? You may have seen Hattepaa, in ‘Iipay Aa, also known as a coyote! Coyotes are commonly found in canyons. They look like tiny wolves, but with a narrower snout and lighter gray fur. Similar to wolves, coyotes will hunt rabbits, deer, and rodents for dinner. Sometimes they will eat berries if they are really hungry. This is their best adaptation to a chaparral habitat. Chaparral can be hot and dry. Small animals aren't always available to hunt. They can eat uncommon foods, such as berries and carrion, and gain enough nutrients to survive.