Since the first settlements were made on Brier Island in the mid 1700’s, sheep had been a permanent fixture on the western moor facing the Atlantic Ocean. As a solid patch of white forever moving over the green expanses, the flock had hovered in number around 200, with minimal predation by the village dogs culling only the weakest.Beginning in June in the summer of 1990, each morning revealed massacres from the night before - six or more mutilated carcasses stained the grass where the flock had slept. The village was edgy. The Pugh brothers, owners of the flock, and benefactors of the wool and lamb harvested each year, began indiscriminately shooting whomever’s dog was found traipsing the back shore. Tempers flared at the village store, and in the Pugh’s front yard, a fisherman drove his wounded charge in to display, accusing the Pugh’s as assailants.But the mayhem continued with the islanders hard-pressed for an explanation.Then one night, as the flock had dwindled to only a few the howls and awful laughter of coyotes welcomed the moon. The rumors began again, this time with accusations levelled at
certain persons: that Don Bolstad, for instance, had brought two pups across the ferry in the trunk of his car. No one believed that these animals could possibly have judged the course of the tides - their current’s rip of twelve knots, to swim not one passage across, but two. For these animals would have had to swim the passage to Long Island first.In autumn, with the last of the sheep murdered and the first snow on the ground, the men made a continuous line drive across the five mile expanse of the island, through the misshapen scrub of black spruce and alder. They succeeded in shooting eleven of the canines, which did not much resemble the scrawny, lightweight animal of western legend. No, these were hybrid creatures, more low-slung in their carriage, grey and red with bushy tails, some nearly 100 pounds in weight. Somewhere, perhaps in the coyotes traversing the Canadian Shield, in an effort to re-populate areas it had historically known, had inevitably mated with red wolves, creating a new predator, previously unknown in the Maritime Provinces. As is now very much the case with the contested existence of the Eastern Cougar; the existence of these creatures was disavowed by the natural resource authorities until this incident occurred.
COYOTE1991Acrylic and text on rigid sandpaper14”x 20”Private collection