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The case of the duct taped coyote – Does anyone care about coyote abuse?

Tucsonan Joe Gardner was on one of his favorite day trips to Lochiel, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson, where the air is clean and the land pristine – usually.

Except when he finds a dead duct taped coyote.

Duct taped coyote/submitted photo
Duct taped coyote/submitted photo

During his trek about two weeks ago, the 62-year-old who grew up in the Lochiel area noted buzzards circling about and followed their feast to find a mutilated carcass.

The coyote was definitely dead, with a hole in his underside where something had chewed out his entrails. He had not been skinned, but the two front legs and two back legs had been secured with tape, leaving him defenseless, provided he had still been alive when taped.

“I was surprised and puzzled and wondered about mutilation stories I had heard in the past,” Gardner said, “but those involved livestock, not wild animals. I also wondered if it was some kind of sick message for human smugglers, who are also referred to as coyotes.”

He vaguely recalled stories of livestock’s organs and genitalia being removed with “precision-appearing incisions” some time back in Cochise County. Perhaps Jack the Ripper of the cattle world.

Yet he had never seen such abuse of coyotes.

Lochiel school house/submitted photo
Lochiel school house/submitted photo

“I have not an inkling as to who or why would bind a coyote and leave it out for the buzzards,” he said. “I was born and raised in the area, and as a matter of fact, this was right in front of the one room school I attended when I was a kid. I know just about everyone who lives in the area, and can’t imagine any locals doing this, as they live in the area because they love and respect the land.”

Nothing respectful about a duct taped coyote.

Arizona’s animal cruelty felony law, ARS 13-2910, slaps a felony on anyone that “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflicts unnecessary physical injury to any animal.”

Awesome law. But it may not apply in the case of the duct taped coyote.

“Law enforcement would have to successfully allege that it was cruelty,” explained Marsh Myers, spokesman for the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona. “Since coyotes can be legally hunted, an investigation would have to rule this possibility out. Sometimes the animal is hunted and then the carcass is just left to rot. It’s a sloppy practice but it happens all the time.”

In that case, it’s OK.

Many hunters are respectful – even reverent – about nature and engage in the sport for much more than just the kill. But there are always the idiots.

In another coyote case earlier this year, six mutilated carcasses were found dumped in a creek near an Oklahoma high school.

The critters had been skinned, with their front legs chopped off at the knees and their remains unceremoniously hurled where teens could easily find them.

The animals were originally thought to be dogs and all hell broke loose. Necropsies revealed they had been a half dozen coyotes. Hell kind of subsided.

While Oklahoma, like Arizona, does have animal cruelty laws with severe penalties, it would probably not apply if the animals were being hunted for their fur.

Authorities in Ohio were going nuts in 2007 trying to find the sicko who apparently skinned and boiled a dog – while it was still alive.

The animal, identified by a vet as a chow/pit bull mix, was fully skinned except for fur left on its paws, had cuts on its legs and neck and had wire wound around one of the back legs.

Someone finally did come forward to confess – that the animal was not a dog at all but simply a coyote he hunted but didn’t dispose of properly.

Even though the vet had initially been wrong about the animal’s identification, calling it a dog, the doc was not wrong about the animal having been still alive when it was boiled and skinned.

No matter. It was just a coyote.

The case was immediately closed and all pending criminal charges promptly dropped.



Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who loves coyotes as much as she loves wolves but not as much as she loves her dogs. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at E-mail


What do you think?

Is there a way to better enforce – or even prove – the animal cruelty felony law?

Can anything be done to better protect hunted wildlife from undue abuse?

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Artist Sketchbook: The art of dead things – Slide Show and Poll

From cattle bones to smirking skeletons, dead things are all over my yard.

Melange of dead things on a dead tree/Art and photo by Ryn Gargulinski
Melange of dead things on a dead tree/Art and photo by Ryn Gargulinski

The problem is – I like it.

Perhaps liking dead thing art is not a problem, as I’m not alone in my passion.

Zombie movies are always a hit on the silver screen and skeletal figurines have long held center stage in shrines and mausoleums across the globe. Heck, the Capuchin Cemetery in Rome is even constructed of monk bones.

Dead thing art lovers get a welcome respite from being called weird during October, when Halloween, Day of the Dead and the general autumnal climate makes our adoration of dead thing art appear normal.

We just know in the back of our heads the stuff rocks all year round.

Check out the slide show featuring some of my dead thing art, some of which I created this weekend to stock up for the holidays.

Also feel free to leave ghoulish – or non-ghoulish – comments and take the dead thing art poll.

[tnislideshow] [tnipoll]


My favorite "butterfly"/Art and photo by Ryn Gargulinski
My favorite "butterfly"/Art and photo by Ryn Gargulinski

How many dead thing art pieces do you have around your own home? – No, velvet Elvis paintings don’t count, unless he’s depicted as a skeleton.

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Don’t fear the scarecrow – unless you’re a crow – UPDATE: Scarecrow contest still accepting entries

Just because scarecrows come alive and kill people in really bad horror flicks doesn’t mean we should fear them.

Bertha's head/Head design and photo Ryn Gargulinski
Bertha's head/Head design and photo Ryn Gargulinski

These fascinating beings have been an integral part of many cultures, or at least those cultures that like to eat instead of having birds and other wildlife ravage their fields.

They are also pretty darn interesting.

The Tucson Botanical Gardens will be celebrating scarecrows from Oct. 17 to Nov. 30 with Scarecrows in the Garden, a bountiful display by local artists and businesses.

Folks will vote on their favorite scarecrow and the contest is still open. Get your entry form by clicking HERE. There’s not cost to enter. Be assured you’ll see Rynski scarecrow in the mix.

Folks can use anything they want to create the scarecrows, but we can probably they won’t go for some of the more disgusting components of years past.

Rags, rotting meat, poison-soaked cloths and even dog skins have been fashioned into scarecrows, according to a History of Scarecrows webpage.

But that’s only when scarecrows were not made from live people. No, folks were not gutted, stuffed and staked to a pole, but sent to patrol fields with bags of rocks and noisemakers.

Medieval Britain was big on this tactic, employing young boys. This worked for some time until the Great Plague killed off half the population in 1348, making live scarecrows – or live anyone – scarce.

Tucson Botanical Garden photo
Tucson Botanical Gardens photo

The Industrial Revolution later beckoned any remaining live scarecrows with better paying jobs hunched over in noisy and filthy windowless factories.

I’d rather be a scarecrow.

Old men in some cultures are still used as scarecrows. They sit around in lawn chairs and then stand up and yell when birds come around. Sounds like an ideal retirement gig, perhaps even more fun than being a Wal-Mart greeter.

Animal skulls were another interesting scarecrow component. Skull head scarecrows were used in Italy in the Middle Ages and in my New Mexico yard. I plopped a deer skull atop my customized voodoo scarecrow’s neck and named her Bertha.

The New Mexico garden thrived, I’m convinced because of Bertha, until I moved. The new residents then promptly yanked out all the vegetables and giant sunflowers and hurled them into the middle of the street to make room for the trailer they put in the yard.

Even Bertha was more attractive than that trailer.

See the Tucson scarecrows:
When: Oct. 17 to Nov. 20
Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way
How: Pay for general admission and go during business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed holidays.
More info: Call 326-9686, Ext. 10 or visit

Bertha in all her glory/Scarecrow by Ryn Gargulinski
Bertha in all her glory/Scarecrow by Ryn Gargulinski

What do scarecrows mean to you?

Do you fear scarecrows?

Have you ever made a scarecrow? Would you want to be a scarecrow?

Have you ever seen a movie featuring a scarecrow that was actually watch-able?

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Cat prompts Tucson man to bicycle across the nation

Ever since Tucsonan Kyle Lyons adopted a cat, he’s gone through some massive changes.

Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo
Newly adopted Lieutenant Whiskers/submitted photo

The 27-year-old Geico insurance adjuster is taking unpaid leave from work and has already gotten rid of his car and his apartment, living with friends and in a Tucson hostel.

He’s spent the last 11 months riding his bicycle up, down and around Tucson, building up calf muscles the size of Texas.

No, this is not part of some torture of the gods or a man’s stab at martyrdom – it’s all preparation for his goal: a bicycle trek across the country to raise money for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

His 4,018-mile journey kicks off Aug. 23 in San Diego and ends Oct. 15 in Boston.

To make it work, he needs to ride at least 75 miles per day. His route includes back roads, side roads and a trek through the Rocky Mountains where temperatures easily dip below freezing at any time of the year.

Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/Ryn Gargulinski
Cross-country biker-to-be Kyle Lyons/submitted photo

“I just had the vague idea that I wanted to do it,” the animal lover said of biking across the nation. “I knew I wanted to do it for some kind of charity, but I wasn’t sure which one. Then I adopted a cat from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. I saw what was going on in there. They were clearly hard-working people who could use some assistance.”

Once he had the charity in mind, he said, the rest was easy. Kind of.

Getting time off work was a piece of cake once Geico heard of his noble cause. Giving up his car was part of the bicycle training plan.

Getting rid of the apartment – well, that was a tougher one.

“So I’m homeless,” he wrote in his online journal at His lease expired at the end of July and he had to choose between renting an apartment he wouldn’t see for more than two months or sponging off friends. He chose the latter. His friend is watching his new cat, since named Lieutenant Whiskers.

“Do you have any idea how many gummy bears I can buy with the two months rent I’m not gonna have to spend now?,” he asked in his journal. “You can’t even fathom it.”

Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo
Lieutenant Whiskers (right) hangs out with buddy Luke/submitted photo

The trip itself, however, is no cheap undertaking. In addition to stocking up on all the necessities, Lyons said he needs about $4,000 to finance his way.

Food is the major cost, especially when he needs to consume between 8,000 to 10,000 calories per day.

He also needs at least three changes of clothes, special shoes, a tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, a bicycle pump and other biking equipment, his laptop to update his online journal along the way and random freeze dried treats when he needs a quick energy boost.

He expects the necessities to add about 50 pounds when saddle-bagged to the new bike he bought in May.

“My biggest trepidation is not being able to finish,” he said when asked. “But I don’t think that will be a concern. Then there’s always the vague fear of getting hit by a car or eaten by a bear. There’s nothing I’m really terrified of happening to me.”

His mom, however, sees it a bit differently. “She’s kind of freaking out,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell my parents, but somebody spilled the beans. Dad is taking it OK but mom is kind of panicking a bit.”

Lyons most looks forward to the finale in his native town of Boston, where friends and family, including a very relieved mom, will be waiting for him.

He has also already raised $360 of his $1,000 goal for the Humane Society. Folks can donate online through the Society. Even if Lyons doesn’t hit his goal, he said none of his efforts will be wasted.

“It’s one of those once in a lifetime things,” he said.


NOTE: Two questions came up after this column aired on the radio Thursday. Here are the questions, along with Lyons’ answers:

1. Why is his goal so low at $1,000?

“The $1,000 goal is just that, a goal. If I get to $1,000, I’m certainly not going to stop accepting donations. $1,000 is kind of the minimum I’d like to put together for this thing.”

2. Why doesn’t he just give the $4,000 to the Society instead of using it for his journey?

“As for the cost of the trip itself, you have to understand a lot of that money is simply bills I need to pay while I’m not earning money at a job. The remaining could’ve theoretically just been sent to the Humane Society without me doing anything, but what if this really takes off and I end up raising $2,000 or $5,000? Even if I only make the $1,000, that’s still $1,000 dollars they didn’t have coming in before, and I get the experience of doing this cross-country ride. The same argument could be made about ANY fundraising activity: they all cost money that technically could simply go to the charity instead.”

Donate through by clicking here.

Read Lyons online journal by clicking here – WARNING: mature language not meant for kids

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who adopted both Phoebe, the barking wonder dog, and dearly departed Stanley, the hairless rat, from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail

What do you think?

Would you bike across the nation for your favorite charity? Would you even bike to the store?

What is your favorite charity?

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Happy Birthday: Smokey the Bear turns 65

One dude who just turned 65 is still so hot, he’s smoking. Too bad he’s just a cartoon.

Smokey rocks/Ryn Gargulinski
Smokey rocks/Ryn Gargulinski

But he’s a cartoon with a big campaign, bigger shoulders and the very big message that “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Well, you and Mother Nature.

In any event, Smokey the Bear celebrates his birthday this week, perhaps with a cake sporting battery-operated candles, and he doesn’t appear ready to retire anytime soon.

Forest fires, or in the case of southern Arizona, dry brush desert area fires, have already eaten up more than 4.18 million acres of America this year alone, thanks to careless campers, severe storms and that stuff called lightning.

This week alone, more than 30 large wildfires were raging across the nation, according to Smokey’s online Real Time Wildfire Map, with four and one-half of them in Arizona. The one-half was partly in New Mexico. One of the most visible has been blazing in the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps our area’s mot notable was the Aspen fire that wiped out most of Summerhaven in June 2003.

Smokey must have had the day off.

But his efforts have earned him the distinction of being part of the longest running public service announcement in U.S. history and one of the most recognizable icons of our time.

A whopping 97 percent of adults recognize Smokey’s image at the drop of a ranger hat, according to an Ad Council survey, and three out of four folks can recite his sizzling wildfire mantra without looking at a cue card.

Because Smokey is one of the hottest spokespersons to hit the market, we have to ask why he has been so successful.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Few other cartoon spokespeople have achieved such heights, although we do have the pleasure of McGruff the Crime Dog and his little sidekick Scruff, neither of whom can hold a candle to Smokey.

Smokey has staying power for a number of reasons. One is his sob story of origin. The icon had a real live counterpart when folks found a baby bear cub cowering in a charred tree after a New Mexico wildfire.

The cub was rescued, tended to, healed up and dubbed “Little Smokey.” His new home became Washington D.C.’s National Zoo.

You can’t help but love any icon with a beginning that sweet.

Another reason Smokey is effective is because of his delivery. He doesn’t hit folks on the head with a shovel to instill his message. He uses the age-old method proven to work almost every time on almost everybody: guilt.

One of Smokey’s 1940s-era posters features a disappointed-looking bear sadly pouring a bucket of water on an unattended campfire.

Another depicts dear Smokey actually kneeling down in prayer with the words, “And please make people careful, amen.”

A 1950s poster shows Smokey cradling the near dead body of a doe while a fire rages in the background with the words, “Our Most Shameful Waste.”

OK, OK, I promise to put out my campfire.

Smokey’s final claim to fame is the fact that he’s so dang personable. He may be big, burly and potentially deadly, but he caters to our compassionate side.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski
Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

He got his start because of the massive news coverage following the discovery of the charred-up New Mexico bear and has been in the limelight since.

Smokey has been featured in Ladies Home Journal, the star of entire comic books and is a regular on countless posters, radio and TV, not to mention the thousands of schools and other venues he’s visited over the years.

That’s quite a campaign. But then, he’s quite a bear.

Happy birthday, Smokey.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who never started a fire or killed a gerbil on purpose.  Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. E-mail


Do you care about Smokey the Bear or are you more into Woodsy Owl?

Do cartoon icons deter you from acting stupid?

In addition to Smokey, Woodsy and McGruff, what other icons do we need?