What Lives in Peter Coyote's Backyard?

Peter Coyote’s wildlife-friendly yard welcomes foxes and other animals. (Photo by Peter Coyote)

Yes, his namesake animal does wander into Peter Coyote’s backyard, along with a diverse array of critters including skunks, gray foxes, raccoons, and birds galore.

His wild menagerie (complemented with two personable cats, Jackson and Pearl) attests to his lifelong affinity for nature. “I’ve always been fascinated by animals and have felt a kinship. By the time I was eight years old I realized that everything in the world was alive and connected, and had its own business—and you didn’t interrupt it without consequences.”

A resident of Marin County in Northern California since the 1970’s, Coyote has witnessed some of the negative consequences of our actions on the natural world and considers his efforts for wildlife as simply being a good neighbor. “Habitat for wildlife is continually shrinking—I can at least provide a way station.”

Peter Coyote in the gardens at his northern California home (Photo by Beth Pratt)

After spending an afternoon with Peter at his home (nicknamed ‘The Tree House’) it’s obvious that he “walks the talk” of being a caretaker for wild things. The words of his friend Gary Snyder perhaps best describes his philosophy: “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

Indeed, the natural world and his official dwelling seem indistinguishable, an extension of each other. From the road a series of winding staircases suspended among the redwood trees overlook ferns and other lush foliage in the creek bed below. Inside the home, you feel as if you were in the comforting embrace of a giant tree trunk. Peter describes the intent of the design: “my house and my garden are built as part of nature, not over it.”

The animals have definitely noticed the welcome mat he has extended. The garden is simply the native landscape enhanced and retains the memory of days when Roosevelt elk and grizzly bears freely roamed the area. Native wildlife—albeit smaller than the historical mega-fauna—still flock to his mini-backyard nature reserve. Peter also supplements the native plants with bird feeders. The well stocked stash of sunflower seeds entice the titmice and juncos to visit, while goldfinches feed on his offerings of gourmet thistle. While we ate lunch on his deck, a Nutall’s woodpecker eyed the suet.

A Nutall’s woodpecker eyes the feeder (Photo by Beth Pratt)

Small mammals also make frequent appearances. He’s witnessed raccoon and skunk families on parade in his yard (sometimes at the same time!), and one raccoon, named Monica, has raised her young in his garden for four years. A gray fox has become a regular resident—he once watched her, along with her three kits, drink from a clay water bowl on his deck.

A raccoon and skunk parade (Photo by Peter Coyote).

Peter has many talents, from acting in more than one hundred films like Erin Brockovich and E.T., to his Emmy award-winning narration of documentaries such as Ken Burns’ The National Parks, to his intelligent and poignant storytelling (his autobiography Sleeping Where I Fall is a favorite of mine). For being a good neighbor to wild creatures, we’ll add one more achievement to his list of impressive accomplishments: an official National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat®.