Spotting coyotes in the back yard allows me to put the spiders I see in the bathroom into perspective. I mean, imagine if it were the other way around - spiders out in the yard and coyotes lurking under the bathroom sink.

Spotting coyotes in the back yard allows me to put the spiders I see in the bathroom into perspective. I mean, imagine if it were the other way around - spiders out in the yard and coyotes lurking under the bathroom sink.

Of course, it sort of is the other way around, at least as far as the spiders are concerned. I realized long ago that trying to rid our century-old house of every last creature that crawls upon the earth was an exercise in futility, since what's in the house is what's under the house, and what's under the house is whatever's out there in the fields around us.

Fortunately, some bugs of the field prefer to stay in the field, similar to the way certain people would rather tent-camp than stay in a motel, no matter how many cable TV channels are offered for free.

Other bugs may want in, but most of them don't make it thanks to their short legs and brief life spans. I figure if they start walking from the middle of the field, they die of advanced old age about three inches closer to the house than they were when they started.

The spiders who do make it into the house, I suspect, are the ones who have spent their whole lives directly underneath it, which would explain why our house spiders tend to be unusually enormous and strong. They've been sheltered by the house, for one thing, and they didn't have far to travel, for another. No wonder my husband and I have been witness to some of the brawniest arachnids ever to swagger out from under the refrigerator. They're like hothouse flowers, raised solely to flex their thighs of steel - all eight of them - and check out their reflections in the oven window.

My point, however, is that while the spiders I see in the bathroom are in fact also running around in the fields, the coyotes I see in the fields are not yet running around in the bathroom.

It may be just a matter of time, of course. Recent news stories about coyotes only confirm what people in my rural neighborhood already knew: Coyotes are here. We often listen to them crying at night, and trust me, the wails, yips and yelps out there in the dark have an undercurrent of wildness that makes a person glad to be safely indoors.

It might be comforting to know that according to the Ohio Wildlife Center, only animals who weigh less than 45 pounds need to fear coyotes. It might be comforting, I say, but in fact it isn't, because our dog weighs about 40 pounds and is singularly unprepared to fend off a coyote.

In fact, I doubt he'd even see a coyote coming. He'd smell it coming, his nose tucked into the coyote's tracks as if he were sewing the paw prints together with his muzzle, and he wouldn't see the coyote itself until the top of his head bumped into the coyote's throat. Even then, he'd probably want to play.

This is so sad I can scarcely think about it.

The Ohio Wildlife Center's website suggests pet owners not leave animals outdoors alone after 4 p.m. It also suggests - and this is even more alarming - that parents "keep an eye on small children."

I'm sure this is a good idea - it's always a good idea, coyotes or no coyotes - but am I alone in thinking the tone of this friendly tip is a little casual under the circumstances? Perhaps children are less at risk than small animals, but I still find it difficult to assume that we need to worry less about them. Children are, after all, our young, and as such we tend to feel protective toward them.

Incidentally, the 4 p.m. cutoff is intended to coincide with the onset of dusk, since coyotes are nocturnal animals. Supposedly. In fact, my husband and I have been seeing coyotes in the dead of day, so to speak. They seem to be watching us, which adds to our unease.

It's possible, I suppose, that the coyotes have young themselves and, in the manner of all good parents, are keeping an eye on us while their children sleep. It may be that they are as afraid of us as we are of them. Wouldn't that be funny if it turned out to be true? We could all share a laugh and learn a valuable lesson at the same time.

Or wait. This isn't an episode of Leave It To Beaver. It's Ohio Wildlife, a reality show. I don't deny that coyotes are my favorite characters, but I'm glad that the ones in the bathroom are the spiders.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail her at