Monday, August 27, 2012

coyote on the trail

that there are wild beasts here on the rim is something we all know.  there've been bears spotted a mile south  and one was shot at the local ramp onto the interstate north of here after being struck by a car.  we've seen turkey and deer, of course, and feral cats, some feral dogs, and there's often stories of wolves.  we often hear coyotes at night, sometimes close by, usually in the winter and spring, but this summer we've heard them since late june.

a couple days ago I was out walking the dogs north on the trail when one dog, the younger husky mix, sprang off into the underbrush and didn't return for about 5 minutes.  that's not unusual.  what was so was that further down the trail, just before he returned, I saw an animal I took at 1st for him emerge from the trees and trot quickly south.  when I realized it wasn't my dog I took it for a fox but then realized it was larger than that, and by the time it had jumped back into the trees and darted into the cow pasture to the east I'd identified it as a coyote.

my dog hadn't barked or growled or made any sounds I could hear and then he plowed back out onto the trail, obviously seeking the coyote.  I say a lot of stuff about them but they're basically well-trained dogs and so when I called him he came right over and submitted to being leashed.  I kept him on it although he pulled and whined as we went by the area the coyote had come out from, and when we passed by the spot where it sprang into the field he went absolutely nuts, tugging and twitching and for the next couple yards kept turning around and whining.  at last I turned too and there, about 40 feet behind us, trotted the coyote.  it was an immature one, not a juvenile I think but younger than an adult, and probably a male.  it hesitated for a moment when I turned, affording me a good look, and then darted into the undergrowth and back into the field.  this was fewer than 10 minutes walk from our house and within spitting distance of our neighbor's homes on both sides of the trail.

what I imagine happened was that my dog smelled the coyote and came perilously close to it resting.  now, my dog is not a bruiser.  he is a big, knuckleheaded, playbowing, overgrown pup, although to an especially near-blind and unable-to-smell coyote he might look like a wolf.  we checked him all over for bites or scratches after we got home but there were none we could find.  what is especially of interest to me is the coyote's trotting after us on the trail after he'd been safely passed by.  my wife said our dog's twisting and turning was his getting into protection stance but I say he was trying to invite the coyote home for a sleepover.

an important part of me is glad I live in a place where there are still dangerous animals prowling.  would my opinion change if one of them attacked and killed my dogs or cats?  probably, at least for a little while.  but that's my problem, not theirs and not, I suspect, even my pets'.  we should be aware of the dangers that surround us and remember that, despite our current position at the top of the predator list most places, that placement doesn't always hold.  nor should it.  I'm not about, like timothy treadwell, to go live with the grizzlies in order to try my luck--I appreciate my securely closed door--but I like having to be aware that, once I step beyond the borders of my property, and at night, even within those borders, there are animals that could and would do me harm.

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