A Trickster Appears

I have always loved animals, especially wild animals. Living where I do, I have some amazing wildlife sightings at times, as well as other indications that there are non-human neighbors all around.

Sometimes this is startling, as when a bear tore down the bird feeders hanging right beside the house. Other encounters are more of a nuisance, as when some temporarily-visiting beavers flooded our yard. And I am well aware that if we ever decided to venture into, say, chicken-keeping, they would need the equivalent of a doomsday bunker for a coop if they wanted to survive even a week. But there is still nothing like looking up to find  yourself sharing space with some other creature, especially those that most people rarely see.

I bring this up now because this morning, I looked out my window and saw tracks crossing our pond. We’ve been hearing coyotes off and on at night, and seeing their tracks everywhere, and these looked like the right size (and made the right kind of pattern) for coyote prints. A glance through one of my field guides turned up a picture of coyote tracks crossing a frozen lake that looked exactly like what I was seeing. So I figured, “Ok, most likely coyote, but I’d like to go out and look at them up close after I’m dressed.”

So I took a shower, got dressed, brushed my teeth, turned around…and there was a coyote sauntering straight across the yard and onto the pond. Holding my breath, I ran for my camera. My dog hadn’t seen the coyote yet, and it was very close to the house; even through a window I could probably get a good picture as long as she didn’t scare it away.

Important note: My dog is amazing. She has learned the specific sound of the zipper on my camera bag, and if I open that up she comes running from anywhere in the house to see what’s caught my attention. I heard her start up the stairs as soon as I had the camera in hand, so I ran for my bedroom window instead of the one nearest to me. See, the bedroom windows are higher up, taller than my dog can reach, so it would buy me a few minutes while she chased me in there but still couldn’t see what I had grabbed the camera for.

The quiet didn’t last, of course; she saw my attention was focused outside and went to where she could see. The coyote ran at the first volley of barks, but it didn’t go far before turning back to look. That’s where I got my best picture, as the coyote looked back across the snowy pond.

Coyote standing on snow, facing the camera

Now, the eastern coyote is a hybrid with a liberal percentage of wolf DNA and a small amount of dog ancestry as well. It is larger than other coyotes as a result, and I think it looks more wolflike overall. When we hear our local pack sing (and I think there are three of them right now) there’s a quick chorus of barking yips, and then one voice raised in a long, smooth howl that sounds exactly like a wolf.

So that was my excitement for today. And perhaps it is fitting that a creature characterized as a trickster in so many cultures should turn up to show 2016 the door. But is that a commentary on the year just ending, or the one about to begin?


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