By David J. Hawke —
Out in our neck of the woods, which is quite woody indeed, coyotes are often heard but seldom seen. The corridor of interconnected forests and quiet farm fields that stretches across this part of the township, provides a world of protection for these wild canines. So it was with delighted surprise that I actually observed two such animals within a day of each other. Both sightings were from the comfort of my car as I drove along well-travelled roads.
The first sighting was in a rolling and fairly open field just up the way from our farm. A few scrubby pines and a couple of rock piles dotted the clearing, their early morning shadows stretching westward with exaggerated length in the early morning light. The rising sun had just cleared the distant treeline of robust and naked maples, and the cooling temperatures of overnight had rendered the air quite clear.
As I motored along at 60 kph (well, okay, 70... ish) my first glance across the adjacent field triggered the thought that there's something out of place, an extra lump that wasn't there yesterday. A second glance zeroed in on a moving form, possibly a dog from a nearby rural subdivision returning from an overnight romp of chasing deer. But something about this dog didn't sit right within my cranial computer bank. A third look caused my foot to ease up from the gas pedal.
Loping across this expanse of snow, head held high as if it were the baron out for a look-see of the estate, was a very big coyote. As my car slowed and pulled over to the shoulder, the coyote suddenly turned its head and locked its attention on my abnormal behaviour. Cars are supposed to go whooshing by yet this one was stopping, which is quite abnormal from any coyote's point-of-view.
Its change in motion from casual lope to full-tilt boogie happened within a single stride! The remainder of the field was covered and left behind in less than four seconds. The sight of this usually wily animal was now etched into my memory, its muscular gait and over-sized bottlebrush tail both giveaway clues to its identity.
The second sighting happened the following afternoon as I was coming home from work. Within a large corn field, sitting away out in the middle, was a dog. Or was it? Again, it took a couple of looks to figure out what it was that I was actually observing. And again, as my car slowed from its usual pace, the animal in the field focused all its senses towards me.
Once it stood up and the disproportionately large tail unfurled, its true identity was revealed. This coyote was in no great hurry to leave, and paced back and forth for a while, as if trying to determine if I was going to prolong this invasion of its privacy. Finally, the beastie decided that perhaps things would be quieter if it was one more field further away from the road.
As it angled away, I could see through my binoculars (always handy in the glove box) that the thick fur was a mix of cinnamon and white. Most coyotes are a German Shepherd shade of grey and brown, but this one was very light in its coloration. However, this palette of colour helped it to blend in with the weathered corn stalks and yellowed grasses. The last I could see of it was when it jumped a small ditch and disappeared behind the dogwoods.
Why had these two been so easy to spot, relatively speaking, when I'm usually only lucky enough to see one in a whole year? Were the mice and meadow voles in the fields (those hapless creatures that comprise the bulk of a coyote's diet) frozen out of their homes by the recent thaw-freeze cycle? That might explain the coyote's presence in these unprotected areas.
Maybe I was just plain lucky, being in the right place at the right time, twice. Whatever the reason, I am fortunate to be able to sit back, close my eyes (but not while I'm driving), and let the above scenes replay themselves through my mind. Scenes that show another of our natural neighbours trying to share their world with us.