Saturday, February 19, 2011


This morning with my big clumsy camera mounted on its tripod I stood in the cold with a huge full moon setting over my shoulder and the camera pointed to the glow in the east.  I waited for the perfect light, by the shore of Willow Creek, listening to occasional booms of the shifting ice.  Suddenly, to the north across the creek I heard some animals coming out of the cattails and preparing to cross the creek.  Almost as soon as the two coyotes came out of the cattails, we saw one another.  While the second coyote immediately turned and headed back into the cattails, the first looked at me and kept trotting across the ice.  It paused momentarily to get another look at me and disappeared into the marsh.  Although most of my encounters with coyotes have been brief glimpses in the headlights, one morning as a kid waiting for the bus at the end of our 500 ft driveway in thick fog, three shadows emerged a hundred feet away, making a quick circle on the road and disappearing without having ever made a sound.  Crossing a section of marsh along the Rat River this winter, I came upon a place where many coyotes’ trails converged.  In this spot the snow was so covered with coyote tracks that there was no space within an eight foot circle without a footprint in the fresh snow.  I stood in the center imagining the night before when the pack greeted each other with sniffs and licks, and perhaps yipping and howling before heading off on a hunt.   
Sightings of coyotes in the country are often followed by a hasty trip to the gun cabinet.  That is why they disappear into the brush almost as soon as they appear.  Perhaps that is the reason almost every time I heard the coyotes howling in my childhood was when their calls were masked by the passing freight trains.  That is why this blurry photo I hastily took with my point and shoot camera is very fitting.  Coyotes are phantoms of the marsh, forest, and field.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason shortly after this occurred I decided that the coyote who turned and ran into the cattails must have been the female and the male was the one who ran across the creek. Females in my mind are the more sensible, better delay a trip than get shot. Males on the other hand blunder onward. I guess I'm a little sexist. Perhaps another reason for this assumption is that this was likely a mated pair and if so the female would certainly be pregnant with a due date sometime in April. She may be more cautious, and the male perhaps drawing attention away from his mate. I made quite a few assumptions there, and you know what happens when you assume.