Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rifle River Coyotes

After arriving at the park we drove around looking for a site. We avoid the modern campgrounds at all costs, especially during the summer as they're full of screaming children, which to my mind defeats the purpose of camping (though some would say so does an RV). We picked out a spot in one of the rustic loops and the girls dropped me off while they went back and paid, bought some firewood and filled up the water tank. I read a book and watched the sun set, then started a fire with the bits of wood we had brought. The girls returned and we sat around the campfire eating fresh salsa and chips for dinner as it was now too late to cook.

While we sat enjoying the evening some people in another site started laughing loudly. This was followed shortly by the singing of coyotes off to the east, then more off to the west, then back again. The campers whooped and hollered and the 'yotes whooped right back. It was entertaining, and a good reminder that we are not alone in the woods.

Friday morning Lisa had to go to work (we dropped her off at the gas station down the road where there was wifi and Diet Coke) and then Lori and I went to DeVoe Lake to do a little paddling. Lori was dying to break in her new yak. We paddled along the shore looking at the wildflowers and admiring the scenery, hoping to see loons. We paddled along the northern shore and then started to cut across to Pencil Island. It was then we heard the loon, shouting a warning call, on the far side of the lake. I grabbed my camera, long lens already in place, and looked for the loon. I did not see a loon, but saw what had caused her alarm.

When I first saw this creature I thought it was a fawn--my brain instantly picked something it was familiar with. But then I realized that it was a coyote, walking along the shoreline.

I was able to get a few long-distance, fuzzy shots of it before it stepped back into the brush. We paddled over to the shore and found its prints in the soft marley soil.

This was a real treat. We hear 'yotes at home some times but I've never seen one here. To have heard their singing the night before and then see one the following morning was special.

Coyotes are another of those wrongly persecuted animals. As we exterminated the wolf across the country, the coyote was left with a void to fill. They are not generally pack animals like wolves--the female raises her pups alone and they are solitary hunters. They do not have the size to take down large prey and so fill their bellies with smaller prey, like mice, rats, rabbits and other small critters. Our world is perfect for them, and they are starting to be seen more and more in urban areas, drawn there by the abundance of skunk, possum, raccoon and of course rats.

They show up in the darnedest places, like train cars--

Yes, a one way ticket to Albuquerque, please

--elevators, and even open coolers in Quiznos sub shops--

What a lovely place you have made for me to cool off on such a hot day!

They are smart, crafty and opportunistic. Native Americans revered Coyote as a trickster, a rebel, one who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Tales of Coyote's exploits are found in many Plains and western Indian folklore, including Crow, Zuni, Sioux and Apache to name a few. In some myths he created the world and all the creatures on it, including man. In other tales he gives man fire. Other tribes believe he is responsible for death. But mostly Coyote is just looking for a way to survive.

But too often we only want to see them dead, and we trap, shoot and poison them. And yet their numbers continue to increase as they busy themselves with the task of cleaning up after us and filling the voids our destruction has left.

On Coyote!

1 comment:

  1. Really great post. I follow coyotes as much as I can, at night and day. I hear them more than I see them out here. Like your last paragraph.