Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making tracks

The perfect winter’s night--full moon casting long shadows while snow fell ever so lightly--had given us the perfect morning for tracking.

Delicate flakes, still standing apart from the rest in the cold morning air, waiting for the sun or the pressure of a step.
I headed off to the pond—now solid from the week’s freezing temperatures and scanned the flat white expanse, where the night’s visitors sign a guestbook of sorts. The lure of the water’s edge--a hunting ground, even in this deep freeze.

Little footprints—birds, squirrels, rabbits—in clusters, as if they’d lingered safely, foraging here early this morning under the cover of darkness. Then, a trail, skirting the edge, and boldly crossing to the other side, caught my eye. It was fairly large and definitely canine.

Possibly a neighbor’s loose dog, though I thought not. Very straight-forward and business-like, this trail seemed to be—not the wandering of a roving Rover.
And, although I would’ve liked to find we had a fox—I immediately remembered the coyote resting in the cool grass back here last June.
Had he returned?

I checked the dimensions and measured the tracks, —I would be bold, too—and say, with certainty, “coyote.”

By evening, I was feeling very proud of my recently tested tracking skills, and eager to share the find with my husband returning home from work.
“The coyote was out by the pond this morning,” I said, greeting him. “I found his tracks.”

“Oh, I completely forgot to tell you! I saw him back there before I went to work.”

Stumble Upon Toolbar


MojoMan said...

With coyotes in the area, I surprised your 'moment in time' deer took so long to disappear. In our area here in eastern Massachusetts we have coyotes, and I've heard stories of fresh deer carcasses being reduced to a few bones overnight.

Stacie said...

I found coyote tracks yesterday, and photographed them. I hear coyotes quite often.

Anonymous said...

Oh husbands... killing your thrill of discovery... Why do they do that?

nina said...

Mojoman---I read your comment before crawling into bed last night--tossed it over all night long! Here's my take on that, for what it's worth.

Any time I've seen a coyote, it's been crossing or resting on a grassy/field area...the pond, the pastures, farmer's fields.
Our deer use these areas, too, but rest in the woods.

I've never seen a coyote walk our woods--(this could be because they actually don't, or because they're hidden within)--they're flushing rabbits from the fields.

My guess is that if the fallen deer had died in an open, grassy area, the coyotes would have made short work of her.

Any thoughts?

Stacie--I love to hear them on summer nights--makes me remember the wilder places I've been!

Winterwoman--I couldn't believe he'd not said a thing ALL day! For me, it was the nagging thought that wouldn't leave--like the name of an old movie star!

Q said...

Dear Nina,
Being out in the country sounds so enjoyable. My city world has a cemetery and a tiny wooded area where deer do travel. I have yet to see or hear a coyote. With habitat loss going on everywhere I would not be surprised if one of these days I do. There is a Bobcat in the little woods.
I too enjoy going out and looking at the tracks in the snow.
Winter can be so exquite. Your photos show just how magical it is.

Dorothy said...

Hi Nina,

Thanks for visiting my blog again!

When we lived in California, in the City no less, there were Coyotes all around us. We were warned not to let any small pets outside and never to leave pet food outside. We also had mountain lions come visit.

Now we live on acreage in the rural countryside of Pennsylvania. I've never seen a coyote here...not once.

Mary said...


Your photos looked a bit spooky but I love them! I hear coyote but I've never seen one. There are lots of sounds in the wee hours of the dark morning. I listen and wonder. Now, if I had snow I'd be watching tracks.

Weeping Sore said...

Gorgeous photos! Beautiful words! Thanks.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We often see coyotes when we are out birding. I haven't heard them in town where we live. We have seen a fox in front of our house. That wasa a thrill. I wish it would come back and eat the rabbits in our garden.

montucky said...

That was a pretty good confirmation of your tracking skills!

It was timely to read your post tonight. Today I tracked a coyote for about a mile, but it was his voice, not his track that I followed. Some of the canyons in the area distorted the his voice patterns and I got fairly close before I knew for sure just who was making the sounds, but it was just a coyote telling his extended family that dinner was ready.

Sandpiper said...

Nina, you write so beautifully. I recently discovered your blog and I'm hooked! Thanks for sharing your stories.

MojoMan said...

Nina: My experiences with coyotes here in eastern Massachusetts is very limited. Only recently have I begun to think about them and pay more attention. My most dramatic recent experience was encountering a coyote-killed deer. It was in the middle of a wide-open hayfield. Maybe they prefer to hunt in the open and the deer would do well to stick to the woods.

Marvin said...

My largely uninformed opinion on why the coyotes didn't scavenge the moment in time deer carcass is simply that they didn't happen to find it. You may have a relatively low coyote population.

I've seen coyotes in our woods many times, including seeing a coyote stalking a deer and a pack of coyotes making a kill on a fawn. Open areas are probably their preferred hunting territory, but coyotes are active in the woods too -- at least, they are here in the Ozarks.

nina said...

Q--I would trade bobcats for coyotes any day! It seems having them would be a better indicator of a healthy land.

Dorothy--They're still uncommon enough with us, for me to get excited upon finding one. We watch the fencing and the barn to be sure our goats are safe--so far, no trouble.

Mary--Isn't a dusting perfect--just enough to see what you're missing--If you want spooky, imagine yourself sitting back there around a fire in the summer....hearing them howl.

Weeping sore--thanks, I appreciate the encouragement! (and your visit)

Lisa--I see a fox from time to time when I drive to work--I'd love to have a pair den here.

Montucky--do you have wolves?

Sandpiper--Please consider the welcome mat always out! I love to share what I find interesting with those who equally appreciate it! (and I LOVE your Thoreau quote!)

Mojoman--Being able to compare notes across the miles is what puts one's single observation into perspective. I'll be thinking about them more, here, too.

Marvin--I think you're exactly right--and if we had a larger population, more would be seen in all areas.