Several times this fall I have encountered coyotes.
In the mornings while climbing up my hill to get ready for the Mt. Marcy hike, I’d see one. He’d be in the meadow searching for mice or wandering along one of the many logging roads.
One day a doe and her two fawns were feeding in our old pasture. I watched as the big brownish-gray canine circled around and started his stalk. But before he got close enough the old deer spotted him and all three were off into the woods with their white tails waving. Obviously, venison was not on the menu that morning.
Twice more I saw that same dog in the woods while deer hunting. I easily could have shot him, but anymore I only shoot what I eat. Trust me, I’ve skinned a bunch of them when we had the taxidermy shop. They stink! I certainly wouldn’t eat one even if I was starving to death. And so he disappeared into the underbrush and we continued our hunt.
Years ago I was hunting in the Siamese Ponds area of the Adirondacks. Late in the day as rain fell steadily, I made my way back to camp. As I wandered down the Rock Pond trail with my old wool coat pulled up around my ears, a coyote approached. That big predator weighed nearly 70 pounds, but that’s because these big canines aren’t true coyotes.
The western coyote is a smaller version. A big coyote in Colorado or Arizona only will weigh 35 pounds, but the eastern variety is a cross between the coyote and the eastern red wolf. They are nearly twice the size of their western cousins.
There is a lot of misinformation about the eastern coyote. I’ve heard people say the DEC released them to control the deer population. It’s not true. Over the years they moved in from Canada and some more westerly states. They filled a void in the predator chain. It’s similar to the moose moving back into the Adirondacks or the bears moving into this area.
Coyotes are bold animals. Even though they appear to be ghost-like and elusive, they are around us more than we think. Several years ago, I shot a deer and hung it up on the third floor of our old barn. I had skinned it and left the barn doors open on the bridgeway. In the morning I discovered the coyotes went into the barn and ate an entire hindquarter off my buck.
Another time we drove into our yard and saw a coyote sitting in the driveway scratching the back of his head. He was just a few feet from our back door. There was a reason he was there. Coyotes love cats and even small dogs. Household pets are an easy meal for a hungry coyote.
I love to listen to coyotes howl at night. They will yip and bark and sing such melodious songs while hunting and communicating with the rest of their pack. That will happen for several nights and then they’re gone. Maybe they moved over the hill into the next valley to feed, but in a few weeks they came back.
I’m amazed the way they hunt and react to situations. One day while heading toward Milford, I stopped the truck and watched a young coyote feeding not far from the road. He jumped way up and pounced on a mouse before spending several minutes tossing it into the air and playing with it. When the game was over, he had it for breakfast. His actions were very catlike and I felt blessed to have seen it.
Coyotes are smart and they’re here to stay. I enjoy seeing them in the woods and meadows, and look forward to another of nature’s wonderful encounters.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at email@example.com.