Well, after a long summer, I’m back. Actually, it was a much needed break. After 19 years of writing this column, I had run out of things to say, but the summer provided me with a number of new adventures and interesting sights.
Pat and I spent the entire summer on our hill, camping next to our pond. Several mornings during that time we had a visitor. Well, he didn’t actually visit our camper, but a coyote walked through the meadow on the other side of the pond on a rather regular basis.
It was about 10 a.m. each time we saw him. The pesky little canine took the same route, always coming up out of the brush near the overflow of the pond. He’d trot along and occasionally stop to check things out. He wasn’t afraid of us, but frequently glanced our way to see what we were doing.
One morning he stopped. I could tell he was listening as he tilted his head back and forth. I yelled at him, “Hey, what’s going on this morning?”
Of course, he didn’t answer. Something in the grass had caught his attention. The cagey critter hunched up, jumped straight in the air and pounced on something. When he landed, he caught a small creature. He swung his head up, tossed a mouse in the air and caught his breakfast in his mouth. I guess he was showing off.
A few days later I spotted him up in the old pasture. He nonchalantly roamed across the mowed area, but he had the hunt on his mind: a doe and two of last year’s fawns were located just above him. They raised their tails but didn’t run off as they intently watched him. The cunning coyote pretended they weren’t even there and started digging in some taller grass. He’d move ahead and continue with the game. The deer would look at him, and he’d immediately start searching for some rodent at the roots of the goldenrod.
During this game the coyote was able to close the distance by several feet. Finally the doe stomped her foot, announcing the impending danger, and all three of the whitetails finally ran off. I watched his reaction. He probably thought, “Darn… missed them again!”
There was no way a single coyote could have caught any of those deer, but I had to hand it to him – he gave it a gallant effort. Even a pack of coyotes would have trouble catching a healthy whitetail on bare ground in open country; they wait for the weak or wounded. When the snow is too deep for a deer to travel, coyotes can get one because they have the advantage. But not in the summer.
Our coyote was a young one, but he had learned to survive from his mother, and she was an able teacher. We had watched her earlier in the spring. When he was first out of the den, she brought him small woodchucks. I had seen her with her pups in the further meadow, searching for food. With small rabbits in the hedge row and young woodchucks in the newly mowed meadow, the pups grew and learned to survive. She taught them to hunt and stalk their prey.
But summer has passed. That young pup has joined his parents and grandparents to hunt in packs, taking rabbits and other small animals in the fields and woodlot. We often hear them howl and yodel in the moonlight, hunting together in a family group.
These animals have learned to survive among us. Several years ago my dad drove home from a meeting and saw a coyote sitting right in our driveway. Maybe he was after Dad’s cat. Who knows? But coyotes live among us. Years ago I shot a buck on our hill and hung it in the third floor of our barn. The upper doors were open, and the coyotes snuck in and ate the entire hindquarters.
As good hunters or creatures of opportunity, we might as well face it. Coyotes are here to stay.