Monday, October 8, 2012

Close Encounters: Coyote on the Summit; Coyotes in a Wash

Coyote appears near the top of the summit.
I have to admit, I rarely have had a camera handy when I've come close to coyotes out in the field—or, rather, when they have come close to me. And I didn't have one this time, either: these are MOH's pictures of one healthy-looking coyote near the top of our current hiking hill in the Sonoma Range.

Coyote moves on down the ridgeline.
Most of the times I've seen coyotes up close and personal, they have come to investigate me rather than the other way around. Once, I looked up from taking a stream sediment sample in the middle of nowhere somewhere north or northeast of Hot Creek Canyon in south-central Nevada, and three coyotes were standing 20 feet from me across the dry wash, staring at me. Maybe they were wondering what I was doing out there, as I sometimes did when the temperatures approached or exceeded 100° F. All my stuff was in the shade of a fairly tall tree (by Nevada standards, that's any tree you can't jump over). The coyotes were just barely out of the bushes and small trees on the other side of the wash.

I stared back at them. We held a mutual staring contest while I considered whether they were dangerous. Were they rabid? No, they looked plenty healthy, of average size. Two may have been smaller than the one, possibly it was a small family or pack. Were they considering me as a possible dinner? I have no idea, but I considered my options, then carefully bent over and grabbed my two and a half pound sledge, which was leaning against my pack.

They still hadn't moved. I moved the hammer into a more threatening position and walked toward them. As I stepped from the shade into the sun, they quickly disappeared into the brush. I never saw them again, but as I walked down the wash toward my helicopter pick-up point awaiting me at the end of the day, I wondered whether they had followed me, and I turned around to look back more than once.

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