Coyote Shenanigans

Spruceline Farm, June 2014

Around my place, we have a pair of melanistic coyotes (basically a mottled black and brown coyote). The best way to understand the meaning of melanistic is to think of the black version of the grey squirrel. My understanding is that melanistic coyotes are black versions of the Eastern Coyote. The following story will tell you a little bit more about them…

I woke up at 3:00 am on June 1st (2014) to the strong smell of skunk wafting in through the open window. I could hear my dog (Basil) barking excitedly and my first thought was that he had been sprayed by this same skunk. I got up and walked over to the window where I could see him under the outdoor light. He was facing North, barking into the row of spruce trees across the lawn. Suddenly I saw something bounce out from the dark edge beyond where the light could reach. It moved into the light, approximately 8 feet away from my favourite border collie, who was fortunately tied to his dog house. It was a black coyote! It had long, skinny legs and a lanky build. I watched it grab something dark that was lying on the ground near Basil, move the object a little bit (closer?) and then turn around and bounce/gallop quickly back towards the dark lawn. The coyote did this about 4 times (that I saw) before it decided to take the small, dark object and run off across the lawn and through the tree line. Basil was obviously pulling on his chain everytime this happened, lunging towards the black coyote – seemingly providing immense “glee” for the coyote. I have never seen that kind of interaction before. My impression was that the coyote was playing “Keep-Away” with Basil which was very intriguing to say the least. We have previously found voles around his doghouse and we have wondered how he managed to catch voles while being tied to his doghouse during the night. I believe that the coyote’s “toy” was a vole and I wonder if they sometimes leave a vole for Basil as a “prize” for his participation in coyote entertainment.

Basil (participant in coyote entertainment).

Basil (participant in coyote entertainment).

P.S. I would love to hear other stories about this if anyone else has seen something similar. The coyote was a little bit taller than Basil but not by much so I don’t think that it was a predator prey interaction (which is what most internet sites say). My sense is that it was purely a “fun” interaction. Once again, I have been awestruck by an animal and how similar we all are.

The following tracks were gathered in the morning as I ventured out onto the gravel driveway to observe evidence of the coyote/Basil interaction:

Coyote footprint (grass), Spruceline Farm (June 2014)

Coyote footprint (grass), Spruceline Farm (June 2014)

This grassy clump found along the coyote trail (running from the freshly mown lawn onto the gravel driveway) measures 8cm (length) x 5 cm (width). I love this track. It was still moist in the morning and I envisioned it sticking to a coyote paw and then falling off mid-trail in his/her evening escapade.

Dark Coyote Hair, Spruceline Farm (June 2014)

Dark Coyote Hair, Spruceline Farm (June 2014)

Coyote track in gravel

Coyote track in gravel

Obviously, tracking in gravel was difficult. It was also very warm and buggy that day. Note the claw marks digging into the soil as the coyote literally leapt forward in the direction away from my dog. I noticed interesting pressure releases in the tracks that showed gravel deposits around the outsides of the track. After reading about pressure releases in Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, I believe that the spray of gravel that left a hill on the top, left side of this photo indicates a turn as well as an accelerating movement. Once again, I was shown how much I don’t know about tracking. Tracking in gravel is hard, literally and figuratively. I did find some short white fur in the area where I thought that the vole had been placed.

Here is a fascinating episode of the Nature of Things all about the mysterious “Coywolf”.  I highly recommend watching this:)

http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/meet-the-coywolf