Monday, December 29, 2008


(On the Left: This is a squence of photos from Rocky Mountain National Park. They are ordered in time.) Colorado has gone to the dogs and I don’t mean rover! The Coyote (Canis latrans subsp.), a member of the dog genus is ubiquitous around the state and throughout North America for that matter. Unlike other species, which have felt the pinch of encroaching humans, the Coyote has adapted and expanded its range. It now roams from Oregon to New Jersey. They thrive in the burbs as well as the wilds.

Coyotes are carnivores. Their primary diet consists of small mammals like rabbits, mice, and Prairie Dogs. They will eat carrion but prefer a fresh kill. There is a great deal of controversy over how much livestock and domestic pets are affected by the coyote. Whether myth or fact, just the idea makes the Coyote the target of ranchers and farmers. Interestingly, Coyotes are afraid of Mountain Lions and some communities have learned to keep Coyotes away by projecting the sounds of Lion.

The Coyote to the left smells something in the snow

Now it is digging in the snow.

Nothing comes of it.

I have lost track of the Coyote sightings I have had. What is unique about his sequence is that there were three Coyotes traveling together. I have only seen them solo despite the fact that they do usually hunt in pairs. I observed this group in Rocky Mountain National Park the day after Christmas. I only had a 200mm lens, so the photos are distant but the sequence does give you an idea of their color and behavior. Coyotes usually have a hunting circuit three to four miles long. The tracks you can see in the photos imply these three had cruised this ground before.

The group begins to move on.

I have been spotted and they begin to head over the hill.

I am being observed.

Coyotes can interbreed with domestic dogs. Sometimes I wonder if my new puppy is not part Coyote. She is a trickster for sure, just like prevalent Native American myths. Next time you see a Coyote or hear its lonesome song, take a moment to appreciate the rare success story of a species that is actually thriving.

The last shot before they bolted over the hill.


Shellmo said...

I enjoyed your shots of the coyote and did find it interesting to see it w/ a couple others. I saw my 1st one last winter walking across the frozen lake - it was beautiful.

Tina said...

What a great post, I love that you can track these guys and watch them from a far!! What great pictures even tho you weren't close..but could you have gotten any closer..? I have never seen a coyote but imagine they are awesome to spot!!
Thanks for this great post. Hope you had a great Christmas and have a safe and healthy new year!

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Tina,

As it was, we saw these guys from the car and by the time I jumped out, swapped lenses, and trotted across the meadow they were already far away. Even at that distance, they saw me. Not sure I could have gotten much closer on such open terrain. It was also 20 degrees out, so sitting and waiting was out of the question!

sylvia murphy said...


It is funny how we take certain species for granted. I am so used to seeing Elk and Coyotes that I forget they don't exist in other parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

Those are very, very nice photos! I see them often, but a year ago on a remote trail in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains here in western Montana I was able to get a couple photos of one and watch him for quite some time before he caught my scent. I consider that quality time!

Nina said...

These are great shots - well spotted!
I was driving in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area early one morning this summer, and one ran across the road in front of my car and into the woods. It stopped in the trees and we stared at each other for a few seconds before it took off.

With so much urban sprawl going on in Metro Detroit, there has been concern in the northern suberbs in recent years over the safety of small pets with coyotes running around. Coyotes were quick to be named the enemy. It's interesting - people tend to want to live "in the country", but want the 'country' elements kept at bay. They are annoyed by the deer that eat from their bird feeders, the snakes that slither through their flower gardens, etc. In the meantime, I get excited if I see so much as a hawk fly over my neighborhood!