Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to stare in to the eyes of a Coyote and live to tell about it

Yesterday started out exactly the same as every other day over the past five months. Haul my posterior out of bed, limp upstairs, get a cup of coffee and snag a few sips before hitching the dog to his leash and taking him outside for some morning relief. At this point, we make our way from the house, across the driveway. That, as you will see, is where all similarities (to previous days) stop.

Buddy is a smallish dog. He probably weighs sixteen pounds and is a mix of Boston Terrier and another type of wire haired terrier. His physique, being what it is, gives him a bit of a Napoleonic complex. I've always said that, if he were human, Buddy would drive a large truck with a lift kit. Far more entertaining in a dog than his human counterpart. Just my humble opinion.

Our garage is not attached to the house so we walked across the driveway and around my husband's Jeep, which was parked in its usual place next to the garage so that we could get to our 'usual' path for walks.

Note: What I'm about to describe to you took all of about 30 seconds though the detail described might make it seem much longer. In my brain, it took about an hour.

As I rounded the Jeep and looked to the edge of the woods behind our garage, approximately ten or fifteen feet from me, a very large Coyote was standing perfectly still and staring at me. Since it hadn't moved up to this point, Buddy had not yet spotted it.
I screamed something really effective like "GO AWAY!!!!!" in a strangled, shrill scream that only seems to present itself when I'm in full panic mode. As I screamed, the Coyote turned its head and, in doing so, made itself known to Buddy. In the rapid fire way that they do in situations like this, two things happened. The Coyote did actually turn to lope away until Buddy started barking, growling and lunging at it. At that point, it turned back toward us as though perhaps it thought Buddy might have something interesting to say or, at the very least, could serve as breakfast. We repeated this process twice, maybe three times so that the Coyote, in his indecision, looked almost as though he was dancing.
There are parts of your brain that catalog tiny details such as sights, smells and feelings for you to relive later when you have the chance. One of these things was the absolute magnificence of this animal. It probably weighs somewhere around 70 or 80 pounds, has a beautiful coat and gorgeous eyes. Also, I recall it's movement being very graceful. All in all, a beautiful animal. Unfortunately, for both of us, not an animal I'd like hanging out in our back yard. That brings us back 'to the moment'.
Once I realized the Coyote wasn't in any hurry to leave, I did my best to "run" back to the house, literally dragging Buddy behind me. I say dragging because if Buddy had his way (along with opposable thumbs)he would have un-clipped the leash and attacked the Coyote. His hackles were so far up, it looked as though someone might have electrocuted him. Apparently, he has hackles all over the place because even the hair on his legs seemed to be standing at attention.
What with the various maladies I have, my version of "run" (at best) is a quickened limp. So there we were, Buddy scrambling to get back to the Coyote at one end of the leash and me, screaming for him to come, getting back to the house as soon as possible. I am hard pressed to think of a time when I was more frightened. By the time I made it to the stairs of the house, my husband was at the door and wondering what all of the commotion was about. "THERE'S EITHER A SMALL WOLF OR A REALLY BIG COYOTE BEHIND THE GARAGE!!!!!!!!!" I yelled. Now, this is usually the part of my stories where whatever it is I've seen has disappeared and everyone wonders (again) if I'm becoming even more crazy than I was the day before. Not this time!! My husband was out there, staring it down. My brother went out there with a Garden Hoe in hand (the tool, not someone's personality...) and my Stepfather joined in the fun as well.
For an hour or so, this Coyote could be seen all along the edge of our yard, where I usually take Buddy for his walks.
After seeing it with her own two eyes, my daughter went straight for the internet where she looked up Wolves and Coyotes. She came back in to the kitchen a little while later to tell me the following facts, I think, in an attempt to help calm me:
1) It's definitely a Coyote.
2) Coyotes tend to research the areas where they hunt and make frequent visits in that effort. 3) If the Coyote was rabid, I probably wouldn't have made it back to the house.
I can't tell you how much better I felt after hearing those things but I do know that her heart was in the right place.
In the mean time, I had also gone to the Internet to try and find a phone number for the State's Fish and Game department, thinking they might be able to advise us on what to do (if anything) and even send someone out. Honestly, I should have known better because it was a Saturday. Imagine that? A State Office being open on Saturday? What was I thinking?!?!?! Isn't it nice to know that any type of Animal Control is available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday? Apparently, nobody shared that schedule with this particular animal.
Well, once the excitement died down and adrenaline was no longer pumping through my body like a freight train, I realized I hadn't thought to grab the camera and get a picture. Of course, this led to a plethora of ideas on how to lure the Coyote back to the yard. Omitting the ideas my husband came up with that required using Buddy as bait, I will share a few with you. Before I start to list them, let me say that inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of ours came from other Saturday morning experiences three or four decades ago.
1) Place a black circle on the lawn. The idea being we could walk over said circle but, when the Coyote tried to chase us, he would inexplicably fall in and we could snap pictures of him there.
2) Procure a large Slingshot, place ourselves in it and wait to spot the Coyote. The idea here is that the Slingshot would project us directly at the Coyote, who would obviously get knocked over. With Wile E. unconscious, we could take all of the pictures we want.
3) From Acme Company, purchase a whole bunch of things such as giant springs for our feet that we could use to "jump" the Coyote, Large road signs directing the Coyote over a cliff where he would land in a 'pouf' of smoke but wouldn't be injured. A number of other things could be purchased as well but the key here is to get them all in a giant, wooden crate that says "ACME" on the outside. Simply by placing this crate in our yard, the Coyote would be drawn to us based on some deeply inherent instinct.
4) Finally, instead of Buddy barking and growling at the Coyote, we would put him in a Road Runner costume, train him to run incredibly fast, stop on a dime, say "Meep-meep" and run away again. This would drive the Coyote nuts and he would chase Buddy without ever being able to catch him. We would use this technique to obtain action shots with the camera.

That was our excitement yesterday neatly wrapped up with plans for the next time he visits.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry - you were scared - but a great story - it is a shame you were cameraless! My folks had a coyote in their yard once and they did manage a few photos through the window - they were luckily inside. That the coyote looked very healthy and did not come at you was a good sign. They are indeed gorgeous animals. I know many folks hate them -but they have their place in nature. As long as they are not aggressive and diseased/rabid. Maybe it will come around when you are inside and can snap photos from the comfort and safety of your home. Love your ideas.. Meep Meep! :)