Saturday in LA County I took one dog, Holtz, out with my camera to look for my coyotes. Dad came close to us and then left. I photographed him leaving, after sunset and several hundred feet away. Despite the distance, Dad’s ears were pointed back in my direction. He disappeared after re-entering his field through a break in the fence.
In 2005 I let Holtz use the same break in the fence. Holtz wanted to cavort in the field and I let him. As he played in the field I noticed a coyote approaching him from behind. I yelled at the coyote, made Holtz come, leashed him, and left. I didn’t return to the field until 2009 when I took up bird photography.
Dad and Holtz have a history since 2009, and perhaps as far back as 2005. I have no way of knowing if it was or wasn’t Dad who had approached Holtz in 2005. I do know it was Dad who approached us Saturday at dusk.
I waited about half an hour and watched. Then Holtz stood, stared past the fence into the field, and began crying. Holtz cries when he sees rabbits or coyotes close by. He cries because he wants off leash to chase. I hushed Holtz, but didn’t see anything. He still stood on alert staring out into the field. I packed up slowly, hoping to see something. I even lobbed a couple golf balls. If a coyote was close, I wanted it to back off. Nothing stirred. Then we headed north to my coyotes’ rendezvous area.
Leashed and energetic, I let Holtz run wide half circles near me and down along the fence. With my back to him, I felt him return to my side and hold still. It dawned on me that although Holtz wasn’t running, the sound of running hadn’t stopped. I turned to see Dad running the fence on the other side. He wasn’t happy. When I looked at Dad, he moved away into brush. From Dad’s point of view I am a feared incompetent, slow to catch on, slow to see him, a sometime thrower of golf balls with bad aim, yet a sturdy barrier between Holtz and him.
For a month or so Dad has been satisfied to just show himself at a distance and stare to make us leave. Saturday, he spoke louder by getting close. One of Dad’s messaging techniques is to hide himself in brush about fifty or so feet away. He watches and waits. While I’m not looking, Dad shows himself to Holtz and gives him an evil eye. Holtz cries and I look to see at what. Once in a while I catch Dad sidestepping back into cover. Saturday Dad was quicker than I. After unnerving Holtz, Dad must have followed us to the rendezvous area. Holtz’s running around further raised Dad’s ire and so Dad came closer to run the fence. It was a strong message.
After Dad ran the fence he disappeared into the brush. I took a few steps in that direction. Holtz let the leash tighten up and planted his feet, looking at me like I was crazy. Holtz knew that Dad seriously wanted distance. Holtz wanted serious distance between Dad and us too. As we left I kept an eye on our heels for Dad. Far away, in dim light with the naked eye, a distant plant on the river bank looked possibly like a coyote. I put the camera on it and saw that it was just a plant. Only through the lens did I notice some motion down there and photographed Dad.
Dad is troublesome to Holtz and me because we are troublesome to Dad. Over the years I’ve seen and talked to several people who use my coyotes’ field. Some haven’t seen the coyotes at all, some see them play and hunt, and none have told me of being messaged in the way Holtz and I are. My coyotes watch people pass by on the river bank walking, jogging, or bicycling. Few stop to ask what I’m watching for. Those who do are surprised to hear coyotes live in the field. As far as I know, my coyotes are only troublesome to me. Going on four years, Mom and Dad have known me for about half of their lives. Other people to my coyotes are mostly background noise. One man spends the night in their field and the coyotes just avoid him. To have a chance of seeing puppies this year I will have to back off now and try and return later incognito.
Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.