A Scuffle Imprinted on a Path: Coyote behavior

Coyotes have been hard to spot these days: I think it might have to do with the winter weather and short days. Anyway, evidence still can be found of their presence. For instance, today by simply looking at the ground I was able to tell that there had been a scuffle between a coyote and a raccoon. This series of photos was taken along about 25 feet of a path. As I walked, I noticed scratch marks — groups of them. I noticed them casually at first, but they stuck in my mind as being unusual. And then it struck me what they were about, so I went back, and sure enough, found all the pieces of the puzzle.

The first three coyote prints are obvious: the middle two claws on the front paws point inward. The second four photos are obviously raccoon prints: they look somewhat like human hands and feet with lots of padding, but they are much smaller. The rest of the photos include “puncture” holes to the earth, deep claw grooves, and scratch marks at the same location — these tell the tale, they tell me what went on. It had rained the day before, which had prepared the ground for retaining these imprints. You can see parts of human boot imprints.

I did not find a raccoon carcass, nor did I see any blood, so the raccoon probably got away. The raccoon print was a very large one, which means the raccoon was large. This indicates that it was probably an older one with experience. Although the coyote might have been an older one, it is more likely in this area that it was young and inexperienced. At any rate, the coyotes in this area are small. Thus, the raccoon had the advantage. By the way, raccoons can be ferocious and have been known to kill dogs.

Indirect Signs of A Coyote’s Presence: Coyote tracks and scat are indirect visual signs of their presence. In addition, rustling in the bushes is a sign of their presence which can be heard and distinguished if you are in tune with it. And sometimes you might catch a dark darting movement out of the corner of your eye, but when you look again, it is gone. One would never register such a perception without knowing beforehand what it might have been — it was probably not just your imagination playing tricks on you.


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