Tell-Tale Trail After Rainstorms

Here is a set of nice footprints I came across recently in one of the parks after a hefty rainstorm. The footprints are next to each other, indicating the coyote had stopped to observe something. Did it stop because there was a vole ahead to be caught? Or was there maybe a dog or human ahead to be avoided? Maybe the coyote had been traveling with its mate and stopped to observe what the other was doing. Or maybe it was traveling alone and stopped simply to assess the lay of the land before moving on. These are all common coyote behaviors.

Further on I came across another sign left by a coyote. Dogs for the most part tend to poop off to the side of a path. This makes sense — it is close to where they were walking. However, different from dogs, coyotes often appear to leave theirs as specific traces of their presence for others to see — often right in the middle of a trail or a trail intersection. If it is left as a “message” it is a form of communication.

I’ve actually observed a coyote in the “act” of defecating in the middle of a path, as a message for a person or dog who was following not too far behind. I am sure the message was to convey some kind of delimitation or boundary — either territorial or personal space — but its exact meaning I cannot be sure of.

Marking with urine is a sign that we humans can’t read at all, but we all have observed a dog or coyote go up to a spot where another canine has left its mark, and then mark on top of that — “trumping” it, so to speak. Humans can only be aware of this “sign” if they see a coyote mark, or if they have a dog who “trumps” another dog or a coyote’s marking — and you can’t be sure which.

Finally, on this trail, I came to a spot that suggested a turnoff point for a coyote — which would also be used by other wild animals — a “tunnel” in the underbrush that went deeper into the woods and away from all human and dog activity — an escape to safety.

Further along the trail I saw the imprint of raccoon paws on the path — the “hand” print is pretty clear, but there is also a “foot” print to the immediate right of it.  Our parks have lots of wildlife. There were no signs indicating a scuffle, so this raccoon probably did not meet the coyote whose trail I followed. Although a group of coyotes can overpower a raccoon, one-on-one a raccoon can normally defend itself well — and does so ferociously — against a coyote.

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