A Magical Moment

I was observing a coyote in the distance when a fellow suddenly appeared where there had been no fellow before. I wondered how he got there since I had not seen him approach and there was no path where he stood. He was leaning over, packing his backpack. Ahhh, I now remembered the brightly colored object I had seen earlier hidden in the grasses. That must have been a sleeping bag which he was tucked into.  He finished packing and began to walk off, when he caught sight of the coyote right there only a short distance away, just sitting in the grass and watching him.  The fellow seemed overtaken with amazement. Everything became still. The coyote looked at him and then look away, so as not to threaten. The young man did the same. There seemed to be a mutual appreciation and respect — two different species crossing paths in the early morning. This little encounter lasted two full minutes. Then the fellow decided to move on very slowly, without any sudden movements.

When the fellow got to where I was, I said “that must have been a pretty fantastic moment for you.” He agreed that he would never forget the amazement and wonder he felt as he stood there: it was a magical moment with a glimmer of something that most of us have lost touch with because of our highly-civilized world — a stirring of something which was new and exciting — a connection and mutual understanding, if only brief, to something wild and untamed, yet gentle and accommodating.  I have had various people tell me about their special coyote encounters, their touch with the wild. This one was particularly nice. I’m sure the coyote had been very aware of the presence of this fellow all night in its habitat, and might have been curious to watch the fellow get up and take off.

Coyotes Like To Check Things Out Thoroughly

Here a coyote is stretching up high to check out a tree stump — coyotes are very curious and inquisitive, and they can be very purposeful. They normally trek along, sniffing at ground level or at eye level, but I also have seen coyotes climb the lower branches of trees when they’ve seen a squirrel there, and I’ve seen them jump high onto an unlikely rock ledge to check out a sound, smell or something they saw. Here, the coyote headed for the tree as if it knew what might be there, and scrutinized it intensely — he seemed to know exactly what he was looking for at that particular spot. He spent over a minute engaged in this activity. However, he left as empty-mouthed as when he arrived. I later checked out the tree stump for myself. There were two large hollows where the coyote had been exploring. One was about a foot deep and the other was about two feet deep. Each was about 8 inches across. Nothing was in those hollows — and they were too close to the ground to serve as wise critter nests.

My thought is that the coyote had found something very interesting there before, or maybe another critter had recently visited this spot leaving its scent there? Seeing this coyote check out the tree reminded me of how keen the memory is for canines. My own dog remembered the exact tree, way off the beaten path, in a heavily wooded area that we had visited only once a year or two earlier. At that time, a raccoon had run to that tree for protection. My dog had followed and watched the fellow watch him from the crook of the tree. Memory of the raccoon incident, and its exact remote location in the middle of nowhere, from a single incident long ago, astonished me because I had totally forgotten about it until my dog ran up to that tree again.

Dominance Display

This is a rare observation. We’ve all heard of the term “dominance”,  but how many of us have seen it in operation? Here is a blatant show of dominance by one coyote. There is literal truth to the phrase “top dog”. These coyotes get along really well, but it is obvious that the existing hierarchy needs reconfirmation now and then. The underdog did not like being bumped by the dominant coyote and reacts. But the dominant one does not allow him to get away with his reaction, and literally puts him in his place.

The underdog struggles a little, but the dominant one is much more adept. The physical hold is finally let go when the underdog calms down. But not until the underdog reveals that he accepts his place does the top dog actually let go of the psychological hold over the underdog. When the less dominant coyote bows, keeping his head low, and stays that way for a few seconds, he has shown his submissiveness and the little display is over. The ending includes a little playful skip on the part of the dominant coyote. Both then continue grooming themselves and hunting, best friends as ever before.

By the way, I captured this clip in very bad lighting — on the dark side of twilight — I’m learning that my camera video capability is amazing!

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