Asking for Help and Getting It – A Story For The Holiday Season

Occasionally I like to post stories about different animals. Here is a deer story from Alaska. A Heart Warming and Amazing Rescue, in Sitka .. “a miracle of sorts”, the author says, “really!”  This posting was sent as an email, making its rounds until it got to me. Here it is for everyone to enjoy.

The Best Day Of Fishing Ever!

I’ve heard of salmon jumping into boats, but never anything quite like this… Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly towards his boat.

“Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at us. We could tell right away that the young bucks were distressed.

I opened up my back gate and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat.

In all my years of fishing, I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

Once onboard, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering.”

“This is a picture I took of the rescued bucks on the back of my boat, the Alaska Quest. We headed for Taku Harbour.

Once we reached the dock, the first buck that we had pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say ‘thank you’ and disappeared into the forest.

After a bit of prodding and assistance, two more followed, but the smallest deer needed a little more help.

This is me carrying the little guy.

My daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, helped the last buck to its feet. We didn’t know how long they had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive.

My daughter later told me that the experience was something that she would never forget, and I suspect the deer felt the same way as well!”

Unleashed Dog Ahead

This coyote was hoping to slither quietly along without being detected when, directly ahead, there appeared an unleashed dog. You can read what the coyote is thinking through its posture, eyes and ear positions. The dog does not see the coyote at first, and continues to play with its owner. By standing or sitting very still, coyotes often can evade detection by those who are occupied doing other things. But the dog does finally glimpse the coyote, and when he does, he goes after it.

Coyotes don’t always just flee. Sometimes they will stand up for themselves when they are chased by engaging in a long, distressed barking session, or by chasing back. In this case, the coyote just wanted to escape the dog, and it did so by speedily dashing away and then ducking into a thicket of underbrush. The dog could not follow, so he returned to its owner.

To Move On?

I see this type of situation often. A coyote is walking on a park trail when a leashed dog and walker appeared in the distance. The coyote, of course, was curious about the dog and walker — they both had their eyes riveted on the coyote.  The dog/owner pair and the coyote watched each other for a few minutes. The walker exhibited amazement, the coyote probably had self-preservation in mind — it is the dog staring that made the coyote uneasy. The coyote’s behavior alternated between sitting while watching intently, and backing off while looking over its shoulder with an eye fixed on the onlookers. From their movements I could tell that both sides wondered if they should leave. Then both began heading in opposite directions at about the same time. The owner and dog went out of the park, disappearing from view. When they did so, the little coyote turned around and hurried in their direction to see what was happening. Coyotes often are very curious about “what are you doing and where are you going”! The walker and dog were gone, so the coyote turned around, foraged a few minutes, and then continued its own trek.

Need More Sleep

I arrived at one of my parks earlier than I had anticipated. It was before dawn, but I didn’t want to wait in the car, so I headed into the park.  A coyote was sleeping out in an open field — a mound of fur on the ground. She was really well camouflaged — I don’t think anyone else would have detected her there. I took out my camera to videotape the stillness — the video function works wonderfully in bad lighting. The coyote casually lifted her head and looked around, and then looked at me. She hadn’t had her fill of sleep: “Need more sleep.” Okay!  She put her head back down, and I went on.

Communication And Intelligence, by Charles Wood

As a boy my friends and I talked as we rambled. Yet most of our communication was body language. We spoke about what we had just done. Talking contributed least to the communication. Most of our communication consisted of touching things and bumping and hitting each other. It was sublime. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes viscerally connect in the same way. Dogs and children instinctively know how to play together. They read each other’s constant motion. Each is physical and energetic.

My dogs jostle around together. They do focused sniffing, reading smells. Their vocalizations are infrequent declarations. They competitively pee. They alert when seeing rodents, ecstatic and wanting to chase. They stare up at treed squirrels for as long as I allow. If something moves elsewhere, they tell each other with gestures and barks. Never far from each other, they notice gait, posture, hesitations, head direction, tail position, every small change, and minutiae we will probably never see, smell or hear.

One night, I watched six dogs outside a dog park chase what at first appeared to be a cat. The dogs packed after the animal and treed it. They could have caught it. It was clear they didn’t want to. They didn’t even bother the animal when it was up in the tree. Chasing it, getting close to top speed, a quiver went through all the dogs. They pulled back just a enough. A flash of rump suggested they were chasing a bob cat. That information passed from dog to dog. The chase turned into a show. The dogs tried to conceal from their owners that they hadn’t done their best. Instead they had made a mock effort. There was face saving going on in that group that night. There was also a lot of palpable nonverbal communication.

I watched a documentary on wolves hunting deer. The humans were mystified. How did the wolves decide which of the deer to hunt? They studied the film. Eventually they saw that one of the deer was slightly lame. They agreed a human couldn’t easily see that tiny weakness in a running deer. The wolves spotted the deer’s injury. The decision by the wolves passed through the group in much the same way that those dogs each decided to not chase a bob cat. Canines are attuned to subtle variations in movement. Movement is rich with information and canines have excellent spatial intelligence.

For example, my dog Holtz remembers exactly where he saw cats while on our walks. He remembers regardless of when we last passed by. His demeanor anticipates arriving at a known cat’s range. I suspect Holtz has high value points mapped out. He zones in on an area when far from it, suggesting he relies on memory. For Holtz, a walk is a milk run with known special stops sprinkled along the way. He has also learned the local watering holes and drags me to them on our walks. On hot days he uses them to get soaked.

At a large park nearby, we always enter on the side opposite a ground squirrel colony. The colony is a quarter mile away and over a hill. Holtz has little interest going anywhere except the colony. A mile from the park, while walking along a street parallel to it, he tries at every cross street to go there. I don’t doubt he could travel alone from our house to the colony four miles away. It is a place he sees in his mind’s eye. He has a mental map to the park. It is a place remembered as opposed to one merely in his sight. Would he get the idea to go there alone? I don’t know, but he can form intent.


I observed Holtz act with situational intelligence at a dog beach. We were there with Lucas, his German Shepherd buddy. Holtz was off leash romping and I was working hard to control Lucas with a leash. Holtz flew by, looked at us, and clearly had an idea. He bounced over and began herding Lucas. Holtz calmed Lucas down with body checks. I don’t know if Holtz’s idea was to help or to just have fun. Either way, he read the situation and resolved the conflict.


Another example of Holtz forming intent is his use of guile. He will pretend he wants to drink water from a stream so he can get off leash. Instead of getting a drink, he’ll run to a distant high value area. A more common example of canine guile is selective listening. In certain situations they pretend not to hear us yelling their names.

Holtz remembers interesting places and is able to form intent. He knows his way around. In cities, with reasonable restrictions on dogs, we may forget that country dogs roam and return home. In cities it is somewhat novel to see a dog out walking itself. “Out walking itself” is an odd phrase considering that walking around is what dogs do. Coyotes do it with such style I almost forget dogs are equally skilled.

Coyotes form intent, know interesting places, and remember them. With keen spatial intelligence they know their way around. They know where they are going and they know why. They seek food, water, information about their neighbors, safe resting spots, shade, warmth, and novelty. They make their rounds looking for intruders, making sure the doors are locked. They look for each other seeking companionship, family, play, and security for themselves and for their children. We see them out and about, exuding purposefulness. It is hard to exactly know their purpose on any particular occasion. It is safe to say their purposes aren’t significantly different from our own.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Winter Comes To L.A., by Charles Wood

I’ve been watching my Los Angeles county coyote family since 2009. I watch them during outings with my camera and my dog, Holtz. In the spring and summer I see them frequently. In fall and winter I rarely do. I usually spend a couple hours waiting for them to appear, viewing them only for a few minutes. If they linger, it is to scold Holtz and me.

I saw one Sunday at dusk and took its picture. I had just arrived in their field. The coyote spotted me as it came down a dirt road 200 yards to the south. It ran full speed and stopped about 100 feet from Holtz and me. It yipped and scraped as I took its picture. A few minutes later it was still yipping as I walked on the road back to my car. Which one of my coyotes was it?

Sadly, it wasn’t Dad. It has been more than three months since I last saw him. Six months before that, he was a healthy looking adult male. When I saw Dad in August he looked thin, scraggly, and old. It broke my heart to see him ailing and my instincts told me to let him go. I’ll know Dad is dead if he isn’t with Mom next pupping season. If I see him sooner, I’ll be the only one seen rejoicing because Dad doesn’t like me and he and Holtz have issues.

It wasn’t Mom, lacking a cauliflower ear. It wasn’t Mister, Dad’s yearling son, the lower lip being wrong. If male, it could be brother Tom. If female it could be Bold, but not sister Shy because Shy is smaller. My guess is that the coyote knew Holtz and me. When it saw us it ran up to scold us. All of my coyotes scold us; coyotes that don’t know us just leave. Still, it could be a new coyote, perhaps a new mate for Mom.

Earlier Sunday, I spoke with a man about my coyotes. He said he walks near their field regularly and sees them, though lately not so much. I asked him if he recognized them as individuals and he seemed to say yes. I asked him if he knew the mom, distinguishable by her cauliflower ear. He looked at me saying, “I don’t know them that well”. A nice man who stays on the trails, my coyotes know him as well as they need to. They have to know me a little better than that.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Trekking Purposefully

I was able to follow two coyotes for about half an hour as they trekked through an urban neighborhood, crossing streets, over dirt paths and sidewalks and through yards, ducking into and out of hidden spaces — their pace and course were very purposeful.  I didn’t see where they ended up, which might have helped me decipher what was going on, but the half-hour I watched clearly demonstrated their very keen awareness: their consciousness and knowingness and understanding.

They knew how to follow the vegetation, logs or areas which might offer some protection. The coyotes sniffed and marked/urinated regularly as the terrain changed or when they veered into new areas. At one point, one coyote stood sentry for about five minutes, insuring the coast was clear in all directions before both took off through an area where dogs often congregate, but there were none today.  But they also crossed into wide open areas such as streets — once stepping out of the way of a car but remaining in the street within about 10 feet of the car as it passed. Their awareness was keen for everything except cars.

These coyotes were not just meandering around or hunting. They had a plan — a plan they had worked out. They knew exactly what they were doing and where they were headed.  How did they know this, and how did they both know this? And how did they communicate this to each other?  I have seen coyotes head out in this manner to certain lookout points in order to observe dogs and walkers from the distance — it is very purposeful behavior. But this time, these two disappeared from the main dog walking areas, so that could not have been their motive. Perhaps they had recently found a field full of gophers which they wanted to revisit?

Anyway, the point is that coyotes can be very purposeful. They appear to be able to work out a plan and carry it out and communicate this, and deal with unforeseen interruptions along the way yet continue their plan. For instance, at one point a man saw them and threw stones at them. The coyotes veered off the path and circled around to avoid him — but they then continued in the direction in which they were originally headed. I have seen lions communicate hunting strategy and carry it out. The animals can communicate very effectively in subtle ways that we humans cannot pick up on. We humans aren’t quite smart enough to figure it out! We like to measure animal intelligence against our own — for instance, by how many word/symbols a chimp can manipulate. Wow — they can learn our language! Yet we haven’t been able to learn or decipher theirs!


Two ravens followed this coyote, squawking angrily, and one swooped down right overhead — sky-bomb fashion — not touching the coyote, but coming very close. I missed getting a shot of that. Then the ravens settled in a nearby tree, but they continued to taunt the coyote. Ravens do not like coyotes to hang around their territories. Actually the harassment was pretty mild and didn’t last too long. People walked by on a path that was not at all far off, but no humans noticed Mr. Coyote here — no one except the angry Ravens.

Something Is Bothering Me Here

When I saw this coyote, my first impression was that its paw might be hurt: the paw was being held up in a limp fashion. But the coyote then struggled to reach something under her arm in the armpit — that is a hard place to reach. It didn’t take long for the problem to be fixed. The coyote then got up and continued her wanderings. I did not see her return her attention to the armpit.  It was probably just a burr or a bug.

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