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.

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