Aging In The Wild

What happens to our urban wildlife neighbors as they age? I took some photos of an older coyote today. I could see that, as the years go by, the body becomes worn and feels the effects of the accumulated wear and tear, and the effects of time. There is a slightly slower gait and it takes longer to get going. You are a little stiffer and some of your joints hurt — bending to scratch takes a little more effort and does not look as easy as it used to.  You seem to crumple into a blob when you sit sometimes, hanging from your bones instead of sitting up straight and strong.

More time is spent napping during the day and you forget that you’ve already stretched before you take off — or maybe it just takes more stretches to get all the kinks out? Your coat is a little more ragged, tattered and torn and the many scars underneath show through. Not only might your eyes be more swollen, you have to squint often to see past your weaker eyesight — and the animal world doesn’t have the privilege of glasses. Unless a gopher is an easy catch you won’t go for it.

But, to me, it is because of these changes that this coyotes is more adorable than ever. He’s worked hard and earned every one of these badges of his accumulated years. Also, young pups have come and gone, and so have a couple of mates. Life never has been particularly easy, and I can see that it is less so with time.

What really matters is that this coyote is still the alpha of his pack, that this is his own territory, that he protects and hunts every day for his family and his yearly offspring. San Francisco in one of the best habitats around: there is water nearby, there still are trees and thickets which provide protection and cover, and there are fields for hunting! Life is still pretty good!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 01:14:54

    Interesting. I think of our 5 dogs where the oldest – despite hip dysplasia and arthritis – still rules the “dog pack” through force of will. in the past, I’ve had old dogs I had to protect from the younger ones as the old became feeble. However, dogs don’t seem to have as strong a social fabric as coyotes. I wonder whether he will eventually be unable to hunt for food. In my area, I’m afraid he would soon fall victim to a gun shot or car. Think you’re right tho, I can’t help but admire those who’ve made it to old age – it must be especially difficult for a wild animal who must hunt for its food and endure the elements. He looks feeble now but he must have once been very strong and smart to get to old age. Thank you for sharing photos that I would never expect to otherwise see.


  2. Out Walking the Dog
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 01:34:54

    Beautiful post, beautiful photos, beautiful coyote. I wonder how old he is. Any idea? I was just out at the Queens Zoo where Otis, the first coyote to venture into Central Park back in 1999, is still a resident. Since he was probably around two at the time of his capture, he is now somewhere in the vicinity of 15 and looks much like the old fellow in your post. Of course, his life has been easier, if more circumscribed, with food provided and medical care. Still… no spring chicken. I found him also a very beautiful and dignified animal.

    Your blog continues to be a joy and a wonder.


  3. webmaster - SaveSutro
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 01:58:28

    What a lovely story. I hope he has another few good and happy years.


  4. Charlotte
    Jun 15, 2012 @ 18:31:56

    You could have been writing about our own tribe in this post. Watching parents age is so similar it’s almost uncanny, right up to the stretching part. I’ve always felt this about animals, especially pets; nobody realizes they get old and decrepit like the rest of us, needing understanding and care to get through the last years. My nextdoor neighbor (Thea, who feeds the coyote) is feeding an old mangy alley cat who can barely walk because of hip dysplasia, but the cat’s there every morning to be fed and then spends her day sunning herself in Thea’s yard. Although I don’t like Thea feeding wild animals, I’m thankful this old cat found Thea to take care of her.

    Loved this post!


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