Touching The Wild, With Joe Hutto

I have found a videoed wildlife experience amazingly similar to my own! I can’t seem to embed this beautiful video, so the link will have to do: http://video.pba.org/video/2365224462/. What joy to hear someone who is exactly in the same position, psychologically and physically, as I am! As I watched this video, I had to write down many of the things Joe said — they are words he could have taken straight from my own mouth when I talk about the coyotes I watch.

The main difference between his Mule Deer Experience and my Coyote Experience is that I have never invited, or allowed, a coyote to get close to me. Several coyotes tried several times to approach me, on the same level that the mule deer approached Joe: it was a kind of a “reaching out” and acceptance after having seen me so regularly for many years, but I always walked away, and the coyotes respected that. I was also offered food a couple of times, but I never took it — I hope they didn’t think I was impolite!  

Here are the many things I penned down as I watched the video. Most of what Joe says reflects my own experience and thoughts, and a few things don’t!

  • I’ve been doing this every day for six years — can count the exceptions on one hand [For me, it’s been 8 years — and can count the exceptions on two hands!]
  • One chance encounter would lead to a study that has taken over 7 years of my life
  • What I study is hard to quantify — I’m going beyond science with my observation and connection
  • Joe met a buck (and I met a coyote) who had such a peculiar interest in me — my question to the wild critter was “WHO are you?
  • I made a gesture that must have spoken to him — we stared — and he clearly understood that I was not a threat
  • Day after day I would encounter that same fellow, and the rest of the herd would respond as if to say “Ahhh, it’s that guy”
  • That wild animal was able to see me as an individual and that I granted him his individuality
  • I was not seeing some “thing”, I was seeing some “one”
  • In that moment I realized what potential there was in these animals
  • And I was perfectly placed to study them (In San Francisco, I have many parks within a few minutes drive from my home)
  • My aim was to uncover their private lives
  • And I wanted to be the voice of this extraordinary animal who’s in trouble
  • I don’t just “study” them — I try to zero in enough to get to know the characters of the individual wild animals
  • Joe approached them to be part of them (in my case, I never approached them and didn’t want to be part of them. I wanted to be ignored, as part of the landscape which they could trust not to harm or interfere. My goal was to get to know them without being part of them)
  • One shouldn’t underestimate what is involved here — it does not happen overnight — it took going out there every day for 2 years before they displayed any trust of me
  • A pivotal moment was when they were’t running away  — they were letting me be there
  • Gazes become softer when you are accepted
  • None of the animals pays attention to me, which is the perfect perspective
  • They have distinct faces, personalities and relationships — relationships which are complex; the way each one walks and behaves is different
  • Some are bold & fearless, some are cautious and wary
  • A female was the leader — she would come near, but not close
  • They are wary and elusive of humans — after all, they have been game animals for humans
  • If another human appears, they run from fear, so my presence isn’t “habituating” them — these are still wild animals
  • I’ve had a chance to get to know an animal the way no one else can — to see their world through their eyes
  • They are profoundly intelligent — they have to live by their wits because they live side by side with what always has been their human enemies
  • Their intelligence can be identified by their curiosity
  • Only family members can groom each other
  • Blossom knows her name (this is not true of coyotes — I never use their names and would not ever try calling to them)
  • Deer migrate and spread out in winter. RagTag, Raggedy-Ann’s daughter, stayed that winter (coyotes don’t migrate)
  • Rag Tag led Joe to a secret place — to her fawns (Whereas I have stayed distant from all den areas always, but I have a friend who was led to pups this way once!)
  • Joe says they got to know his voice before they were born so they didn’t develop fear of him (Whereas I think it’s the mom’s comfortable reaction to him/me that youngsters picked up on)
  • There’s a grieving process
  • Raggedy Ann was supported by family members before dying
  • I feel privileged to have known them
  • RagTag gets sick and dies. Three days later her fawn, Molly, is still searching for her (Maeve looked for her mate a long time after he disappeared)
  • They cling to life the way we do. They fear death as we do.
  • Their reactions serve to warn you when you need to be vigilant
  • Joe had to face up to the relationship with humans — hunters (I’ve had to face up to the relationship with humans — their fears and hate)
  • These animals are nervous during hunting season (coyotes are especially nervous when chasing-and-exploring-dogs and dog packs are in their parks)
  • Babe was a friend — there was a relationship of sorts based on mutual knowledge of each other  [and, for me, respect for boundaries]
  • It’s hard to sever the tie

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Juliette Kings
    May 03, 2014 @ 23:00:13

    I’ve thought of both you and Joe when I’ve watched or heard the coyotes who live in my neighborhood. I’ve enjoyed your blog and learned a lot about my own neighbors. There is a large measure of respect among the people in my neighborhood for our wildlife (deer, coyotes, bobcats, possums, raccoons and others). We live within walking distance to a Starbucks but at the same time live with creatures we’ve come to know and respect as our neighbors – even if we don’t have coffee with them. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    Reply

    • yipps
      May 04, 2014 @ 15:44:43

      Thank you, Juliette, for your supportive comment! So glad there is respect for this urban wildlife in your area and that you can appreciate them as good neighbors — without having coffee with them! It’s a nice thought, and made me imagine what it might be like to have coffee with a coyote!! But yes, friendly at a respectful distance is perfect! Janet

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