Tricky, foxy, covert, furtive, stealthy, underhanded, sly, shifty, duplicitous, scheming, shady, shifty, sly, wily . . .
So the story begins as I observe a coyote eating something big. It’s raining, and not only that, the rain has seeped into my lens. I keep wiping it dry, but focus is an off and on thing on this day with the rain and the damp lens — I wonder if any of my photos will even turn out. Soon I see that he’s being observed by one of his youngsters — his full-grown daughter — she keeps away. Eventually I’m able to make out the ringed tail of a raccoon — this is what he’s been eating, and this is what Daughter has been watching him eat.
After about 20 minutes, Daughter, and then Dad, move on to another area of the park. It looks as though the raccoon has been forgotten for now. They keep their distance, but constantly observe each other, in a way that makes me think each is suspicious of what the other is doing: as they move along, they circle back and forth while darting furtive glances at each other. I can feel the suspicion and distrust — there’s duplicity in the air. When a runner comes through, this pattern of behavior is broken and they run in opposite directions with Dad scurrying over a hill and Youngster ducking into some bushes, both disappearing from view for a short time.
When I next spot Dad he is carrying something which looks like a thick wet stick. But no, as I watch I can see that it’s more important than a stick: he looks like he’s carefully transporting it. And then I see it’s part of a raccoon — a piece of his earlier meal — the “drumstick”, so to speak, with a very distinctive raccoon paw still attached. I’m the only one around, and he lets me watch. He walks some distance, then stops, darting glances in all directions, obviously scanning for a place to bury his treasure. He stops on a rock and focuses intently on various possibilities. He glances at me a couple of times, but continues his search. No, this place won’t do. So he heads to a grove of trees close by and begins looking around there for a safe spot to deposit his possession: “This looks good”. He finds the perfect spot and spends time creating a little depression with his snout, deposits the drumstick into the depression, and then covers it with leaves, again using his snout. He pees on it and then he trots away, looking around as if to make sure no one important has seen him.
Daughter now comes into view up the path that he’s on — Dad and Daughter pass each other and move apart — 2 ships passing in the night. They stay apart, but watch each other as they sniff the ground. It’s the same little pantomime dance between the two of them them that I saw earlier of avoidance and suspicion — I’m probably reading it this way because I know about the hidden drumstick. Dad then, nonchalantly as if he has nothing to hide, heads up to the top of a hill and sits down to observe, possibly to throw Daughter off the track, possibly hoping she’ll follow him there. But nothing escapes her, and her nose picks up the scent of Dad’s earlier route and probably the raccoon.
She follows the scent, and I follow her. But she passes right past the burial spot without going over to it, so I go back to check on Dad who has not moved. When I come back, half a minute later, I see that I’ve missed “the discovery”: Daughter now has the drumstick in her mouth! Didn’t Dad see her take it? I guess not, because Dad is sitting oblivious of the situation at the top of a hill behind some trees. Youngster now does what Dad did: she trots away some distance and then glances around for a safe burial spot, finds one, and buries the drumstick. Ahhh! Now it is hers.
No, the story is not over yet!
She now wanders back to where she had unburied the drumstick — maybe she’s looking for more of the same? This, now, is when Dad sees her close to where he had buried the drumstick. Dad runs down the hill towards the spot. She moves away then watches him. He moves towards his burial spot and sniffs around. Is he aware that it’s gone? If he is, does he know who took it? He pees various times on the spot. Finally Daughter joins him and they both appear to explore the area together! What are they looking for? Is he searching for his drumstick. She may be searching for more of the same — or is she deceiving him and pretending that she’s looking for whatever he’s looking for? It’s confusing, but these thoughts occurred to me. It is during this joint exploration that the suspicion and avoidance seem to have faded away. They trot off together and all seems well between them.
Thieving, apparently, is common among animals. I recently read that Robins steal from each other and hide things from each other!
The next day I checked out where Daughter had buried the drumstick. It was gone. I wonder who was the slyest trickster of the two?!