Winter Pawprints at Dawn

When I think of coyote footprints in the winter, I think of those left in crisp white snow. But we don’t have snow here in San Francisco (though we did 20 years ago: we all went out to take photos of it to use in our Season’s Greetings cards!). Their footprints can also be seen in mud. Wet footprints on pavement work just as well, as you can see here. These are one coyote’s footprints, though there were two coyotes trotting alongside each other at a hard-to-keep-up-with pace — they had direction and purpose to their gait, without seeming to actually hurry. I tried catching up but didn’t. They began their trot after howling first in response to each other — probably locating one another — and then continuing their howling in response to sirens (listen below). That’s how I knew where they were. They slithered by quickly, trying not to draw attention and were pretty successful — I just happened to be keeping my eye open for them after I heard them. I tried to record the quick glimpse I got of them (did a tree fall in the forest if none saw it?) — I caught only a blur of them scurrying over the meadow. They were already far and away by the time I reached the pavement where I last saw them.

I looked down and saw that, where they had been, had been imprinted as footprints on the pavement I now stood on — the female had remained walking on the grass, so these were the male’s. So I took a couple of photos of this dissipating record left behind by them and marveled at how evenly and symmetrically the front and back paws hit the ground — the back prints almost falling into the front prints, with just enough offset to create two clear prints. The prints were under 2 inches long. On soft ground, the two front claws would have imprinted, but not here on this hard pavement. On soft ground the back foot pad only creates a partial print — that was also hard to distinguish here. Each pair of prints must have been about a foot apart, though I didn’t measure, but should have. The footprints would soon also dissipate and disappear, but they remained for now, long enough for me to record them with my camera, even though the coyotes themselves were long gone — like a soft whisper, and unlike the cacophony that began this observation (apologies for the sound of my footsteps in the recording):

Mated pair communicate at dawn. This is only TWO coyotes!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steven Gable
    Feb 04, 2021 @ 19:46:08

    Fortunately, I live in an area with lots of snow. I walk our shepherds in the woods near us we always see fresh tracks. And often we see signs of kills. Occasionally, we will come across one. We have never had a bad experience when that happens. Our shepherds and the coyote simply sit down and look at each other for a little while before one or the other gets bored.


  2. Lisa Febre
    Feb 04, 2021 @ 22:26:54

    Beautiful post.

    I love finding coyote prints in the mud while on the trails. There’s no mistaking — it’s not a dog. And I imagine the ghost coyotes moving along the same path where I now walk.

    They are truly magical.


  3. MelindaH
    Feb 06, 2021 @ 01:14:49

    We have primarily mud all winter to remind us there are “ghosts” about. Sometimes we have snow, but there is always mud. We’re pleased that we are never really knowingly isolated from them. They’re such a delight—and our leashed dogs behave just like Steven’s.


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