Coyote Morning: A Wildlife Encounter
Featured Image: Singing Coyotes © Dave Parsons
By Dave Parsons
August 14, 2020
I had an incredible coyote interaction early this morning while camping in southern Colorado. I decided to take my morning walk along the edge of a big meadow near the river. We were camped on the north end of the meadow. I found an easy route to get down to the river and found some fresh deer tracks. When I climbed back up over the low bench to the meadow a coyote was standing broadside about 30 yards out. Incredibly, he did not see me, so I froze (standing straight up in plain sight with the sun shining on me) to see what he would do. He lay down in the grass for a nap! I sneaked over to a large downed log to sit on and just watched the spot where he was resting. Shortly, he got up, stretched a bit, but was staying in that general area. When I thought he was looking away from me, I slowly raised my binoculars, but he caught the motion and looked directly at me. I froze with my binoculars up, and he stared at me for what seemed like several minutes, but clearly hadn’t figured out what I was. He started barking loudly and kept barking for a long time, staring at me all the while. Then he started interspersing howling with the barking. All his continuous barking and howling lasted a very long time. And every bark and howl echoed off of the sheer face of a mountain peak, which was directly behind me. This added an eerie quality to his vocalizations. My wife was hearing it all from the trailer, and we both estimated the barking and howling lasted at least 15 minutes! When he finally stopped howling, the female (I’m making assumptions here as to gender—she was smaller and lighter colored) came in to greet him. Both animals were gorgeous! Shortly after the greeting, they began to move in my direction. About 30 feet from me they split, and the female whet down onto the river floodplain, but the male turned my way and began walking straight toward me. He came within about 15 feet or less, and I thought if I remained completely still, I might get sniffed by a wild coyote. But he turned and walked a 15-foot arc around to the other (south) side of me, then turned around and retraced the arc back to the north side. I was having a good adrenaline rush at this point and contemplating what I would do if he approached within 5 feet of me. But that didn’t happen. He trotted off in the direction the female went, and the encounter was over. He never figured out what I was, but he was very curious about that strange bump on a log that I’m sure he was quite familiar with in his home territory. The whole thing must have lasted more than 30 minutes. This was the most fascinating and closest encounter with a wild canine of my life!
David Parsons received his Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University and his Master of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology from Oregon State University. Dave is retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where from 1990-1999 he led the USFWS’s effort to reintroduce the endangered Mexican gray wolf to the American Southwest.
Dave’s interests include the ecology and conservation of large carnivores, protection and conservation of biodiversity, and wildlands conservation at scales that fully support ecological and evolutionary processes. He is the Carnivore Conservation Biologist for The Rewilding Institute, a member of the Science Advisory Board of Project Coyote, a former member and chairman of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and a former graduate advisor in the Environmental Studies master’s degree program at Prescott College. Dave serves as a science and policy advisor for organizations and coalitions advocating for wolf recovery and landscape-scale conservation in the Southwest.
In 2001, Dave received the New Mexico Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s annual “Professional Award.” In 2007 at the North American Wolf Conference, Dave received the “Alpha Award” for his “outstanding professional achievement and leadership toward the recovery of Mexican wolves.” In 2008 he received the “Outstanding Conservation Leadership Award” from the Wilburforce Foundation and the “Mike Seidman Memorial Award” from the Sky Island Alliance for his conservation achievements.
Dave enjoys wildlife viewing, wilderness adventures, and dancing. He lives in Albuquerque, NM, with his wife, Noralyn.
Spectacular encounter. Magnificent exchange.Reply
So, I’m curious. What did you decide you would do if he approached within 5 feet of you?
I am incredibly impressed that you remained quiet. My reaction would have been to whisper comforting words to him (to me, perhaps).