Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Sunday, December 19, 2010:
Well, not only didn’t any storm-age show but the day ended up offering a damn nice late-day stretch of sun. There were some anglers on the beach but I got no reports of catching.
I got in some tracking and had an odd encounter with a female coyote, east of Rte. 9 near the Stafford/Eagleswood line. It was late day and I was, at first, trying to get in a quick stint of metal detecting in an area I had previously found some super old coins, including a one reale piece from 1734.
There were still patches of snow from that inch we got on Thursday. The detecting was going slower than slow, so I perked up when I came across some super fresh coyote tracks. Something new to do. They were so fresh, I stopped in my own tracks. I knew the coyote was well within a 100 yards – though likely on the move. It had surely seen me swinging the detector. Since I wear headphones, I didn’t hear a thing. .
Laying my detector down, I went into my serious stalk mode. Game was afoot.
I was wearing heavy digging boots, which hurt any silent approach. Knowing stealth was compromised, I instead began following the tracks at a brisk speed, knowing the wild canine already most likely knew I was now on its tail, as much through instinct as senses.
After maybe five minutes heading dead east, following the easily read tracks, I came across a couple stopping points, where the animal had obvious paused to either sniffed the air or looked for visual affirmation that something was happening behind.
The tracking went on for maybe five more minutes when I became the one beginning to think things were odd. The coyote was lagging. It would walk (not run) and stop, repeatedly. It was seemingly letting me gain ground on it. There was no doubt it was hearing me. As the terrain became wetter and the foliage thicker, I was getting hung up – and brutalized -- by the frickin’ green briars. They’re at their winter worst. Anyone who woods it a lot will confirm that our infamous “stickers” get syringe sharp in the cold months. They also pull on the branches they’re climbing, creating pretty much a racket.
Totally giving up on stealth, I resorted to a super fast walk, headlong, to where I knew the coyote was, up ahead. I was essentially just going into the spook mode, knowing it was getting dark and I had wandered a long way from my truck.
That’s where the weirdness really stepped in. I hit a stretch or open-ish woods and about 30 yards ahead was the female coyote, looking straight at me.
Typically scraggly, she had very black marking on a mainly off-white fur coat. She was utterly inexplicably allowing me to see her. I stopped, squatted and stared back.
She was pretty freaked, tail between her back legs. She was also tensed to bolt. But she held her ground. No signs of aggression at all. Just fear – and maybe confusion.
Despite the extreme danger I presented, she maintained something of a shy-ish eye contact. I have never ever seen that behavior in a coyote.
As darkness showed itself even more, I was at a loss as to what to do next. So, I offered a fully illogical whistle, like that used to call a dog. Her head tilt told me she heard it. She also sniffed the air.
Had it been earlier in the day, I would have really pursued the exact reason she was being so, well, hospitable (for a coyote).
I entertained the overly human notion that she was trying to communicate – though I often feel that even when I come across a fence swift lizard that stares at me from up a tree.
Could she be protecting young? Not really. Coyote are total masters at craftily drawing trouble away from a family unit.
No, she was actually very much alone.
I began wondering if maybe she had recently lost her mate. There are a number of very aggressive trappers (using snares) in that area. If she was suddenly a widow, she might simply be very discombobulated. It’s not impossible by any stretch.
However, the most logical answer was a familiarity with humans. There were old and recently built houses all along Rte. 9 in that area. All it would take is someone who had been putting food out back for a (stupid) cat – a way too common practice -- to regularly draw the wild canine in. Then, even a distant befriending syndrome would have the animal willing to stay within sight of a human.
Whichever, it had gotten even darker and I knew I needed to quickly bolt, mainly to locate my detector before dark. I decided to leave in the only sensible manner – one that was a bit tough for me.
I jumped up, loosed an attack yell and did a short charge at the girl, stomping my feet even after I had stopped running. She instantly fled. Go figure.
Sure, it was cruel in a way but had I left on amicable terms – maybe simply walking slowly off -- she very easily might have felt an even closer bonding with humans. Even the slightest letup in the fear factor from humanity could prove fatal. It’s best that she regain the reality that we can’t be trusted any further than we can be sensed – not seen.
(Yes, I always take my Nikon with me when tracking – but never when detecting.)