Coyotes live among us. Some of us hear their howls. Some see their scat. Some see their prints. And from time to time some are lucky enough to actually see them.

On a warm morning following a recent snow my daughter and I were out waiting for the bus on our quiet street. And then we saw him! A full grown coyote popped up from the brook, crossed the street in broad daylight, right in front of us, and then headed upstream and out of sight!

I followed his tracks backwards down the brook, out onto the frozen pond, around a few minor islands, and to a tight, round hole in the snow on a small island, fur still clinging where he had bedded down.

Backtracking further, across ice and forest, I lost his tracks among a mess of different animal prints beside the street.

I returned to where I’d seen him and followed his tracks forward. It was clear he followed other tracks whenever possible, whether tire tracks, foot prints, or dog prints. Sometimes he followed the brook, sometimes a hiking trail. He headed along a cart path, then hopped up a steep slope onto a stone wall with a grand view. I looked at the landscape with new eyes.

Compared to a dog’s, a coyote’s prints have tighter pads, more of a cluster. The Nipmuc might have called him alum-mhkwasin, “wolf-dog.” In the woods, his tracks were a straight line, but approaching a street he zigged, popped up to a high spot, then ducked down low before crossing.

When the slope got steep, he followed the switchbacks just like a hiker. We shared the tedium and the benefit! He took off through the woods, across a frozen stream, along a dike, and headed over to the forgotten brush of back yards, the neglected space between houses where he wove his way, with more of that careful zig and pop when nearing an exposed place.

I lost the tracks at the corner. I walked up and down the slush lined pavement, but saw nothing.

The coyote does not grant more than a glimpse. He leaves a partial track. That is his way. (Colin Novick)

From the January 2012 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

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