My Coyote Adventure

I was going to blog on a completely different topic today, but then I had to go and have an adventure–my blog and my morning went completely off the rails. As many of you know, I’m way into photography. Because we live right up against the same mountains where the coyotes live, I keep my camera at the ready. Unfortunately, the coyotes don’t have the decency to let me know when they’ll be taking a morning hike up on the ridge. The times when my dogs let me know there are coyotes out there, it’s normally too dark to photograph them. It’s frustrating. Even worse, my camera is normally still on whatever settings I was last using to photograph the dogs, or at least set for some other lighting situation. Can you see where this is going? Long story short, I never seem to get good shots of the coyotes.

This morning after returning from taking the dogs to the park, I had just finished putting a recently purchased extender on my 70-200mm lens and looked forward to trying out the greater reach. I was about to put the camera down when something caught my eye. There, outside my office window, was a large coyote walking up the hill! I dashed over to the window and snapped a few shots. I was thrilled—that is, until I realized the photos were so overexposed that they couldn’t be saved. Dammit! I decided enough was enough. I threw on my jacket and sneakers, grabbed the camera, locked the dogs in the house, and set out to find the coyote.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re right up against the mountains, and there are no clearly marked trails. There are no houses back there, either; it’s complete wilderness. Having developed a serious case of PISS—Photography Induced Severe Stupidity—I paid no attention to which way I was going, intent only on finding that pesky coyote and getting some shots of him. I followed narrow trails, squeezed between bushes with stickers and spikes sticking out, stepped over who knows what, and, out of breath, finally reached the top of a ridge. I looked across the next expanse of mountain, and spied the coyote. And his friend. The two were trotting away from me down a trail.

coyote adventure long shot

I raised the camera and took a few shots. (My camera didn’t seem to be focusing as well as it normally did; I was shooting in Manual mode, squeezing the button halfway down to focus. I would later find out the slow focusing was due to the damned extender.) All I could think of was seizing the moment. Then the coyotes turned and stared. There was something in the way they were regarding me that gave me pause.

coyote adventure 2 staring closeup

I looked around and suddenly realized just how far from the house I’d come. I suddenly wished I’d gotten the bigger, heavier version of my zoom lens after all, being that it might have do double duty to defend me; coyote attacks on people aren’t unheard of. I thought, Well, whatever happens, at least I ought to at least get some good shots first, and took a couple more.

coyote adventure closeup 1

The coyotes decided the standoff was over, and turned and trotted off down the trail.

I wish I could say that the adventure ended there for me, but when I turned back toward the house, I couldn’t figure out where exactly it had gone. I’m the first to say I have a terrible sense of direction, and while my husband has hiked the dogs around those mountains, I never have. I thought surely I’d find a trail that led back to the house. But each time I started down a trail, it ended in a cluster of bushes. It quickly became clear that I was completely lost. I tried to remain calm and look for landmarks. The only thing I could see was a large water tank in the distance. Thinking it might be the one outside our house, I headed toward it. It soon became apparent, though, that not only wasn’t it our tank, but I didn’t even recognize the house it belonged to. How the heck had I walked so far? I was still atop a mountain, and could see the main road that runs past our dirt road. I’ll hike down to the road, I thought, and at least that way I can follow it back to our road, and then follow our road back to the house. One very steep hike down a mountain, a trek across a field of bushes and stickers, and a mile-long hike later, I was finally back home. It had certainly been quite the adventure. I wish the photos had come out better, but I learned two things: I don’t like the lens extender, and, more importantly, never follow coyotes into the mountains!

coyote adventure trotting away


12 Responses to My Coyote Adventure

  1. Lilian Akin says:

    Wow, Nicole!

  2. Jerry I says:

    Them dern cameras can get you in a heap of a mess. Yes, they can. You obviously had an exciting day.
    Extenders do slow things down and they decrease your aperture too. In that kind of light it probably didn’t hurt you in aperture though.
    What an exciting story.

    • wildewmn says:

      Jerry, I know it, I hate to have to lose a stop because of the extender. Had I realized what was going on at the moment I could have just focused manually.

  3. That was a early morning adventure, glad you made it home safely.

  4. Natasha says:

    Hee, glad you’re home safe, and presumably the coyotes are too!

  5. Robert Paul says:

    Nicole, I’m glad you’re back. I live in the Pacific Northwest, close to the Cascades and many other tempting hiking areas. Anytime you’re off a trail (snow-covered, looks like many other trails that _could_ be the right one, but you’re not sure…), you’re in danger of getting lost. Getting lost is REALLY easy. For one thing, as seen in your long shots of the coyotes, the surrounding terrain may all look the same: you can’t tell one rock or bush from another. It’s almost a law of hiking that as soon as you turn around and start back everything looks different.

    So, take care! Stuff a jacket and a hat and a candy bar and something to drink into a small pack and always take it with you. Cell phones can be life saving—if there’s reception where you are.

    Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
    I know you only hiked a small way, but be prepared.

    ps/These suggestions apply to walking two blocks to the corner store in broad daylight, as well.



    • wildewmn says:

      Thanks, Robert. And I agree with all of the things you said, which I would certainly do if I were going on a pre-planned hike and not running out the door like a crazy person after a coyote. Trust me, it’s not going to happen again!

  6. ANN SMIH says:

    What a fascinating post. I enjoyed it very much. I live on 40 acres in Queensland, Australia, so I meet kangaroos & wild deer on my property. I have GolenRetrievers & they are quite used to our type of wild life. Cheers ANN

  7. Pam Carlson says:

    I would have done the exact same thing…I once tried to talk to a bear. Anyway, loved this column AND the pictures!

  8. Matthew says:

    I live in town, so not the place you expect to walk out the front door and see a coyote less than 10 yards away looking at you like “hi, what’s your name”…. which happened. Anyway, that summer was a bit of challenge as I was still early in the process of helping my dog fearful dog….and half a dozen coyote encounters measured in single digit yards…make quit the challenge. The only solution I could come up with…we charged the coyotes. amazingly my dog recovered quicker, and the following summer no coyotes in the neighborhood. ok…can’t really claim it was because of that we didn’t see them the next summer, but he did recover for the run in much quicker than if I tried to turn and go the other way….not sure this is the recommended solution…but….

    that brings me to the point of my story…Nichole, when is your DVD…counter conditioning your dog fearful dog to not be afraid of coyotes coming out 😛

  9. A Shelton says:

    Interesting post (I just discovered your blog). This is how coyotes lure and kill pet dogs in east TN. They work cooperatively. One will lure the dog away from its home/owner and then the pack will jump, kill, and eat the dog! IMO, an owner should NOT try to acclimate pet dogs with coyotes unless they want them to become lunch!

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