A single, high-pitched yelp pierced the silence. I spun around. A wild coyote stood next to my 80 pound Labrador, Tybee. They were inches apart. Both were frozen, each seemingly unsure of what the next move should be. The coyote’s posture was non-threatening; head down, nose almost touching the ground, back arched high leading to his tail which was snug against his belly beneath him. Tybee stood, head turned toward this
As we walked away, I paused to look back. The coyote was following us. When I stopped, he stopped. When I continued, he continued. He was closing distance when my back was turned and retreating when I faced him.
Further confounding this experience, my dogs were decidedly indifferent. These two, who have dedicated themselves to keeping our yard coyote-free, sprinting nose-to-ground tracking any interlopers, barking furiously, “Don’t even think of coming here!”, whenever the coyotes howl, yip or bark in the distance, could not have been more disinterested. Bridger acted as if the coyote wasn’t even there. “Why do we keep stopping to look behind?! Let’s get a move on!”
I monitored the last two pairs of bluebird boxes on my surveillance. All was well with the cozy tree swallow fledglings. The lone coyote was still following, but at a greater distance now. To warrant this much attention, he must be protecting a den in those woodlands. And pups! Oh, how I’d love to see those cuties. This coyote is politely escorting us away to safeguard his family.
Stepping out of the cool prairie grasses onto the sun-baked, limestone trail, I wondered how far was far enough for this coyote? The path is a symbolic step from the “wild” to the human-made, seemingly the edge of the coyote’s realm. Will the escort stop here and watch us leave, or go back to his family. A moment later, out loped our shadow.
A narrow footpath joins this main path to the road where I park my car. I slipped into the rough, waist-high grasses behind my dogs who led the way. I paused, somewhat hidden behind a shrub, and waited. Sure enough, the dutiful, quiet coyote came plodding up to the path. He caught one glimpse of me and scampered off. We got the full escort.
I love a harmonious wildlife encounter. However, I feel a bit irresponsible for disturbing this family and causing a coyote to expend precious resources needlessly. I also feel lucky to have had such an intimate wild adventure in the middle of the Chicago suburbs. When I come back here this summer, I will leave the dogs at home.
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