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Coyote as Creator

Several weeks ago, while botanizing, I noticed a dead-end steep drainage with a series of picturesque hoodoos.  It drew me and I decided to hike up and explore.  The drainage was thin and narrow with steep sides, so I was following up the bottom.  Although the nearby creek was full of run-off, this little tributary was dry yet there was vegetation as well as a series of downed dead trees.

As I rounded a curve, about six small balls of furry things ran quickly across the drainage for cover.  What were they?  Too big for marmots or squirrels and the wrong color, not moving like rabbits, it took me a moment to wipe my eyes and decide what I was seeing.  Pups!  Yes.  And they were just the cutest things you’ve ever seen, scurrying back to their den for cover.  One little guy got caught up in some dead branches and was trying hard to get over them.

Area around den. A perfect spot

I paused for a moment when they had disappeared, thankful their parents were nowhere in sight because I had the dog with me.  Koda was a good boy.  He saw their fluffy things and, in his curiosity, wanted to investigate but he obeyed and kept close by me.  I retreated from the area right away, worried about their parents returning, the dog and my smell causing their parents to move to another den site.

These pups, from a URL, are about the same size as what I saw

O.K., I said to myself, were they wolf pups or coyote pups?  It all happened so fast, but as I thought it through I realized they were all the same tawny brown color, a definite sign they were coyotes, and I guessed they were about 5 or 6 weeks old, just by having been around dog puppies enough to discern their bodies and skill set.

Interesting, with the late spring and all the snow this winter, everything is late.  Two years ago on Mother’s Day, early May, I saw some coyote pups that looked about 12 weeks old.  And here it was late June, and these little guys were only 6 weeks old.

Coyote pup mother's day 2009

A few days ago I ventured back.  Coyotes leave their den when their pups are around 8 weeks old and I figured they’d be gone.  Just to make sure, I negotiated a route from the back way.  Instead of up the drainage, I came from high up on the top of the hillside where I could look at the site from above.  I sat for quite a while and glassed the den area.  When I was fairly sure there was no activity, I went and explored.

The den

The area right in front of the den, as pictured above, was clean as a whistle.  I used my watch and shown some light inside the den.  It too was immaculate–no bones or feces.  There was another smaller opening nearby, and I understand that coyotes usually have a second entrance. The front entrance was about 12″x 14″.  In the drainage directly below, under the debris of downed trees, scads of old bones and feathers lay around, and piles of scat.  There were at least 3 deer skulls, but they were so old that I figured this den had been used quite a few times before.

Den in size relation to Koda. He would never be able to enter

I picked through some of the feathers.  Songbirds, flickers, an owl and even a red-tail hawk. These parents were good hunters.

As I went on my way to continue searching for plants, I remembered something.  Last year I took an early spring hike up this valley with a friend.  The main valley goes far and narrows into dense forest with a year-round stream running through it.  On our way up, we spied a coyote carrying a deer leg in the direction of this den.  Could it have been one of the same parents?  It was the right time of year.  Maybe I caught a glimpse of the mom or dad.