ever since my friends moved to Guilford and found it. It's pretty huge, so there's a ton I haven't seen. Today, I took the dogs and went looking for those old oaks and poplars but found something quite different. Yes, that's a coyote.
The dogs both have a lot of practice around reactive dogs, and both of them seemed to think the coyote was simply a loud, angry dog, so they wrote her off as boring pretty quickly. So I put them in a sit-stay and grabbed some exposures.
It was a bit more excitement than old growth tulip poplars, I'll tell ya.
In retrospect, what we saw must have been defensive behavior from a mother with new pups. This is exactly the right time of year for a coyote to have young pups, and between the ratty fur on the coyote herself and the really uncharacteristic, confrontational behavior around a specific area, the simplest explanation is that she was in a den with her pups when we surprised her. Her behavior was an attempt to draw attention away from the den and drive us out of the area.
Coyotes do move their pups several times before they're mature enough to fend for themselves, so hopefully she immediately found an area farther from a main trail and relocated them right after we left. As scary as she was, I'd rather share the woods with an animal this beautiful and complicated than disrupt her or endanger her pups.
Let me end with this video of her as she warned us off. It was taken through a 400mm lens, so she's farther away than she looks. While I did stop twice to figure out which way to walk to get away from her with the least amount of confrontation, and I took pictures both times I stopped, at no time did I walk towards her or otherwise create any more disruption or confrontation than I had to. These animals are wild, even when you find them in your backyard. You risk injury to yourself when you move closer to get photos, and an animal that injures a human is typically culled by local authorities.
At the time, I didn't realize that there were probably young pups involved, so if I had unthinkingly left the trail to get closer for better pictures, I might easily have gotten too close to the den. This otherwise shy animal might have had no choice but to attack me or the dogs. And even if you don't get hurt, a human presence can significantly disrupt an animal's regular behavior, which in a situation like this could result in the death of the pups. If there's a lesson here, it's one of respect for nature, to walk softly and carry a long lens.