Have you noticed more wildlife venturing into town over the years? I have. Foxes, jet black squirrels (they bring good luck), bears, porcupines, turkey, beaver, even rattlesnakes are now seen with regularity around my family’s homes in Essex and Westport. But this morning I was in for a real treat.
While I was photographing a series for “Ice Up” off my beach in the heart of Westport, I had the pleasure of a close up encounter with a very healthy Eastern Coyote! Coyotes came to the Adirondacks as Wolves were leaving. They interbred and the result is the Eastern Coyote, or Coywolf (Brush Wolf in Canada). The Nez Perce of the Northern Rockies believe coyotes live among the Shadow People, because they are so elusive. It’s unusual to observe one so close, let alone in a village!
Figuring prominently in Native American folklore, Coyote is portrayed as a cunning survivalist, a trickster. Secretive and predatory, he is charming but surreptitiously mistreats his companions. Coyote fables teach that deception for selfish gain fails in the long run, and that using your skills for collaboration is more effective than acting at others’ expense. Coyote has yet to learn that lesson, and often does himself more harm than good. Among his legendary accomplishments, Coyote claims to have created the stars, humans, made sex possible, put the sun on its proper course, and discovered fire. In creation myths, the universe is the result of Coyote’s imagination, a dog dream in the mind of a notorious mischief-maker. You have to laugh in a world like that.
Coyote Capers and Camouflage
The temperature was well below zero when this magnificent predator appeared in my yard, silently, like a ghost from the woods. Though only a few feet away, he blended so well with the trees I almost missed him. He glanced around, then bounded more like a squirrel than a canine, as he casted for game along the shore. His lightening quick movements were hard to follow. When he paused he would seemingly dematerialize in his tree bark camouflage. I watched with dismay as he ran confidently onto fresh ice that had formed only last night, where he could cover the shoreline more quickly. Light as the mist, and just as silent, he floated over the thin ice behind a sparse grove of trees, and vanished.
Note: This post references materials (listed below) that may have been edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the sources directly.
- Jonathan Way, EasternCoyoteResearch.com <http://EasternCoyoteResearch.com>
- Northeastern Naturalist, “Genetic Characterization of Eastern ‘Coyotes’ in Eastern Massachusetts”
- Guy Cooper, “Coyote in Navajo Religion and Cosmology”
- Scott Leonard, “Myths and Religions”
- California State Parks, “Coyote’s Place in Native American Stories”
Kevin Cooper’s Photographs
- Adirondack Ecological Center
- Adirondack Explorer
- Eastern Coyote Research
- Modern American Poetry: About Coyote
- Mark Twain’s Role in the Creation of the Coyote and the Roadrunner Cartoons
- Coyote Audio Recordings
- Adirondack Ecological Center
Katie Shepard says
Very good job blending in the myth of the Trickster god Coyote. I think you captured his main points very well!
Thanks for sharing this story. It’s very interesting to see photos of a coyote in our area out in the open.
Nancy Maher says
Great article, Kevin. I like your style of writing. The coyote looks alot like my dog, Sandy.
CheyAnne Sexton says
Kevin, I love your post too. The way you describe your coyote encounter is quite lovely and very real. Your Eastern Coyote does look a bit larger, but we have males out here in New Mexico that are that big too. The one in my post is a little female that has been around for a few years now. I’ve noticed some activity in a close den and am hoping that she or they will make use of it this spring. This den has been quiet for a long time, so it was exciting to see freshly dug dirt before all the snow fell in December.
I also really enjoyed all the lore you included too.
I hope you have another closer encounter with your coyote soon.
peace n abundance,