The canis latrans … this is a long post, but please bear with me and make sure to check out the Alberta ESRD (now known as Alberta Environment and Parks, AEP) links I provide at the end of the post. A few months ago, this young coyote was spotted by me as I was crouched in the field trying to photograph a muskrat. I’m used to being around wildlife, especially when on my own, so I thought nothing of it and kept waiting for this muskrat to reappear. My spidey senses tingled and I turned around and he was coming right for me. I wasn’t nervous, but I also know wild animals are just that, wild, so I was aware. This wasn’t my concern though … my biggest concern was the simple fact he was approaching me in not only a non-threatening manner, but worse, he wanted to get as close as possible. It was obvious he was ridiculously acclimated to human presence, and he was looking at me as a food source, hoping I would dish something out.
I really wish I was fast enough on my feet to turn the camera vertical, so I could capture a full body shot, leading to a more powerful image. I only had seconds to react, and I screwed up, but this is one of the challenges of wildlife photography. Something so simple I missed, but to be honest, I was more concerned with his coming at me and studying how he reacted. I actually had to shoo him away. But there’s more …
Once I had moved him away from me, I was able to slide back inside my vehicle, and here’s the thing — we had two more encounters that morning, and one more frustrating than the next. As you can tell by the terribly out of focus and rubbish image below, he was very close to me. I have a few more frames I banged off where he became so close, a leg fills half the frame.
He came up to me again, right to my car door, his eyes not cold or calculating, but rather gleaming with anticipation. So bloody frustrating. He reminded me of my late dog, Barney. He would run to my car door as I pulled up the driveway, all too similar to what this young coyote was doing. During our third encounter shortly after, I knew for certain, had I opened my car door, he would have jumped right in just as my dog used to. I knew then I had to report him. Sigh. This coyote was drawn to me and it spells danger not only for humans, but for the coyote and other wildlife. Though I didn’t want to, I reported him to park officials.
This is where I’m troubled. Why did it just about kill me to report him? Because in doing so, I may have ended up contributing to his death, and as a lifelong wildlife enthusiast and someone who feels so strongly about the safety and conservation of animals, it tears me up inside to know while I am doing the right thing, the outcome may be less than desirable. This young boy was not unknown to officials; I had learned he had been reported to officials several times in the week leading up to our encounters, and he wasn’t alone — he has a buddy about his age. Young, scrappy, just like this one (notice the wound on his nose and his slightly mangled ears?), and they are both on the hunt for food.
Reporting this coyote pretty much tore me up for the next week. When I made my way back to the park, I spoke with staff again and I was reassured they have not had to destroy these beautiful animals…yet. Saying that, if the problems were to continue, they will have to be captured and a decision would need to be made.
This is where I become pissed off. I was told it was fairly clear to officials these young coyotes have been fed by park visitors. Yup, nothing new here, but it infuriates me all the same. FED BY PARK VISITORS. A 100% preventable action, one that is also against the law. These people have not only chosen to enter park boundaries at their own will, but they have also chosen to do the following:
- violate park rules (which are clear to all)
- put their safety at risk
- put the safety of other humans at risk
- put the safety of other wildlife at risk
- BREAK THE LAW
- sign the DEATH WARRANT of the wild animal they chose to disrespect and violate
We have all read and heard heartbreaking story after story of animals destroyed because of human interaction and ignorance. This is beyond frustrating, but it’s also a powerful tool of opportunity to bring change to how we as humans, interact with our wild animals. How can we accomplish this? Education. Research. Leading by example.
Our wild animals are such an important, special and undeniably powerful part of our world, and we should be able to co-exist in a manner where conservation efforts are not hampered, and wild species are able to continue to thrive in their own habitat …. their own backyard.
Please check out some tips and more information on dealing with human – coyote conflict from Alberta Environment and Parks.
Stay safe and please think about the impact you can have on our wild world.
See you in the field!