[This post is unavoidably scatological: if that’s not your thing, skip over the fifth photo and cut to the video…..]
Coyotes, Canis latrans, are nocturnal or crepuscular (one of my favorite words, meaning active at dawn and dusk) so I very rarely see them. Instead, I look for evidence. It is easier in the winter; there are foot prints:
The prints make trails: these ones had a total of 10 trails converging on (or perhaps diverging from) a single cross-roads. I have no idea why; it wasn’t scent-marked, they didn’t seem to stop, but none of them missed that spot. It might have been one coyote going backwards and forwards on five different occasions, or 5 different coyotes each on their own mission. Use your imagination.
I’m pretty sure that at least two were around. This female had marked the trail with her urine, and you can also see that she was in season:
Underneath the apple tree, it looked as though two had come together. One spot of urine was female, visible at the bottom of this picture, and another lacked blood, so I think it was a male. The two marks were on the edges of a patch of snow that was trampled down by many, many coyote imprints, as if they had been there for some time, and I like to imagine it was a tryst.
A couple of weeks later, under the same apple tree, they had been feeding extensively. There was scat everywhere, and if you can bring yourself to inspect it closely (not everyone’s cup of tea), you will see a sliver of bone, lots of hair, and chunks of undigested rotten apple from the tree above.
We think of coyotes as predators and carnivores, but actually they are omnivores, as this scat makes abundantly clear.
So although I still hadn’t seen the coyotes, they were certainly there. I put up a game camera for a couple of days to see what I got, and meanwhile I heard them yipping at 3am, from just that area. In the morning, I checked the camera videos. (Ignore the date and time on the camera, I forgot to re-set it!).
The social unit for coyotes is an adult pair, and these look like nice fat healthy ones! Eastern Coyotes are bigger than Western ones, and they can weigh up to 40lbs. If they have mated, she will give birth in about two months, and I will keep my eyes open and report back..
Incidentally, the coyote population in Maine is booming, They only moved into the state in the 1930’s, and there are now thought to be about 12,000 of them.
*With apologies to Mark Haddon, from whose wonderful book I have stolen my title.