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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Maybe Coy, Maybe Not


I've been living here for several decades and it was my first close encounter of this kind. But what was it? I was riding my bicycle in West Brattleboro, past the cemetary where headstones are splayed on both sides of a dirt road. An animal darted in front of me, something dead, just killed, in its jaw. The prey, a hedgehog, I guess. The predator, what was it? At first I thought it was a German Shepard. A big one. It had a reddish coloring. Then almost immediately I second guessed that. There was no collar, there was something feral.

Whatever it was dropped its catch because they must have been startled. We almost collided. Then he/she stood and watched over the scene. Checking me out, assessing whether to go back for their meal. I should have gotten a picture, but I was frozen. The moment gave me a shudder. Not because it seemed an omen, the shiver was a pure blast of excitement. After about thirty seconds, canis jogged away. I wanted to know, was it a coyote? Was it a wolf? It looked like a wolf.

I stayed around hoping to get a second look. After a minute or two the crows showed up. The coywolf, or whatever it was, slipped beyond the graves into deeper woods. I went home to do some research. How pointed were the ears, how sharp the snout?  I could not say for sure. It felt like a wolf, but the consenus of authorities says there are no wolves living around here.  I've heard many a coyote outside our windows at night, but never had a sighting. This time I got a face to face encounter. But with whom? I'd like to know.

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 #

Interesting puzzler

Very cool. Whenever those sorts of encounters occur, there's a bit of electricity in the air, eh?

I've met a few beasts out and around, which I've mentioned before:

- A 5 ft crane standing at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico late one night as I walked on the beach. - we stood together and looked at waves for a while, all alone under the stars.

- My mom and I were riding bikes when two florida bobcats came out of the woods ahead of us, crossed the street, stopped to check us out, then continued.

- And, just yesterday, my squirrel friend came and found me, implied it wanted some peanuts, laid down and stretched out while I got them, then gathered them up and buried most of them.

...

Coyotes have slightly more pointed noses, and tend toward red more than wolves from what I've seen. Wolves look more like huskies to me.

I think coyotes eat the smaller mammals and wolves like more rabbit-sized dinners, but I may be wrong.

 
 #

Not Being Coy

Hedgehog - likely not, unless it was someone's pet that got et. They are European/Asian. Groundhog perhaps?

As for Canis lupus vs. Canis latrans, here's a good slide show comparison:
http://dnr.wi.gov/news/images/slideshows/wolf_coyote_comparison/

And re your "consensus of authorities," much goes on in nature that those with salaried positions are loathe to admit. Wolves, catamounts; things are not always as they appear or are purported.

WS

 
 #

To hedge or not to hedge

Hedgehogs are cute, but they don't live around here. If it had quills, it was a porcupine. If not, it was a woodchuck, (AKA groundhog). They're quite common.

I once saw a large cat. It was about the size and shape of a boxer dog, but it was clearly a cat.
I thought it might have been a lynx, but a naturalist convinced me that it was a large male bobcat.

There was a supposed catamount (AKA cougar, mountain lion, puma, or panther) hanging about in Wilmington a few years ago. Many residents reported seeing it. A Sheriff's Deputy saw it and reported it in the Reformer.
But nobody got any photos.

 
 #

Catamount sightings

A couple of years ago, a catamount bounded across the road in front of me in Guilford. Took only a couple of long leaps to cover the expanse, long tail with black tip following. Coolest thing was it stopped in the woods, turned and looked right at me before continuing westward. That same weekend there was a catamount sighting in Halifax.

 
 #

plausible paws

I've been thinking almost non-stop about what I saw. I've studied the pictures, scoured my memory of the scene. I don't feel it was a coyote. It didn't have overly large ears. Nor a pointy snout. It was large, impressively so. This means either my perception or recall is mistaken, or it was a domestic dog. Or a wolf.

The odds in favor of it being a wolf are slim. Slim to none according to some. Could it mean then, my memories blurred the moment? Why? If it were a wolf, that would signal a revival of a species vanquished from here. Would that be a good or bad thing? Would it speak of peril or hope?

We make meaning from our chance meetings, life does not pre-decide for us. Examine the evidence, reference what we know and speculate. If I had to choose, I find it easier to root for wildness. The energy of the animal was majestic. I can summon the image of its big bushy tail, neither raised nor lowered. Hanging out there like a sail. Even if it seems unlikely it was a wolf, it feels true.

 
 #

"life does not pre-decide for us"

Spinoza, I would beg to differ on this point. While it would be powerfully difficult to prove or disprove either way, I've seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. Freedom comes in how we choose to respond to life's decisions.

 
 #

Choice informs us too

I think we're in agreement on this point. Maybe I didn't say what I meant clearly enough.

"The wolf's body from neck to hips, appears to float over the long almost spindly legs and the flicker of wrists, a bicycling drift through the trees, reminiscent of the movement of water or of shadows."
-Barry Lopez (Of Wolves and Men)

 
 #

Informed data is better

The implication that life makes decisions and then somehow we have "freedom to respond to life's decisions" is clearly conjecture, certainly unsubstantiated. If "you've plenty of evidence" to the contrary please present the evidence for review. An opinion is alway welcome (for the most part :), but informed data is better.

(Can't wait to get back to my regular PC. This small android is getting on my nerves.)

 
 #

Instinct vs Reason

I'm always on the side of instinct or intuition as we call it (humans have it too -- the things we just "know"). It was whatever you felt you saw, for you. No one else has to agree with you. I've had all kinds of synchronicities and omen-like occurrences that had meaning for me, that other people would not have found meaningful in any way. The angry moon that looked red to me. The butterfly who hopped on my shoulder last summer in Brooklyn as if to say, take me back to Vermont with you!

As for the animal itself, your encounter reminds me that Vermont still has habitat for wildlife and not just residential, commercial, and industrial space for humans. I like sharing the earth with an abundance of creatures, and right now, so many are under threat around the world that it gets depressing. Score one for the wild canine, whatever species he be! Long may his bushy tail wave....

 
 #

little things

Finding significance to things, I think, helps us make sense of the world in that it is a trigger that is causing us to think about something, or pulling a recessed thought out to the forefront for further theorizing and contemplation. Of the questions Who, What< Where, When, and How, "How" seems to be very important. We might add "Why?"

That said, there are many ways to communicate without words. I've found that animals pay close attention to eyes, body stance, and movement.

Cats don't usually reposed well to pointing (it's over there!) and tend to look at the tip of your finger if you do. But if you establish eye contact, then look where you want them to look, they sometimes pick up on what you want them to notice. (I heard one of the reasons lion tamers used chairs in cages was that having four pointing objects tended to confuse the lions (a single stick they might swat).

A lot of animals will respond to a small nod up after making eye contact. Some pay attention to you if you look at them and blink a few times with intention.

I'm open to whatever forms of communication I can establish. Even in very limited forms it's fun to have a connection - sort of like when there's a baby in the room. It's not up to full human communication yet, but generally understands what's going on, and adults generally keep up efforts at communication with said little one.

 

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