Frenzied barking excitedly punctuated last night. The dogs acted like fierce protectors against unseen intruders. This morning, my first clue about who'd caused such chaos appeared on the trail that we use to access the forest. It was a packed path of coyote tracks. It looked like a dozen of the tawny canines had walked this snowy path, leaving a swath of pawprints.
When I checked our wildlife camera, I discovered that the visitors starting passing through early yesterday evening. I think that this red fox has decided to make this area his territory. He's appeared on our camera numerous times over the past couple of months. He visited twice last night.A few hours later, a trio of coyotes arrived. The three stayed for a couple of hours, passing in and out of the camera's range.
It's interesting to see three traveling together, clear evidence of pack behavior. I've read that biologists believe that coyotes started working in packs after humans extirpated wolves from this area. The coyotes were filling a niche that had opened with the absence of the wolves. I wonder what's happened to coyote behavior in areas where wolves have returned?
Finally, from about 2 AM until 6:30 AM, a lone coyote appeared repeatedly. In the many photos, he seemed obsessed with something up in the trees, staring upward in almost every photo except this one. I chose this one because it gives a clear view of his face. Needless to say, our resident canines nearly burst with explosive energy when they smelled the fox and coyotes. They seemed to barely register my existence.
So, I tried very hard not to lose patience with them, and we went back to training basics. Although I really wanted to peacefully pedal through the forest, we practiced a bunch of recalls before departing the coyote territory. I know that I'm preaching to the converted - but dogs do not generalize rules easily - so I take advantage of specific distractions, like coyote scent, to teach them to follow my cues even when that particular distraction is present. Below, they've almost completed a recall, sprinting and then, shortly later, skidding to a halt in front of me.Even after we left the coyote travel zone, the dogs remained hyped with adrenaline so I spent a lot of time on training games with them. Below, K is doing her 'paws' cue, where she rests her front paws on whatever object I point to. I taught her this trick after a back fusion surgery that rendered me incapable of reaching down to touch her collar or pat her head unless she met me halfway by putting her paws on something. In the photo below, I was trying to get R to do the same trick, and you can see that K looks worried about his uncooperative antics.
Next, the dogs practiced making eye contact for a treat. R almost had it right except that he kept his eyes closed at first. I wonder if this game bored him so much that he momentarily dozed off.
Then, once he opened them, I rewarded him. He looked less crazed today!
Finally, after spending what felt like an eternity on training, the dogs seemed under control, and we started peacefully chugging through our beautiful forest.Some aspens hung onto their golden leaves through yesterday's storm. Seeing bright yellow leaves with a snowy background is like a warm breeze through my soul. Alas, more snow is forecasted for the weekend so those leaves may swish to the ground soon.
In the thin layer of snow, we spotted wild turkey tracks. It looked like a turkey had strutted back and forth on my neighbor's land, almost like a sentry on patrol. This vision made me chuckle because my neighbor treks far and wide searching for wild birds to hunt, and it looked like this big bird had wandered his land for quite a while. I decided not to tell my neighbor about his feathered visitor.
After I dropped the dogs off at home, I headed out solo, going east and downhill to find some warmer air. In one lower elevation meadow, the aspen leaves still had a green tinge. Amazing!
The clouds meandered among the forested eastern hills and a few willows added a splash of yellow in the nearby meadow.
I passed a favorite spot, still adorned with bright leaves on the aspen trees. These trees must barely eke out an existence on the boulder-strewn cliff's edge. The clouds on the horizon obscure a glimpse of the mountains.
As I rolled along the ledge trail, beyond the cliff, I spotted a huge ribcage, picked clean of all muscle, down a ravine. I decided not to navigate the snowy rocks to look closely at it but, based on its size, I guessed that it was a bull elk.
I finally rolled home, truly exhausted after a not-too-long ride. I think that my autumn lull is hitting hard. Although I no longer formally train for competition, my body still follows the same yearly pattern as when I was a competitor. Part of that annual pattern was a loss of fitness in October - so it's happening right on schedule!
Enjoy your weekend!