Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coyote packs and living on the cusp

Yesterday evening, as my dentist's medicine for my wisdom tooth socket started to work, the clouds, clinging to the valleys, began to retract their tendrils toward the plains. Our elevation sat on the sunny side of the cusp between beautiful and gray skies.
For the first time in days, the snowy mountains emerged from the looming clouds, just as the sun set.
I felt my mood swing upward, as the pain in jaw became more bearable and the dogs frolicked. K has been playing vigorously and acting very happy for the past week, making me feel more confident in her health. Tomorrow, she has a big test for kidney function, and then, hopefully, we can settle into easy-going good health.
It's amazing how much a kind person can lift my spirits. My dentist exceeded the requirements of his job yesterday by leaps and bounds, offering to meet me at his office at whatever time was convenient for me, just because he wanted to ease my jaw pain. That act of kindness, all by itself, helped to make me feel better. But, I can also feel that the medicine that he packed into my tooth socket is keeping the pain at a tolerable level. Apparently, for 'dry socket', I'll be getting medicines packed into my mouth every 48 hours for a while so I'll be seeing a lot of my dentist!

Last night, I woke up more than once to take medicine, and I'm pretty sure that I turned on a light while this coyote visited our territory. He stayed for an hour but seemed obsessed with staring into the distance. I wonder what he was so afraid of? Perhaps the light in our house? Or, perhaps a predator lurked on the forest edge? I did find bobcat tracks nearby, and I'd suspect that a lone coyote would be wary of that ferocious feline!
A number of people have asked about my wildlife camera. I chose a Cuddeback Capture camera, a motion activated camera that has an incandescent flash. The reasons why I chose this particular camera were its fast trigger speed, the fact that it takes color photos at night, and its relatively low price. The incandescent flash allows color photos at night with the drawback that it might scare or briefly blind the wildlife. I've wondered if it's scared our bobcat, who I used to believe visited our territory regularly, but has only appeared in a photo on one occasion. The alternative is an infrared flash but it's limited to black and white photos at night.

Aside from those possible disadvantages to our camera, it's performed beautifully, set up to capture images of animals who visit the area under our birdfeeding station. It does have some downsides in addition to the bright flash: 1) it can take photos only at a rate of one every 30 seconds; 2) you cannot view the photos using the camera - rather, you bring the memory card to your computer to see the photos (although a field 'viewer' is available ($100) for perusing the photos in the field); 3) there's no warning that the batteries are low.

I'm going to purchase another wildlife camera to place in the forest, on the faint animal trail where I saw mountain lion tracks more than once last winter, and I'll probably buy the same model again. In that case, I'll also need a viewer because the camera will be a mile from my house. Without a viewer and some 'test photos', I won't know if I have the camera set up with a reasonable field of view.

Yesterday, after seeing so many coyotes gathered on our land (see last few posts), I pondered the notion that coyotes have become pack animals in places where wolves have been extirpated. Thus, the coyotes were filling a vacant niche by working cooperatively to take down larger prey. I discovered a study of Yellowstone coyotes before and after wolf reintroduction. In fact, the coyotes formed even larger packs after wolves arrived on the scene, perhaps as protection against the wolves who do kill coyotes. Moreover, coyotes moved their dens closer to roads and human activity. Scientists think that humans provide a modicum of protection for coyotes because wolves stay away from humans.

I wonder if gathering so close to our house provides protection to coyotes from their main local predator, the mountain lion. Mountain lions definitely avoid humans more vigilantly than coyotes.

After all this thinking, I took my pups out for a bike ride this morning. We climbed up through naked aspen groves on a carpet of thin snow and yellow leaves. K forged the way.
Meanwhile, R engaged in his favorite hobby, rummaging in the juniper bushes for rodents. He's never caught one. In fact, a golden-mantled ground squirrel once chewed through a screen and climbed into our living room. R discovered him and leaped backward with such fear that I thought that a bear lurked behind the couch. R then sprinted to the opposite end of the house and cowered in his crate until I ushered the squirrel outside. What a funny Lab he is! Here he is pretending to be a rodent hunter.
R did every mundane task with extra pizazz today. Here, he responded to me recalling him at a top speed sprint.
Then, he sat so innocently in front of me, making strong eye contact, that I'd never suspect that he'd been mischievous.
Later, after I left the dogs at home, I rode along a ridge, and the newly bleached white mountains peeked from behind our closer forested hills.
When I looked to the east, I saw that the city in the plains still languished in cold gray fog. I always feel like being in the mountains provides crystal clear vision of the world, especially compared to being in the flats, but today it seemed more tangible.
As I headed toward home, I contemplated my yearly question, prompted by the snowy mountains, since I had my lower back fused and learned that my neck needs a similar surgery: Should I attempt to telemark ski this year? The doctors say "no way" but I think that they're being conservative to avoid a lawsuit due to the (remote?) possibility of paralysis if I fall badly. I've only adhered to their advice because skiing felt inherently bad for my spine when I last tried it, four years ago. Maybe it's time to try it and see how it feels. I loved telemarking - I felt like I could fly on my magical skis.

It's an eternal question for me. Do I live conservatively to avoid injury and thereby sandblast away some of life's edginess that gives me joy? Or, do I live on the cusp between adventure and disaster, trying to suck every last drop of joy from life? Living on the cusp has a mysterious magnetism but the risks might be immense. It's a precarious dance that I haven't fully mastered.


  1. Pawesome!

    Just plain pawesome!

    PeeEssWoo: We hope all goes well fur K tomorrow!

  2. Ooph. Sorry you're having so much mouth/jaw pain.

    Thanks for the info on the camera. We wanted to recommend one to a neighbor.

  3. Hey KB
    Another beautiful post, once again...and thank you for allowing us an escape into serenity and awe!
    Your relationship with your environment is really interesting - possibly similar to my own.(?) Please be careful of burning the candle at both ends (that cusp you talk about) has a way of catching up with you big time in later years. At the end of the day, it seems that life is about 'endurance'. The adrenalin rush of a good workout, although momentarily gratifying, eventually catches up with you - in ways that you can't satisfy physically.
    Be gentle on yourself...'survival' is the key.
    Take care and hope your mouth feels better real soon.

  4. Glad to hear your tooth is under control. There is nothing as important as a good dentist who understands pain! Todays pictures of the two 'quattro zampe' are brilliant.
    Having talked about dentists, the word verification is 'denti' the Italian for tooth.

  5. Thanks so much for information on the camera. We will do some more research on our end, but it would be interesting to see what we could capture.

    When I had my back surgery 5 years ago (no fusion - much simpler process), my neurosurgeon released me for "normal activities" and then paused, looked me in the eye, and said, "And I do mean Normal."

    Shrug - I am very focused on the exercises that want me to do, but I can not stop enjoying nature.

  6. KB.. your pictures NEVER cease to amaze me! What a paradise you live in! Thank you so much for taking the time to share it!
    One of the very few memories I have from being age 22(so long ago)
    is having my lower wisdoms out and waking up at 3:00 AM with 2 dry sockets!! OMG ! That was the worst pain I've ever known and I had a 9 LB 10 ounce baby with not so much as an asprin for pain! The uppers I had out last winter were a piece of cake but those lowers are a whole different story!! Bless your heart! I know how you have suffered! :(

  7. You just knew I would have a word of advice. (Notice I did not say a word of wisdom.) Obviously the decision is yours alone, but it might help to put in writing the pros and cons.

    While it would be wonderful to telemark ski again, just how much from your enjoyment of life does it take away if you cannot? I'm sure it is a feeling of freedom, but I think your logic of inherent danger and potential damage remains sound. I would be inclined to have a frank discussion with the neurosurgeon. Make certain he/she understands the process of telemark. Tell him to give you percentages of the REAL liklihood of problems, and the likely extent of problems.

    Then go back home and ponder the options. You are certainly a very intelligent woman, so go in the direction your intellect tells you, not what your heart says.

  8. Hi KB,
    I just love the photos of K running through the aspen grove and R looking handsome in his orange vest. I'm wondering about coyotes in packs, too. I've only ever seen single coyotes on the trails or at the edge of my property. However, a friend who lives nearby has seen a pack on her property and is fearful for her small dogs. I would also be fearful if I met a pack while just one doesn't really bother me. I have seen evidence of mountain lion much closer this summer, too - however, don't know if that is the reason for coyotes to be traveling in groups.

  9. I had to look up what telemark skiing is and I'm still not sure I understand. It looks like downhill only the bindings are kind of like cross country. I don't know if I'd take a chance on it since you do still have other things you can do that you enjoy.

    I used to downhill but it became too expensive. Now I want to cross country ski and would like to see if I can teach Java to skijor. I think she'd love it. I just need to find a good deal on equipment and then pray for snow.


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!