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Thursday, November 19, 2009

K and I meet the pack on the trails

K and I rolled out early again today after yesterday's ride reminded me of how I love snow biking when the snowpack is still frozen solid early in the morning. In the photo below, if you zoom in, you can see that K is wriggling on her back on the trail just as it curves to the right. I guess that another advantage to early morning riding is that the snow feels good on her back!
The color of K's fur in the morning light melts my heart.
We stopped to gaze at the mountains. My favorite snowy weather lookout sits directly on a lion path where I saw tracks multiple times last winter. Today, just after I captured the photo below, I heard what I thought was growling coming from a wall of boulders. K, who uncharacteristically hovered within a foot of me, turned and started growling back at the boulders. I decided that it was time to move onto someplace else in the forest but at least we'd glimpsed the mountains!
Snowbiking is not a fast mode of transport until the trails get perfectly packed - and they haven't achieved that nirvana state yet. Since our latest snow, K has seemed confused about why I'm not going as fast as usual. So, she gallops ahead, and then has favorite 'rest stops' to wait for me.
This morning, we ran into the pack of seven dogs and their human. Their pack is comprised of a clear-cut alpha dog, mostly German Shepherd, who I'll call the "Enforcer". The others are a Shelti, and five miniature dachshunds (who I'll call the "Littles"). Their human, a friendly neighbor, took some photos of me and the dogs interacting. Some of her dogs were distracted by something in the forest and don't appear in any photos. However, the others were focused on me and K.

Below, we just met a minute before. I'm trying to calm the "Littles" who bark in a frenzy, and sometimes yelp as if they're being hurt, until they make friends with me. I need to reestablish our friendship each time we meet to quiet them. At this instant, I wasn't aware that the Enforcer was sitting behind my bike with her eye on K, who is skulking to the left of my bike. K's body language says that she's not comfortable with the situation.
A few seconds later, the Enforcer has moved very close to the back of my bike and K is trying to crawl underneath it either to get closer to me or to use the bike as a barrier.
I feel kind of silly that I was oblivious to K's consternation until she wriggled under my bike to get away from the Enforcer who was now on the opposite side of my bike, where K had been just seconds before.
Finally, the Enforcer decided to march around to K's side of my bike. K lowered her body, didn't look at the Enforcer, leaned on my leg, and started biting at the snow - likely a 'displacement' activity to release nervous energy. The posture adopted by the Enforcer in the photo below makes me nervous. It looks like she's ready to pounce on K, and believe me, she doesn't play with K. Rather, she puts K in her place. However, nothing happened today. K seems to have figured out how to be sufficiently submissive to keep the Enforcer from attacking. I should add that the Enforcer has never hurt K physically, even when she has pounced on K while making growling noises.
This encounter ended with no altercations. But, with photos taken by someone else, I can see how stressful these meetings are for K. I think that the sheer number of dogs in the running pack makes a solo dog feel vulnerable.

After K and I had ridden our local trail network to our hearts' content, I dropped her off and switched to my ice bike with extreme studded tires on it. It turned out to be a bad choice because many trails along our road looked worth trying to ride on my snow bike - but I knew that I shouldn't even try to ride them on the relatively skinny tires on my ice bike. Oh well.

One good thing came out of riding on the roads. I passed my friend's horse standing in her meadow, and I saw that a utility wire had fallen from the poles. It lay curled and coiled in the meadow snow, about 25 yards from the horse. I immediately went to find my friend who lives a short distance from her horses. She wasn't home but I found a neighbor who knew how to move the horse to a small safe area and called the utility company. I was glad that I passed the scene when I did!

On a final note, a coyote has visited on a couple of nights in the past week. On one occasion several nights ago, the infrared wildlife camera picked up his image but our regular one did not. Notice that despite the very soft red light used to take this night-time photo, the coyote still has eye-shine. That fact made me wonder if it seems brighter to him than to me. I took my own photo with it - and I don't get red eye or eye shine.
Then, two nights ago, I'd just brought in the infrared camera to ready it for the field, and a coyote visited. Our wildlife camera with a regular incandescent flash caught his photo. What a luxurious coat! His eye shine doesn't look any more intense with the blinding incandescent flash, making me wonder even more if the infrared camera is indeed less disconcerting to an animal than the regular camera. I bought the IR camera specifically to reduce my impact on the animals.
I'm moving the infrared camera to near the entrance to a bobcat hide-out. It's under a boulder on an east-facing slope just above a meadow. I find bobcat scat there every time I check. I've learned that coyotes attack and eat bobcats and not vice-versa, much to my surprise. So, our regular coyote visitors outside our house likely deter bobcat visitors (I've captured only one bobcat photo by our house in six months despite regular sightings by my neighbors). I hope to get a bobcat photo out in the field!


  1. Where to start? First of all, if my dogs started growling at a pile of boulders you'd likely find me five miles away in a matter of minutes. You have nerves of steel!

    Love the wildlife camera shots as well, always a hit.

    After losing a finger in a dog fight, I always get nervous when a large number of dogs assemble and engage in any sort of power struggle. Kudos to you for knowing how to play the situation.

    I really need to point my bike west this summer.

  2. What a funny pack that is. I'm sad that the enforcer makes K feel so ooky though. She made good decisions to prevent any issues, so three cheers for that!

    Had the other dog read her better, maybe she wouldn't have had to crawl under your bike.

    Speaking of bikes, did you see that an old Yeti sold for like $12K on eBay recently? Crazy!

  3. What a great post, and fantastic pictures. I really enjoyed it, and will be back again.

  4. I would so love to get a wildlife camera... maybe I will ask for one for Christmas this year.

    As for "the pack"... if that were my pack, The Enforcer would be ME. I can't imagine allowing one of my dogs to bully another dog that way. It is too bad that the other owner won't step in, but it looks like K has it under control.

  5. Yet another pawesome post!

    I loved the dog 'meeting' tale -

    As always, the coyote pics are fantastic!

    Thanks again for the sharing!

  6. Kia ora KB,
    On a day when my hip was hurting particularly bad, after a busy week - it is Friday here in the southern hemisphere, it was so nice to sit down with a cup of tea and catch up with your adventures, your lovely friends, and your amazing back yard. Its almost like receiving energy from afar, and then I notice the pain has ebbed a bit. Thank you, and Kia kaha!

  7. Hey there KB
    Lovely post! I would have been petrified coming across all those are really brave!
    Just also wanted to say thank you for all your kind and thoughtful comments and good wishes. I really appreciate it. Take care and be safe
    MAX'S mom in SA

  8. Woof! WOW! had a lovely time reading your post. We were in Colorado last summer and enjoyed the scenic views n plan to move out there. LOVE the photos. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar


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