K and I started our hike with optimism and I had a bounce in my step. The skies beamed deep blue, and I had time to explore.
As we hiked toward our property boundary, I saw something that made me feel like a dead weight had fallen on my shoulders. Animal tracks veered off the trail and went about 20 yards. At the end of the tracks, a lump of reddish brown fur lay motionless. A few coyotes tracks, fresh, circled a dead coyote, as if they'd investigated which of their brethren had departed.
I'll spare you the detailed photos. I truly am not squeamish about this sort of thing, and I wanted to document how he'd died in case someone could be prosecuted so I took careful photos. This noble coyote was shot in the neck. Moreover, I recognized him as Nick Ear, the young coyote who often traveled alone and had a distinctive nick in his ear. You can't really see it in my photo but I wanted one last photo of his ear.
I called our Division of Wildlife because some evidence hinted that someone had trespassed onto our property to shoot him. I was informed that coyotes are deemed to be varmints here so it's open season on them all year long. In fact, a land owner can shoot a coyote for the sole transgression of traveling across their land - as if a coyote understands the human concept of property boundaries. In today's case, the only possible crime to prosecute was trespassing onto our land. Because I have no hard evidence of who did it or whether they shot from our land, no one will be prosecuted for killing this handsome creature.
He sometimes traveled as a third wheel with a bonded pair, who I suspect are a mating pair. Sometimes, my wildlife cameras captured signs of antagonism between him and his two cohorts. However, usually, they seemed happy to forage and hunt together. I suspected that Nick Ear was the youngest of the trio and would help the mated pair raise their young this spring. It's possible that he was one of last year's litter who hadn't left the territory yet. It's been documented numerous times that these young coyotes play a key role in raising their parents' subsequent litter.
Basically, our government doesn't care about these sentient, smart, dignified, and social beings. Except, they do care about his pelt. I was warned sternly by DOW that I was NOT allowed to take his pelt - as if the thought had even crossed my mind. At that point in the conversation, my anger and stress level rose so high that an ocular migraine launched its crazy light show. When that happened, I realized how truly upset I was.
Despite our horrible discovery early in the hike, I truly tried to have a fun hike with K. If nothing else, at least my own pack is intact. We did our usual wandering off-trail, finding bobcat tracks from early this morning when the snow crust remained frozen solid for him to walk atop it.
Lately, I seem to have the instincts of a bobcat when I follow my whim for where to hike. Those secretive creatures like the same terrain as I do, so we end up following similar paths. We both love the views from boulder outcroppings, like the one where I photographed my K.
After a hike in perfect Colorado weather, I trudged home, still feeling sad at the viciously cruel behavior of some humans. Here's to you Nick Ear - we loved sharing the forest with you.