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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Coyotes, mountain lion, and bobcat

Yesterday afternoon, K and I hiked up toward the boulder-filled meadow. I spotted movement - a line of four tan coyotes trotting briskly. I stopped in my tracks, and K didn't see or smell them yet. I quickly set up for a long-range photo. Then, to my delight, the lead coyote climbed on top of one of K's favorite boulders. At first, he didn't see us.
Then, he seemed to stare straight at us.
He nimbly dismounted from the boulder to join his pack.
After the lead coyote descended to his pack, they all started trotting straight down the trail toward us. I was wrong - he hadn't seen us. When they crested the hill and we were in full sight, the pack screeched to a halt. The other three filed off into the forest, out of our sight, while the lead coyote stood and watched us from the trail (my photo of him was very fuzzy because I was so surprised). K stared back at him.
After his pack was safely out of sight, the lead coyote trotted off behind them - disappearing without a sound.

That amazing sighting showed me that K's love of standing on the boulders in our meadows and forest is shared by our wild canines.
This morning, K and I reveled in the sunrise. Before the sun crested our eastern hills, the Divide was lit up with stunning alpenglow.
Meanwhile, K and I stood in darkness. Although the sun rays had hit the mountains, they hadn't touched us yet.
Then, the faintest ray began to light up K and the orange lichen behind her as the sun barely sparkled over the eastern hills.
Then, in an instant, the spotlight was on K!
After the sunrise, K and I started moving again, exploring our terrain for signs of animals passing through overnight. I've been letting K run during most of our hikes and I can see her energy and endurance improving.
I still dream that she'll mountain bike with me again someday so I encourage her to stretch her legs.
Today we explored rougher terrain than I've dared venture onto since K's paw travails began. I watched her closely to see whether she was searching out easy paths through the boulders and downed trees or whether she trusted her paw enough to clamber over them. Obviously, she wasn't babying her paw!
I think that my girl might just make it back to mountain biking!
I missed K today during my snow bike ride, especially when I came upon a maze of mountain lion tracks. A lion had traveled the same routes many times in the past two days.
Within the maze, I found one track that showed a detail that's rarely apparent in snow tracks of mountain lions. The triangular back pad has 2 cusps on its apex, and I could see it clearly in the track below.
Within a line of fairly fresh tracks, I found drops of blood, as if the lion had a cut that was slowly dripping blood.
I could see that the lion had been circling a herd of elk who had bedded down in an open section of Ponderosa Pine forest. He/she circled several times and approached the area trampled by elk from several angles. When I was in the midst of the elk bedding area, I honestly wasn't sure if the lion had successfully preyed on them or not. My best guess was that he'd tried to but had been slightly hurt in a fruitless encounter.

Then, closer to home, I found my answer. I crossed the same lion's tracks again. He/she had departed the area where I'd seen the maze of tracks and headed toward my neck of the woods last night. I suspect that he/she didn't manage to find dinner in the elk herd because a lion would have eaten from an elk carcass for a week or so.

If K had been with me for this exploration, I certainly would have leashed her as soon as we came across the lion tracks. However, I also would have followed her nose to discern the story of what had happened with the lion and the elk. She would have shown me which lion tracks were freshest and definitely would have alerted if there was an elk carcass nearby. My training, years ago, as a search and rescue dog handler taught me that a dog's nose can tell me more about what's going in the forest than my eyes ever can.

Here's to having K join me for biking again soon!
And, here's to the feisty bobcat who visited us last night! His spirit inspires me.


  1. Great pictures as always KB :). Neat encounter with the coyotes.

  2. You might really enjoy checking out The Daily Coyote if you haven't.

    Nice you're getting your girl back:-)

  3. LOVE the "spotlight" pic of K!!

  4. wow!! the pictures of the coyote on the boulder! so cool, and that they didn't see you?!
    and the sequence with the sun shining on K...stunning!!
    K is getting stronger and stronger every day......soon!

  5. K how dare that coyote pose on your rock without permission!
    Benny & Lily

  6. Wow, that's a super cool story about the coyote pack! It does look like the one is looking right at you.

    Your pal, Pip

  7. I have never doubted that K will be back to accompanying you on mountain bike rides come Spring!

    I love the series of pictures on K as the sun rose on her! That's even better than watching the sunrise!

  8. How cool the coyote got into the boulder posing too!

    Once again, I just marvel at their beauty!

    Of course, same for K's incredible shots too!

  9. Neat photos, I hope you carry a noise maker or mace with you when you bike and hike. Coyotes and Lions will take on dogs and people from time to time. Coyotes especially when there are a number of them, but you already know all of this. So be careful, we want lots more photos.

    Mogley G. Retriever

  10. The coyote is such a beautiful animal. You captured a spectacular photo.
    Yes,,, here is to gorgeous K biking with you soon. We love these photos of K looking so happy

  11. Awesome Photos! Love the Picture of K with the sunlight on her. Glad to hear that you and her will be Mountain Biking again.

  12. Nice coyote shots! Growing up we always had coyote around us. I've always admired them and have enjoyed watching them.


  13. Great story and photos! I found mountain lion tracks up in our local mountains after a recent storm. There were lots of boulders nearby, so I figure the lion went up into them.

  14. Very exciting trek! I can feel my breathin stop at each wild discovery and remind myself to breath as I am not actually there with you! LOL!

    We so enjoy your adventures and of course your fabulous photography :D

    Waggin at ya,

  15. Hi Y'all,

    Yes, I never doubt, when a dog tells me something, beware...their noses can tell them more, than all of my senses can tell me. I rarely stray far without my dog at my side...too chicken I guess.

    The greatest time of day is sunrise and sunset. I am so enjoying your sunrises! They are so magical...always.

    Hawk aka BrownDog's Momma

  16. So cool that you saw that coyote!

  17. I don't know...things are smelling a lot like K and mountain bikes from over here...Go K, Go!

    Very neat coyote encounter. I hadn't seen a coyote for a long time until a couple weeks ago. They're cool creatures.

  18. Hi KB,

    Just stopped back to tell you that the photos from today weren't that great, more scenery than dog. Don't know why they didn't show up. I posted them the same as always using Windows Live Writer.

    I'm learning a lot reading your blog.

    K is a magnificent dog.

    BrownDog's Momma

  19. Oh I had to rush right overs here when I heard da disturbing news dat K is afraid of da laundry basket. Dat just upsets da Puddles cuz I loooooves my basket, it's warm and cozy. Uh but, K is lots bigger than me...hehehe. I thought hers was invincible and afraid of nuttin! You get hers a BIG storage box, fill it full of pillows and then hers'll like it. You can send me da bill laters fur my expertise...hehehe!
    Yea, fotos of mum's fall from grace...she's a dork.
    I know I has told you befores but your fotos are just capture their souls.


  20. It sounds like the coyotes were just as surprised to see you. Loved the photo of one standing on K's boulder. Also, the sun peaking through to light up K was so neat. Things sure can change quickly. I hope K is back on the bike trail with you soon!

  21. Amazing pics - Those coyotes are so robust and beautiful! I thought they were wolves at first sight...
    I definitely agree about the nasal prowess of dogs - truly impressive. if the dogs catch a scent, I'm always ready to find out what it could be from - it's usually something interesting ;)
    I didn't know you had worked search and rescue dogs - I'd love to hear more about that. I know you don't need my warning, but please be careful! Your path and those of that big kitty seem to be a simple matter of timing. I know, I know...I'm a big chicken.


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