Wednesday, March 11, 2009

11 March 2009

The sun winks out from behind the clouds, and wind whips through the tall grasses as I make the daily hike out to our trapline. Fresh coyote scat. Coyote scat looks a lot like an owl pellet--if you recall grade-school science class. Most of the contents are hair and bones. The shape and size are similar to dog scat, but the difference is obvious. Coyote scat--for those of us with an artsy background--is a cool tone color: almost bluish. Dog scat is a warm tone: a brownish yellow. Appetizing discussion just after breakfast.
But this is how Carrie can conduct a dietary analysis on our park's coyotes. Pick up scat, put it in baggies, take it to the lab, dry it out, pick through it (yes, the stinky part of science) and presto! You have in front of you what the coyote has been eating the day before it came out the other end. Hair is compared to a collection on hand--individual hairs from different species mounted on slides: deer, mouse, rabbit, skunk, opposum, beaver, muskrat....hopefully a slide for each mammal on the park. Match the hair from the collected scat with the hair on the slide, and you have preferred coyote chow. Tiny bones and bone fragments can also be identified. Part of a mouse mandible. Hmm. Good breakfast.
All traps are empty. I head home and hope for less rain.

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