Thursday, March 19, 2009

19 March 2009

Some mornings seem brighter than others, and this morning was blinding. Mist rises from Lily Pond as I drive by. This is one of my favorite types of morning light: fog. But by the time I reach the trailhead, it has disappeared into the morning's burning rays. Its more than 10 degrees colder here than it was at home, and I wonder if there has been another frost.  My suspicions are confirmed with crunchy sand under my boots. It rained a long time yesterday and last night, so only faint boot prints from Carrie's trap check last night remain. There is nothing, nothing in the sand to say that they've been here. Surely, we must move the trap line soon. We only have another couple of weeks until trapping stops for the arrival of pups.
All three sets are empty, so I decide to do a little poking around. Instead of turning around, I continue down the trail in search of recent activity. Being the early bird has its advantages: no
 one has used this trail yet this morning. 
And there they are: just beyond our trap line right on the trail: fresh coyote tracks. They're going in the opposite direction that I am, so I follow in reverse. They quickly disappear into the bramble. There is another small patch of sand a little further down the trail, so I investigate that, too. There always seems to be a lot of activity at this spot: it's where two trails intersect. A major hiking trail, and a well used 
game trail. There are two or three sets of coyote tracks here. A small scuffle in the sand makes me wonder if they were playing, or one putting the other in it's place. 
Coyotes are pack animals: more social than fox, but less so than wolves. They have a sort of elastic social bond. In winter, the pack may separate and go their own way if food is scarce. But in spring, the family group comes back together to help raise the pups. A pack is comprised of an Alpa pair--that is those that breed. The rest of the members are more than likely female yearlings or adults from previous litters. That's one difference between wolves and coyotes. Wolves are accepting of individuals who are not blood relatives, while coyotes are not. This is why I'm so curious about the coyotes at Presque Isle. 
Theoretically, or 'by the field guide,' there should only be one family group at Presque Isle because their home range averages 4-15 square miles (Kurta, Allen. 1998. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region.) So, if there is more than one pack (which everyone suspects) then I wonder if they are related somehow. Only genetics would tell, and this is not part of the current study unfortunately. 
Carrie has two coyotes collared: one from each end of the park and of opposite sex. A male near the neck of the park, and a female in the park's interior. Both have stayed put on the peninsula so far. And if they're here now, they're probably here to stay. Surely, for the Alpha male of the park's interior to tolerate another male nearby they must be related? Brothers? Father and son? Or is there just that much food at Presque Isle that they leave each other alone? Or are the Alpha females related? Questions spin in my head.
On the return hike, I hear the mystery bird again: it sounds just like a boat whistle. I have no idea, but swear that I'll bring my own boat whistle tomorrow and try and call him in closer.
A hawk! But where is it? It can't be a Blue jay, it's much too loud. I look and look. Where could such a large bird hide? But then I spy where the sound is coming from and it is a Blue jay. Some pipes on that bird. But I wonder what the fuss is about. 
Tomorrow we move the trap line, and hope for some luck.

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