Sunday, March 8, 2009

7 March 2009, 7pm

A knock at the door: our friends Doug and Pat who will join us at the St. Patrick's Irish Hoolie. It's BYOB, so we all drive to fill up three growlers at a local distributor. Let the party begin! The auditorium is filled with over 300 people gathering to hear Shamus Kennedy sing the tried and true Irish favorites. The four of us meet up with no less than 15 of Ben's (very Irish) family members. Our spread is impressive: cheese squares in three flavors, every junk food imaginable: cookies, chocolate, cheese dips, salsa; the list is endless. So much for my diet.
I left my cell phone in the car, and procrastinate going back out to get it. At some point around 9:45, Ben slips out to the car without me noticing. I hadn't even noticed he was gone, when he plops down in the chair next to me and says "Carrie just called, you have a coyote."
"What?" I look at him with confusion. Ben repeats "A coyote...we have to go." The information is perplexing to me. A coyote? A coyote! Okay...we make quick arrangements for our friends to hitch a ride back home with Ben's parents, for Chayce to stay where he is--at his Aunt's house with his cousin, and leave the huge annual Irish celebration.
State Street is impossible on a Saturday night. Every light is red. We get home and Ben packs the car with animal handling equipment while I go in, get the puppy out of bed and take him outside to his dad.
In the house is a half-dead camera battery from this morning. Who would have thought. Less than twelve hours ago we were setting traps. Guess I need to take this more seriously. My thoughts are a little fuzzy. I change into warmer clothes, hiking boots and a rain coat. It is raining--hard. Sorry, Fenris, back to bed.
All the camera and sound gear back into the car, we zoom to where we were just hours before. We meet up with Nick, a DCNR Park Ranger at the Ranger Station. Carrie is not far behind.
I had called and left messages for Samantha. She calls, and I encourage her and Mike to join us. At this time of night, no one else is around and we need all the help we can get.
We park at the trailhead, and begin the difficult task of setting up the camera gear in the rain. High-tech gear is the best: a black garbage bag goes over top of the camera and tripod. It is still pouring down rain, and the temperature has dropped into the mid-30s.
Samantha and Mike are en route, but we begin down the trail without them. It's dark, but we hike in silence without flashlights or headlamps. It's about 3/4 mile to our destination.
Samantha calls, and I try to explain where we are. Ben hikes back to our cars to guide them back to us. Meanwhile, Carrie, Nick and I huddle under our make-shift hut of golf umbrella and tarp. I make all the necessary camera adjustments: mount the light to the camera's top, connect the external stereo mic to the boom pole, and to the camera. My hands are numb from holding the cold, now wet metal tripod.
We wait.
Finally, a small twinkle from a flashlight. Ben, Samantha and Mike are close. When they arrive we try to make a game plan. Filming in the dark is one thing, but this coyote is probably soaking wet and it's cold.
Nick brought a huge, super-powered spotting light. This turns out to be the only reason why I can shoot at all. Sam holds the light, Ben the umbrella and I hoist the tripod and camera onto my shoulder. It's dark and disorienting. We begin our short hike up and over the dune.
At first we think she's gone, but we're looking in the wrong direction. More to the right...there. Beautiful! Ben, Sam and I creep in close set up the camera and begin rolling. What a beautiful creature. This coyote doesn't panic as much as the last one. Sam holds the umbrella steady. The camera is dressed with a rain cover, but it's still pouring so Sam holds the umbrella over the camera and the external microphone. Ben holds the mega-spotting light on one shoulder, and
the boom pole in the other. Mike will record Carrie's data as she reads it off.
We sound bird calls to let Carrie and Nick know it's time to move in. Calmly and slowly they approach the stuck-coyote, put the noose around her neck, and tighten the line to snug. Carrie tosses a blanket over the animal and it instantly stops panicking. A rope-muzzle is tied around the coyotes long snout, and a hat over it's whole head to cover the eyes. First, remove the paw from the trap. No injury. Healthy...and yes, it's a she! Teeth reveal an adult. Onto the blanket, and draw the four corners to make a sling. Eyelets hook onto the spring scale, and it reveals a
32-pound coyote. The collar is fitted, and double checked. The nuts are difficult to manuver with cold fingers and are protesting being tightened. The receiver beep, beep, beeps.
We move the camera 90 degrees from our current shooting location. I'm hoping that she might run somewhat in this direction when Carrie and Nick release her. Carrie pulls off the muzzle first, then the eye cover. Green eye shine reflects back our artificial light. I quickly get a full-face shot. Then signal that I'm ready. Nick releases the tension on the dog-catchers noose, the coyote runs into the darkness and is gone.
On the hike back Carrie states that she's probably pregnant. Her belly looked a little larger than normal, and it is now the time when she would be with pups. And 32-pounds is a nice sized female. It's very possible that we've caught the Alpha. We both hope so.
Everyone is sodden. My pants are soaked. We gather at the Ranger Station, warm up then head home. By the time we get to bed, it's 2am.


  1. What a whirlwind of a night!! Whew!! We need to get you more followers. This is too good to miss. I'll make sure I post your blog url in my next blog post.

  2. Thanks Michele! Hopefully, there'll be two more collared sometime soon. With the nighttime shooting, I hope so. With the way the weather has been for both shoots, it certainly shows the tenacity of the researcher :) I just hope one of these will be perfect shooting conditions: sunny and no wind. haha! fat chance.