Monday, March 9, 2009

9 March 2009

Fenris (my 7 month old pup) and I pull up at the trailhead. Besides our regular walking route at home, everything is a new smell to him. Even the flocks of waterfowl and songbirds overhead are a curiosity to him; he watches as they fly overhead. The rain is slight, but the 15 mph winds make it an unpleasant hike. It's in the low 30s, and the sandy portions of the trail are thoroughly soaked--perfect for seeing fresh tracks despite the snowless ground. 
Fen first finds turkey tracks. I wonder what he thinks of the smell, because he's never seen one. Turkey are everywhere on the park--last fall there was a flock of 20 in this area and you couldn't drive around the park road without seeing at least two groups of five or six. Clearly, the park's coyote population isn't affecting the turkeys. 
We're not more than 50 meters down the trail when we see the first set of coyote tracks. They are the same size as my pups tracks, but I know for sure that they're coyote for several reasons. Coyotes typically track in a straight line, where dogs prints are side-by-side. Coyotes also double register when they walk--that is, their hind foot goes exactly where their front foot was. Individual coyote prints have an oval shaped outline, while dogs are typically circular. This is because of how they hold their toes: dogs tend to spread their toes, while coyotes hold their toes close. There's also one last obvious give away: there are no fresh people tracks on the trail.
We continue to the first set of traps, climb up over the dune and find both sets empty. Back down the dune to the trail and continue on to the second set. The wind has really picked up by now, and my glasses are speckled with raindrops. 
Fenris bounds through the grasses, and we find the second trap sets empty. We return to the trail and find three sets of coyote tracks. Their curiosity piqued by the scents at the trap sets, and they have probably begun to investigate the area thoroughly. All we need is for one to move in a little closer...
The sand is punctuated with more and more coyote tracks as we get closer to the third set of traps. Back up over the dune, and two empty sets stare back at us. We quickly turn around and hike back to the car. 

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