Coyotes On The Banks Of The Santa Cruz
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Of all of the creatures that I see in our desert and its environs Coyotes are the most interesting and, for my money, the most admirable. We humans have done our best over the past century to exterminate them. They’ve been hunted, trapped, and poisoned. And, despite our best (worst!) efforts, they have survived, expanded their range, and increased their population. Coyotes are among those animals and birds that have benefitted from human activity. They now inhabit every state in the continental United States and virtually every city has its population of these animals. There are numerous Coyotes living in our neighborhood in suburban Tucson, judging from the howls that I hear most early mornings.
They’ve survived and prospered in large measure due to their intelligence. They are far smarter than we realize. They watch us carefully, they study our habits, they learn what they can and cannot get away with, and they exploit the situation.
Recently, I came across a family of Coyotes living on the banks of the Santa Cruz River in urban Tucson. In Tucson the Santa Cruz is a river in name only most of the year. These days it is a dry riverbed. It may run again once the monsoon rains begin in earnest — if they ever do. The river bottom is heavily overgrown now with brush and even small trees and for the Coyotes it is home and a highway as well.
The family includes several adults and at least a half-dozen puppies. I caught a glimpse of the puppies as they lounged together near a den.
Look closely at the image and you’ll see four puppies, two in the foreground and parts of two more at the rear. The puppies appear to be of different ages, suggesting that two litters had merged together in a family. In order to get this picture I crept slowly up to a narrow opening in the brush where I could observe the den location. The puppies weren’t fooled at all. They studied me carefully for a few seconds and silently retreated.
On another occasion I photographed a female Coyote as she headed down an embankment into the riverbed.
She, too, watched me warily before disappearing into the brush at the river’s bottom.
I made several visits to the Coyotes before I was able to get these images. For a few days they hung out at the same location. But, the instant they saw me approach they became invisible. On one occasion I saw three adults approaching me from a distance of about 100 yards. I concealed myself behind a large mesquite, waiting for them to come close enough so that I could photograph them. They sensed my presence long before they got into camera range and quickly faded into the undergrowth. I wasn’t disappointed because the episode was a good lesson about just how clever these animals are.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 1250. All images shot at f5.6. The first image @ 1/500, the second and third images @ 1/1250.