There are times when you come upon a particular sight that just makes you laugh. Unfortunately, those times are usually when you are alone and have no means to bottle the memory up to open when you need that little pick me up in the future. This, however, was not the case when such a situation happened on our way back out of Yellowstone. We decided to take the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway on our way to Custer State Park. Depending on the elevation, there was up to 5 inches of snow on the ground providing for some awesome pictures against the Autumn turned trees and … well .. ummm what can I say other than burst out laughing.
I am not exactly sure this was what they were talking about, but nothing says scenic more than a cow butt. The good news is I now have something to turn to when I need a chuckle.
… but there is actually more to this story that fits (almost) perfectly with this month’s theme of Yellowstone National Park wildlife. I say almost because we were technically outside of Yellowstone when the following shots of Canis Latrans were taken.
So, any guesses how these two shots are linked?
Hit the jump to see the answer!
Turns out Wile E. here was busy licking its chops conjuring up visions of hamburgers for dinner. As we drove by on the highway we noticed this lone predator standing still out in the snow. At the time we didn’t see the free range cow grazing in the ditch but a quick check of the sightline immediately answered our curiosity surrounding its motives.
Needless to say, the Beast was rounded up and pointed out the window in lightening speed. Guessing the glint of the sun off the glass caught the coyote’s attention because it pulled its eyes off of dinner and started staring directly at us. After about 5 minutes of this standoff it started putting some distance between us always under his watchful gaze.
Now normally I would feel bad about coming between a predator and its natural prey. But it just happens that I generally dislike coyotes (actually this may be a time to throw out the hate word). There are a number of reasons for this non-favorable view of these creatures. For starters they do not follow the social hierarchy of a wolf pack so their breeding rates are essentially uncontrolled. According to our good friends over at Wikipedia their litters can range up to 19 pups.. say it with me, NINETEEN. Granted they have an offspring mortality rate in the 50-70% range but as soon as they develop a medical program and realize the value of mice when it comes to lab testing instead of lunch they’ll be ringing a tiny bell for their human butler to come and sharpen their nails. Add the fact that they are direct competitors to our brothers the wolf coupled with an uncontrollable urge to scare the bu-geezus out of our pets out here in the country .. well.. best viewed with crosshairs. By the way, here is an interesting sentence called out in Wikipedia. Breeding experiments in Germany with poodles, coyotes, and later on with the resulting dog-coyote hybrids showed that, unlike wolfdogs, coydogs exhibit a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems, and an increase of genetic diseases after three generations of interbreeding. Guessing Linda will concur here, but anything involving Germany and poodles in the same sentence can’t be a good thing.
Okay, now we come to the Yellowstone part of the post. On our last morning there, we headed out through Lamar Valley in a final attempt to capture some wolves. It had snowed the night before in the higher elevations, but the lower elevation in the valley just produced a heavy frost. The reason I mention this is the coyote was easy to see against the snow background, where looking out into the browns of the valley makes it difficult spot any wildlife much less ones sporting tan and brown camouflage. Luckily, we noticed some movement a ways out in the field allowing us to track it with the Beast. With the added reach we could tell it was from the dog family. The rather large size of the specimen and the fact it was in the middle of wolf territory resulted in us concluding that it was a pair of wolves. It seemed surprising that two coyotes would be that exposed with the wolf pack kills that had occurred in the area that week (not to mention the elk another pack had taken down the night before just a few miles up the road). So there we sat happily taking shot after shot of wolves.
Later on while reviewing the shots Linda and I began to have some doubts. Their size is still at the top of the scale based on the coyotes we see out here in the woods of Illinois, but the sharpness of their muzzle and the way they were carrying their tails are more indicative of coyotes. A pretty lengthy debate followed complete with reference checks on the web along with side by side comparisons of the shots in the snow above. With great disappointment, the final decision was NOT wolves. This was a big downer since these would have definitely been the best shots of wolves we had taken while out there. Oh well, at least we didn’t come away empty handed and these were actually the only two coyotes we encountered the entire time we were in the park. It was entertaining to see how much fun these two were having hanging out in the valley … and they didn’t seem to mind the frost at all.
I wish the glimmer from the frost would have come out better in the shot – if you look close, you can kind of see some of the sparkles on the top of the weeds and brushes. Imagine the entire valley glistening in the sun. I decided to throw the following shot into the mix to demonstrate the natural camouflage of the coyote. If they were not moving at the time, we would have never found them.
Sorry to say folks, we didn’t find a single Acme box, but then again we didn’t see a single roadrunner while we were out there either. Looks like Wile E. Coyote may have solved that pesky bird problem.