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All photos by
Tim Springer
and
Christine Baleshta


Additional Photos:

Tim Springer Photography





      The coyote was pushing his luck. The wolves were only 10 yards away feeding on a bison carcass but he was intent on getting his share and kept hanging around. Maybe when they finished and moved off a ways he could feed for a while in peace. Then the grizzly showed up.
When the real bear arrives on the scene the social dynamics can change rapidly as they did that misty morning on the Swan Lake Flats. The immense dark brown grizzly easily displaced the 3 members of the Swan Lake Pack from the carcass scattering wolves in different directions. One of the large canids, apparently frustrated at having his breakfast interrupted, immediately took it out on the hapless coyote. He chased it at full speed across the flats, zig zagging back and forth, the coyote just out of reach of the jaws of death. The pursuit continued up into a ravine at the base of Bunsen Peak where they disappeared from sight. All present wished the coyote well "rooting for the underdog" as a friend stated, but neither reappeared. Later that morning a coyote showed up in a pack of three that had a limp and a bite mark on his hind leg but otherwise appeared in good shape. We assumed our wiley friend had somehow survived, but there was no way to be sure.    The coyote numbers in the park are diminishing due to the success of wolf reintroduction. The smaller dogs have had to learn some new behaviors to survive. You would think that they would be more difficult to see now, but in fact I believe the opposite to be true. The coyotes hunt a large portion of the time during the day and have found life closer to humans along the roads (where the wolves will not go) to their benefit. They are now commonly seen trotting in the park, in a way only a coyote can, straight down the road, oblivious to you and your vehicle. I once traveled down the highway to Tower Junction at 2 miles an hour for a good half mile because a coyote wouldn't get out of the road.
   They will beg from you in your car, but under no circumstances should you feed them. That type of behaviour will get them killed or removed in a hurry. Yellowstone coyotes are fairly large and very pretty with more yellow and brown than those I have seen where I live here in Texas. When they start their yip yip howling sessions, everyone who hears stops whatever they are doing and grins at each other like idiots. A happy song of community and joy, it's heard often.
   Coyotes are quite common throughout the park and can be seen anywhere. Although there is never a guarantee, your chances of an encounter are still very good. I have never spent a week in the park without seeing at least 10 of the little dogs. Watch along the roadways any time of day.
   The best places to look for coyotes are in open expanses like Hayden and Lamar Valleys. You can see a great distance in these locations and there is always a coyote or two hunting in the grass. Watch for movement. They are small and blend in well but often they are in packs of three or four. They can disappear behind dips in the terrain but will reappear eventually. Patience will be rewarded.

Tim Springer - 2004


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Yellowstone Experiences 2014