Last Wednesday was a freezing cold day, but I wanted to get out and get some exercise despite the weather. So I went for a walk, but instead of heading out on the roads I wandered down to the sand parking lot to see if there were any fresh tracks to explore. I was pleased to discover several trails of coyote tracks going both to and from our soccer fields (I work at an outdoor center) and started backtracking a set to see if I could get a sense of where the animals were coming from when they headed to the field.
The trail took me to a brush pile under our zip line – something I had never given much thought to, other than to lament it’s messy appearance on the challenge course. I started exploring the brush pile and discovered that as it was added to by our maintenance staff, they had created deep crevices that would make excellent denning sites for larger animals. The openings were well hidden from view, and tough to get to as they were deep in the pile. I didn’t want to get too much closer in case they were inhabited and I startled any residents. It is especially important in colder weather and in mating season when animals are expending extra energy to not disturb nesting sites. It adds unnecessary stress to animals at a time when they can afford it least, and might prevent them from using that site again – an additional stress if they are raising young who would need to be moved.
I moved away and continued to explore the area for another few minutes, but due to the cold temps my
fingers were already quite numb and my toes were going the same way. I needed to either get on with my walk or head back indoors – I chose to start a brisk walk to burn off some more energy, but made sure to take some pictures of the tracks before I left – these are definitely the best photos I have of coyote tracks in my collection.
The photo to the right which is of a trail of tracks shows two tracks of near equal size side-by-side. Coyotes are what trackers call “direct-registers”, meaning that when trotting, the hind foot directly registers on the track of the front foot creating a very neat almost single-line trail. Tracks in a two-by-two pattern like this either indicate two (or more) animals moving together, or possibly a side-trot. Usually with a side-trot you see a difference in track size – the smaller hind track beside the larger front track. I’ll need to go back and take measurements, but these tracks appear quite close to the same size and exactly next to each other – a side-trot trail is usually staggered somewhat. I’m leaning towards my initial guess of multiple animals traveling together (breeding season starts in a few weeks), but I’ll have a more educated guess after I get some measurements.