Coyote Tracking

by Carl Strang

Even modest tracking ability allows you to monitor wildlife activity on your favorite site. Today we look at an example in the coyotes at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Here is a set of fresh tracks from last week.

This coyote was traveling along the sidewalk between the parking lot and the Parking Lot Marsh.

The gait is a diagonal trot (for an earlier primer on the trot gait go here).  But which way is the coyote facing? A closer look reveals that the coyote was coming toward where we stand, so its body was angled toward the marsh.

The heel is away from us, the toes toward us, so this coyote was traveling toward where we stand.

It was more concerned about finding food than worrying about people who might be in the parking lot, which suggests this was a nighttime passage (an expert tracker would be able to age the tracks more precisely than I can and so determine this more directly).

Some of the recent sets of coyote tracks at Mayslake have been made by single animals, others have been of 2 or perhaps 3 animals hunting together. I didn’t take a photo to illustrate this; it’s a matter of noting sets of tracks of the same age either close together or one following the other and, mostly, stepping in its companion’s footprints.

It turns out I was in error when I reported earlier that the coyotes’ den would be destroyed by the demolition of the friary. The den entrance is outside the fence that defines the demolition area. It was hidden by large burdock leaves which recently have withered. Though the den is not currently in use by the coyotes, they check it out from time to time.

Though the tracks were filled in by the previous night’s added snow, they clearly were a coyote’s, made by an animal that came right to the den entrance and sniffed at it but did not, as far as I can tell, enter.

In previous years I have not been able to monitor the coyote den in the breeding season because of the density of surrounding vegetation, which now has been cleared away. If the den continues to survive the demolition, and if the coyotes use it again despite its exposure, I can look forward to checking it out from a distance in the coming season.

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