Coyotes living on the prairies
On my frequent drives in search of snowy owls this winter, I often see coyotes. I admire how these creatures thrive during the winter and enjoy being able to watch them hunt mice across the fields. Here are a couple from the past month or so.
And a few more where individuals were going here and there across the prairies.
A coyote’s stroll across the fields
The warm February in southern Alberta has melted most of the snow on the Prairies. This has made traveling over the fields much easier for wildlife. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen deer, elk, moose and coyotes on the grasslands near my home west of Calgary.
This coyote was hunting a little bit as she paralleled the TransCanada Highway near Springbank. I hoped for a pounce but she was more focused on distance than hunger it seemed.
After she crossed an off ramp, she paused to stare in my direction before moving on.
I left at that point, not wanting to spook her and make her hurry across Highway 22. I stopped a kilometre or so down the road and watched her wait for a quiet moment. When that came she ran across the pavement and into another field.
A Coyote’s breakfast leaps
This morning I found a coyote skittering along the ditch on Highway 8 in between Bragg Creek and Springbank. At first, I thought it was an older pup but then I realized it was an adult in its sleek summer coat. I often photograph coyotes in the cooler months when they have their heavier jackets on so I’ll forgive myself the initial error. I believe this one was a female and she was absolutely beautiful. I was worried when I spotted her as she seemed to be trying to cross the road amid pretty steady traffic. Watching her, it became apparent that she and a couple of ravens were attracted to some bits of roadkill on the highway.
It was a relief when she slipped under the fence towards a field with an open stand of broken and weathered trees. She turned her attention towards hunting for field mice and that’s where the fun really began.
Turns out she is an accomplished hunter and I was delighted to watch her successfully catch two mice on three jumps. Of those leaps, I was in good position for two of them and am happy with the action caught.
The image above is the start of the first leap. The image at the top of this post was the next image as she was fully airborne.
The whole sequence from target acquisition to landing is efficient and I admired the focus, power and dexterity she showed. The three leaps all occurred within a short 2-3 minute stretch. On either side, she favoured me with a few inquisitive looks.
After a total of fifteen minutes she crossed a gravel back road and disappeared into the heavy scrub brush on the other side.
Coyotes on the Albertan prairie
I found this pair of Coyotes while driving the backroads west of the Springbank airport last weekend. The male was laying down and enjoying the sun when they came into view. The female, seen in the image below, had been trotting around nearby and only stopped when she saw me. She stared at me for a few seconds but with the headwind and the sun in her eyes she took a long blink before turning away and taking up a sitting position a bit further from me.
The male rose up and crossed warily along a low ridge parallel to me before heading back towards the female. They both looked healthy and I believe the patches on the female’s side are her winter coat shaking out rather than mange or some other irritation. I hope they are planning to den in that area – I’d love to watch their pups this spring.
Coyote in Kananaskis
This coyote trotted in front of us and then slipped into forest. I kept my lens on her and she was curious enough to steal a quick look our way when she was in a small open space. We were spending our anniversary in Kananaskis and it was a nice moment to include in “our” day.
Please note that I took artistic license with this image and desaturated the colour in the forest around the coyote. The woods in Kananaskis are not black and shades of grey. For reference, the original image is included below.
A Coyote Lookback
This young coyote was sitting on the edge of the gravel road when I walked by. We watched each other for a minute and then the pup got up and trotted away. Given their curiosity, I hoped for a look back over the shoulders and he was kind enough to oblige. He hopped off of the road right after this and joined a second pup and the mother. They were in the trees so I caught a fleeting glimpse of the family but no photographs.
Canon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/800 second at f/5.6 on ISO 1000
An early spring blizzard spilled across the prairies a couple of weeks ago. Cold wind and heavy snow were this Coyote’s main companions as it crossed the fields looking for rodents to eat. Sometimes the Coyotes that I cross paths with are curious and trot close to check me out. This is more frequent in the hills and up in the mountains. On the prairies, where they are often considered to be pests, they are usually more wary and run away when anyone shows any interest in them. This one was kind of in the middle, running across the road away from me and then slowing to a jog and watching me for a few minutes.
Watching a blizzard
This coyote didn’t seem impressed with the storm that tore across the Foothills on the weekend. The front of the blizzard was pretty wet so when the temperature started to drop, everything built up a layer of ice. I suppose this creature didn’t feel like trotting around with the extra weight, and the blinding snow, so it laid down and burrowed in. It was resolute to stay put and only watched me as I set up my camera and lens for this picture. Most coyotes will perk their ears so I wondered if this one may have been injured or sick. However, I went by a couple of hours later and the coyote had moved on. The storm was still raging so maybe dinner had called her to action. When I’d seen her earlier, I thought she might not leave until the weather improved considerably.
Crossing a coyote’s path
This coyote found Jack and I as we wound upwards along the road up towards Lake Minnewanka. It trotted along in the trees and then cut down into the ditch and then took a few steps towards up the hill again before it stopped. It stared our way for a few seconds before backtracking a little bit and then crossing the road and going over the edge. Beautiful animals who are among nature’s most adaptable. I see them alone or in small packs in the mountains, on the prairie and throughout the Foothills and enjoy photographing them immensely.
A wet coyote in the Spray Lakes valley
This coyote was scouting along the banks of the small river which winds back on itself several times as it crosses the meadow beside the road up to Shark Mountain in the Spray Valley Provincial Park. It was almost cold enough for snow and the coyote’s coat was slick from the freezing rain. The resulting glow made this healthy canine stand out beautifully against the long grasses.
After watching us for a couple of minutes, the coyote continued along the edge of the river. Eventually it crossed over the meadow and climbed up the hill.
Coyote on the move in Kananaskis
Jeff and I were driving back from the Kananaskis Lakes in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park when we saw a coyote trotting along the side of the road. We pulled over, set up some long lenses and watched it approach. As it drew closer, it neither sped up nor slowed down. It cast a few glances our way but seemed to have some other place to be.
The coyote crossed the road a couple of times, usually in advance of car coming. Only two did while we watched and those drove it off of the pavement but not as far as the woods.
This animal looked to be in good health and did not look to be stressed as it carried on. We were both very curious where it may have been heading.
After a few minutes, with the tail bobbing up and down with its bouncy stride, the coyote went out of sight as it rounded a corner further up the road.
Coyotes in Kananaskis
I had a chance to photograph two separate coyotes along the Highwood Pass highway over the weekend.
They were a few miles apart. The first one was on the move and headed along the edge of the trees for a minute before heading up and into the forest.
The second was hunting field rodents very successfully and trotted along for quite a while.