I hauled Grace and Belle out for a much needed trail ride today. The trail head is about 20 minutes from my house and gets us access to over 8,000 acres of heavy forested logging trails. I left early to beat the rush and assure myself a good spot to park the trailer. There was one other trailer and a few cars in the lot when we arrived. I kept Belle in the truck until I had Grace tacked up and ready to go. I go out of my way to be cautious with my dog as I know that not everyone else out there appreciates her like I do. With that in mind I headed out to a less active logging road, further away from the main trail head to reduce the chance of running into people who might be walking their dogs on leashes.
Grace and Belle perked up when we came off the muddy trail head and hit the wide dry logging roads. Belle zigzagged along the side of the trail following the scents of the variety of animals that had been out the night before. About 20 minutes into our ride I saw a coyote cross the trail in front of us and jump into the bushes. Belle took off after it, but came back to me when I called her out of the woods. I had my helmet camera on and was disappointed that I didn’t get any film of it. Little did I know that I would soon grow tired of capturing a coyote on film.
I swear the coyote that I saw go into the woods had dark fur on its back. Within seconds of passing that spot in the woods, a taller lighter color coyote started to follow us. I stopped to look at it, this time turning on the camera. Belle caught sight of it and chased it back to the spot in the woods where it came from. I called her out of the woods and we headed on our way. The coyote started to follow us again and they played the same game of chase. I started to feel uneasy about it; I have heard stories of coyotes luring dogs into the woods where the rest of the pack then ambushes them. I knew I was dealing with at least two. I told Belle we were getting out of there and proceeded to lope up the hill.
Belle stayed with me all the way up the hill, I even got some good video of her running alongside Grace. When we reached the top of the hill to where I thought we must be safe, I heard the sounds of both a dog and coyote yelping. Belle was no longer with me. That damn coyote had chased us all the way up the hill. When I caught up to them Belle’s hair on her back was all raised and she was backing away from the coyote. She seemed really confused about the fact that it wasn’t scared of her. I put Grace between them and convinced Belle to move up the trail. I then set Grace after the coyote, screaming like a mad woman the entire time. The coyote dove into the bushes and I headed back to Belle. She didn’t seem to be physically harmed, but she was out of breath and still seemed to be confused. I’m not sure that she had fully accepted that she had gone from being a predator to prey.
Grace swung her head around to look behind her and sure enough, that coyote was there again. Now I was afraid to run from it. I knew it could keep up and the last thing I wanted to do was to tire out my dog. I started to regret my decision to go out of my way to avoid people. I was far from the trailer and all my screaming at the coyote hadn’t attracted any attention. I kept telling Belle to stay in front so I could at least keep Grace between the coyote and his potential meal. I let Grace chase him again when he got to close, but he only went into the woods to run parallel beside us. This went on for miles. Belle in front, Grace and I right behind her and the coyote several yards behind.
Belle stopped to wallow in a cold mud puddle. I parked Grace right beside her for protection. As we walked on I saw the coyote stop and urinate in the puddle that Belle had just been in. It got me to thinking that he communicated through smell and maybe he didn’t know yet that I was a human, I have heard and seen on our own trails how coyotes don’t seem to be as skittish around someone on a horse as they are around a person walking on foot. I’ve been told that it happens when a person is no longer a “two legged” being. The same phenomenon happens when they follow the farmer’s tractors. I spit on the ground as we were walking, at the same time I could hear fireworks and the sound of a road off in the distance. The coyote stopped, almost like he had hit an invisible line that he could not cross. I wasn’t sure if it was the scent I left behind, or if we had really hit the end of his vast territory, but I was relieved to not have it stalking us anymore.
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. Belle perked up along the way and started to wander down side trails again looking for trouble. I checked her all over back at the parking lot and couldn’t find a scratch on her. Grace was calm as could be during the entire incident, she was more than happy to give chase every time I asked her to.
The video didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped; the coyote is a small speck on the screen. I apologize in advance for my foul language after our run up the hill, I was convinced that I was going to lose my dog and was pretty fired up at the time. I think from now on we will stay on the more populated trails. If you see someone out there spitting from the saddle every 5 strides, it’s just me keeping the coyotes away.