I woke at about 5 a.m., head swimming with a strange, detailed dream. I grabbed my phone and start recording the details before they could dissipate. Suddenly, my tapping was interrupted by a single, sharp noise, somewhere in the near woods. Owl? First thought. Then yips and yaps percolated up as a group of coyotes moved through, very close based on the cacophony rising into my cabin.
Downstairs I could hear Althea snoring, oblivious to the intrusion. I made a note to exercise my fledgling tracking skills later when I took Althea out for her morning ramble. I’ve found scat recently that I’m pretty sure is coyote, maybe fox. I was hoping to find fresh samples to confirm the former, or maybe tracks. I recently attended Appalachian Understories’ Uncovering Animal Mysteries, where the incredible Joe Brehm patiently and expertly led a group of us along the Hocking River to identify signs of raccoon, fox, and other creatures.
After that workshop I ran home and dug out my barely used copy of Mammal Tracks & Sign by Mark Elbroch, determined to absorb as much of it as possible and start learning to track wildlife. As luck would have it, I found scat in two locations on my trail system in the following days, and based on the guidance in the book I suspect it’s coyote, possibly fox. I didn’t have a tape measure when I took the photos so it’s tough to tell for certain, but the animal fur in the scat makes it pretty clear it’s from one of those. Hearing coyotes this morning made me think I might be able to find a fresh sample to confirm, or maybe even prints that would help. But I was thwarted on both counts. No fresh scat. And there was a dusting of snow that was too diffuse to capture prints, and the ground was too frozen to retain them.
Althea did manage to startle three or four white-tail who ran along the ridge trail above the north hollow, and she also alerted on (read: tried to consume) some scat on the trail that runs along a bench farther west down the hollow. I couldn’t ID what was left of it but if I had to guess, I’d say it probably was her favorite delicacy: raccoon poop.