Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stealthy Traveler

Oil on board, 8" x 8"
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A coyote ghosts over the high sage country at dusk. These animals are true survivors. Despite decades of wholesale efforts in the west to reduce their numbers by shooting, trapping or poisoning, they continue to thrive. Like them or not, coyotes deserve a measure of admiration for sheer tenacity.

Some personal experiences with these wild dogs have earned my respect, along with a fair measure of wary uneasiness. Once, years ago, I sat alone on a rocky ledge in a remote northern Arizona canyon. It was a hushed and brilliantly sunlit fall morning. The only sound: an occasional throaty croak from a lone raven drifting in lazy circles high above.

Suddenly, a series of loud, bleating cries echoed through the canyon. On a far ridge, darting in and out of clumps of juniper and pinon, a full-grown deer ran at breakneck speed, chased bound for bound by a lone coyote. They quickly dropped out of sight and the canyon fell silent again.

A minute later the pair burst into sight in the canyon bottom, much closer now and heading my way. At a point maybe 50 yards below me, the much smaller animal leaped on the exhausted doe, jaws clamping in a choking grip on her neck. The two stood locked in a motionless struggle for tense seconds. Finally, the deer slumped to the ground, dead.

I sat there, stunned. Didn't coyotes hunt in packs? I never imagined a single one could take down an apparently healthy animal at least four times its weight. It was shocking and profoundly unsettling. At the same time it felt like a rare privilege to witness this raw act of nature.

I can never look at coyotes the same way again.


Anonymous said...

there is something so comforting about this painting: the light that you have captured washes the whole scene in a sleepiness and the coyote of course would be the only creature stirring at such hours in such a composition.... beautiful!
and thank you for sharing your story... simply nature ;)

Don Gray said...

Thanks, your thoughts are good to hear, Rahina. Yes, it is "simply nature".

Pierre Raby said...

Beautiful scene here with its amazing colors, contrasts and atmosphere! We feel your connection with those wild surroundings and also your admiration for coyotes! Great post too Don, thanks for sharing!

Don Gray said...

Much appreciated, Pierre!

Joye Lisk said...

Beautiful use of light and the words were riveting too....coyotes and the West are tough partners.

Don Gray said...

Thanks a lot, Joye.