Monday, November 5, 2012

Coyote and Bob Shaw

We are plunged into darkness, as if these cloudy, overcast days weren’t dark enough. Daylight savings time. Whose brilliant idea was that? Random, very faint snowflakes fall haphazardly from the sky. It would be easy to miss them, they’re so tiny.

Last night, I woke at exactly 2 a.m. to the sound of coyote frolicking very near the cabin. Their excited yips and barks were loud and made me think of laughter. I smiled to myself, threw another log in the wood stove, and snuggled back into my fleece sheets.

Fifteen minutes later, I heard my dog yard explode. Miles is the alarmist. On the edge of the beginning of the dog yard, nothing gets by his keen ears and he is quick to bark to warn the others of any activity. First, I heard Miles, then all the dogs began barking. There are several types of barks, and this was definitely a hackles-raised kind of bark. One of my females is in standing heat right now, and I worried that Mr. Coyote might try to breed her. I was just about to hop into my truck with a headlamp and a leash and go retrieve the female in heat, when as suddenly as it began, the barking stopped.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with Bob and Jan Shaw. Bob never tires of teasing me. He is jovial, with a pot belly and a fuzzy gray beard that gives him a Santa look that is endearing. His blue eyes sparkle with mirth. He began showing me pictures his trail cam had taken from his hunting cache, mostly funny stills of portly raccoons in mid-heist, and black bears.

One series of photos left a lasting impression, however. Bob had found a large roadkill deer and dragged it back into the woods in the last month to get it off the main road. He set the trail camera on the carcass, and the slideshow that followed was an eerie illustration of how handy nature cleans up after herself. A flock of turkey vultures descended on the carcass, stupidly unaware that they were being filmed in their decadent feast. One large bird seemed to look right into the camera, as if to pose, its large red face blank and expressionless.

A flock of raven then appeared. Within just two or three frames, the raven had skillfully peeled back the hide of the carcass, exposing the deer’s large rib cage ominously.

The next frame showed a large, beautiful coyote standing at attention next to the carcass. Its fluffy mane and strong stature made it look regal. In several frames, Coyote appeared startled, cautious – perhaps he’d heard the “click” of the trail cam going off. The temptation of the carcass was too much, and soon, he was gorging himself: first sharp canine teeth visibly tearing into a hind leg, then diving into the belly of the deer.

The last clip from the deer carcass series made the hair rise on the back of my neck. Throughout probably 20 slides, the deer was shown in various stages of decomposition. But, quite suddenly, on the last slide, the entire deer carcass disappeared. There was no evidence that the carcass had ever been there; not a trace remained, only the backdrop of conifers on a floor of pine needles and orange leaves that had once cradled the deer's lifeless body.

Nature is indifferent. She does what she does – whether it is hurricanes or carrion – apathetically and matter-of-factly.  She cares not. And we animals do what we must to survive. Even if it means carrying off whole carcasses to feed our families.

Anyone who feels that nature intently focuses on us, stalks us, or even cares one way or the other about us humans is a fool.

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