Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stalking the Stalkers

After four days of rain and six days of mud, I needed to get out and take a hike.  I brought Bombay along because I knew he'd behave himself and just let me get my exercise without causing any trouble.  As I led him down the first trail, he kept looking over to the south.  I could hear kids voices on the playground at the school, but I didn't see anyone or anything out on the trails.

Then Bombay balked.  He just locked up his legs and refused to move.  The way his ears were pointed, he seemed to be concerned about something behind him.  I looked back there and saw nothing, so I dislodged his legs and urged him along.  He took a few more strides and then locked up again.  I whirled around to start my routine of backing him, spinning him and lunging him, but was taken by surprise to see a coyote running right toward Bombay's outside flank.

I doubted the coyote had plans to eat my horse, but I was a bit spooked after a story my husband told me in which he went outside in the wee hours of the morning with both dogs on leashes to do their business, and he could hear coyotes whooping it up close by.  Suddenly, their voices got quiet and my husband could hear lots of paw beats running toward him.  He dragged the dogs into the garage on their leashes and right when he hit the door to our house, several coyotes appeared right where he had just been standing with our two little dogs.  Single coyotes may be easy to chase off, but a pack of them might just snatch a little dog on a leash right out from underneath you.

I jumped toward the coyote that was running at Bombay and yelled, "Go on!"

It spun around and headed away from us, yet beside us and stopped to get a good long look at me.  I yelled, "Get outta here!" and made various angry animal noises.  He skedaddled a little further down, but stopped again and stared.  I started to chase after the coyote until I hit the end of the lead rope and got yanked back by Bombay who refused to budge.  I wondered if some kind of instinct was kicking in with him that told him to stand still, because if he runs the coyote will give chase.  As a kid, I learned to never skateboard past a loose dog if I wanted to wear the pants I was wearing ever again.

I watched the coyote disappear, got Bombay walking again and said, "Let's go chase that coyote."

I knew that if we didn't stalk it, the coyote would keep walking beside and behind us making it impossible for me to get my exercise, because Bombay would just keep locking up on me.  So, as I was urging Bombay to go faster and trot beside me while I jogged, he suddenly snorted, threw his head in the air, lurched forward and then froze up again.  I looked behind him and sure enough, a second coyote was giving chase from his flank.  I hollered at that one too and turned Bombay to cut across an open area right at it.  That one didn't stop and stare, but ran off more quickly.

I chose a path I'd never taken that runs along the top of a deep arroyo so that we could keep a better eye out for predators by being above them.  I stopped Bombay on the edge of a cliff and saw one running along the bank.  Then I realized that it wasn't a coyote, but the biggest freakin' jackalope I've ever seen.  That rabbit was the size of a small coyote.  Holy cow!  I never have my camera when I need it.  Nobody believes me when I tell them how big the jackrabbits grow out in the desert.

Somehow we ended up on this very narrow path, just wide enough for a bicycle, that ran alongside a really busy road.  It went up and down through several arroyos and ditches.  I was having fits trying to get my horse to walk in a single file line.  I couldn't have him walk in front of me, so he had to get behind me.  He wanted to run up the hills, so I had to keep throwing my hand up in his face to make him slow down and not plow right over me.  I understood that he was just heaving himself up and struggling to keep his footing with his heavy weight, but he still had to stay out of my bubble.  I stopped climbing up to show him that he could stop in the middle of a climb and he won't fall back down.

We passed two hikers with two dogs off leash, and the dogs were very well behaved.  The hikers cut us a wide berth so they and their dogs wouldn't get kicked.  Bombay visibly relaxed when he saw them moving out of his way.  He's still carefully assessing every situation that we approach, but he's not freaking out anymore.


Marissa said...

I'm so proud of Bombay!!

He did so great. He alerted you to danger, and then he went ahead and let you handle it!

Cheryl Ann said...

Be careful around coyotes. They have not only attacked (and killed) dogs on leashes in Palm Springs, but two women were actually attacked in Sun City by coyotes! I used to see them when I was doing my morning walks (which I haven't been doing for nearly a year now). First it was one, then two, and one time I looked up and there were four!!! ACK! I ran at them, flapping my arms and yelling and they took off!

fernvalley01 said...

Holy ! that is bold of the coyote! good boy Bombay, maybe he needs to come live here with the Appy renegades,coyotes aren't bold around this gang a close coyote is a dead coyote here, Jazzy is the worst , but all of them will get dirty with a strange dog of any kind if they get in their space.

Mikey said...

That is a great way to show you're a strong leader for your horse. I like that a lot!
However, I would carry a big stick (personally I carry when by myself out in the desert). We just had a neighbors dogs get attacked by coyotes when my neighbor got off her quad to have a call of nature. In the one minute she was vulnerable, her dog was attacked. That same day a pack of six followed one of my dogs home. I wish now I had shot one, because they came way too close and they were definitely looking for trouble.
They have been known to go after people, and rabies should always be in the back of your mind. If they don't scare off easily, they could be rabid. Be careful out there.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

My husband suggested that they were following us because they smelled my dogs' scent on me. I did wonder about rabies. Seeing coyotes is a daily occurrence here, but they usually spot me and automatically go the other way. I don't have to put so much effort into chasing them off.

I've been eyeing walking sticks when I see them. There are some really cool ones that are hand carved, but I tell myself I don't really need help walking. However, now that I may need something to beat off trouble, I might get one.

I didn't think of it at the time, but I probably should have warned the couple with the two dogs off leash about the situation, because they were headed toward the direction where I last saw the coyotes.

fernvalley01 said...

the coyotes in your area are way bolder than here, I guess there are some problem ones in the city , but the ones out here see us and are gone, and as I said the horses are deadly with them especially the momma's with foals. Never heard of people being attacked here

Cut-N-Jump said...

They are pretty bold in our area as well. Had one trucking on through the pasture I was riding in. I just looked at us as it kept on going.

I have had them either follow the horses on the trail or crossing the trail ahead of us. Usually turning to face them is all it takes, just like with neighbor dogs. When they realize how big you are, they tend to back down. If not, screaming like a banshee and moving towards them can work too. Like Mikey said though, keep it in mind about the rabies. Horses can be vaccinated for it too.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! What a bold coyote! That would freak me out on the ground, but if I were riding my Apache, I would go after that coyote and chase it across the desert and encourage my mare to stomp on it!

We have done that once already on a neighborhood trail when a couple loose dogs ran out at us from someone's yard.

I just turned Apache to face the dogs, yelled at the dogs and then encouraged Apache to run at them. Those dogs were so surprised! They ran away squealing, tails between their legs!!
I laughed so hard! And I know Apache enjoyed it just as much as I did! lol!


achieve1dream said...

That's creepy!! The coyotes around here are skittish. Hear them all the time, but rarely see them. Can you carry a can of mace in case they get too close? Just watch out for the wind. You wouldn't want to get Bombay with it. It sounds like he's really starting to trust you!