Being Prey

posted in: Narrative 0
Mix Hart, Okanagan, BC.

On Being Hunted

I’m winded, full of adrenalin, and safe, after outrunning a pack of 3 coyotes on a skillfully coordinated hunt–my dog Pablo and I, their prey. 

I was running in the forest on the mountain behind my home at six AM this morning with Pablo–an old Boston bulldog. He weighs about 34 pounds and looks like an extra-large, strong, Boston terrier. 

I am very alert when I run. I don’t wear headphones or earbuds. I listen to nature and survey my surroundings, as I’ve encountered grizzlies, black bears, wolves, angry deer, and many coyotes in the wilderness.  

It was very quiet on the mountain this morning–I did not pass any other humans or deer on the trail. I ran passed a small fresh poop on the trail. It was dark and full of berries. It was too small to be bear, so I guessed that a coyote had recently been on the trail. I kept alert as the trail rounded along the edge of a cliff and then curved into a flat, forested area frequented by deer and coyotes. Suddenly, on my right, in my peripheral vision, I saw a coyote running behind us, and then instantly, another coyote on our left. They were following us, trotting right behind, closing in. I yelled a fierce, deep, warning-growl, “Hey–Hey! Get the f**k away from me!” as I continued to run and pulled out my coyote spray and flipped it to on position. The deep growling holler from me slowed them momentarily, and I ran like an Olympic sprinter towards the road while I kept shouting at them. The shouting gave them pause but then they continued to run after us.

Suddenly, a third coyote ambushed us from the front right, running towards us, trying to head us off, as we reached a wider trail. I was terrified, realizing they could easily attack us out on the more open trail. I ran and shouted, knowing it would be nearly impossible to fight off all three, even with my spray. I continued to yell, super-loudly and aggressively; hoping that if there was another human on the mountain, that they’d come and check out what was happening. Suddenly, I saw a blue thing moving on the trail ahead, and a human in a blue shirt appeared running towards us. It was my husband, Peter!  I shouted, “Help, three coyotes are chasing us!” He ran to us and when he saw the coyotes, he clapped loudly and hollered at them. The coyotes stopped when they saw him and ran off together–all three of them! I collapsed on the trail beside Peter, and found my water bottle and took a drink. I’ve never seen 3 coyotes together, hunting so strategically. Peter has never seen 3 adult coyotes running together either. 

Peter’s arrival was a miracle. When I left for my morning run, Peter had already left for his run–he drives down the mountain and runs through the city, along the lakefront. It was pure luck that he finished his run, came home and then decided to hike to the mountain top (because it’s so beautiful in the morning on the mountain). Peter was heading straight up the mountain when he suddenly changed his mind and decided to hike to the pond (the area where I was). He was about a half a kilometer away when he heard someone shouting. His first thought was that there were off-lead dogs possibly attacking someone and their dog. He ran to the sound of the shouting, thinking it might be me.

Three coyotes hunting, so unbelievably skillfully! Even with my crazy warning shouts, the third coyote was waiting for us and joined the hunt from the front to head us off. It was insane. Without Peter showing up when he did, I could not have fought off three canines. Pablo would have been taken and best-case scenario, I’d have escaped wounded. 

A month ago, two coyotes hunted us while we were out for our trail run, and again, my only choice was to keep running like crazy, shouting at them, and only escaped them when I ran into a guy with two off-lead border collies. In the early morning, they seem to keep low in the bush, waiting. Another time–last year–I was sitting under a tree, by the pond’s edge, meditating with Pablo at my side, when a single coyote crept up to us. Something inside my mind told me to open my eyes and that’s when I realized that a coyote was six feet from us, crouching in the grass. Immediately I stood up and shouted at it–my signature, low, slow, aggressive warning tone that I use to dominate aggressive dogs. But it was bold and trotted around the tree to the other side to sit and watch us. I had to throw large rocks at it to get it to back off–I continued to walk backward, shouting and throwing rocks–as it followed us–until we were a safe distance away from it.

To be prey is terrifying and I know what every hunted creature must feel like. I kept my head: got the spray ready, kept an eye on the coyotes, never stopped running, and never ceased the warning-growl shouts–they were the only thing that gave the coyotes pause and allowed me to gain distance from them.

Pablo’s reaction is interesting. He is an extremely intelligent dog. He is also aggressive to other dogs. Off lead-dogs approaching him on lead causes him to lunge and growl with aggression, even dogs at a distance will be of interest to him and he will pull on lead towards them. Yet when we encounter coyotes, he is silent. He stays with me, running–no growl, no lunge–he lets me take the lead and protect us both. 

It was unequivocally terrifying: my voice is raspy and my throat raw from shouting, my legs a little wobbly from the adrenalin, yet I understand the coyotes. I am impressed by their intelligence. They need to eat like all creatures–more so than myself and Pablo, who always know we have enough food to eat each day. It is a hard life being a wild creature in a world where wild spaces are vanishing.

Thank you, universe; thank you, Peter; and thank you, coyotes for slowing when I shouted. We live another day!

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