Cascading Waters can be found at 135 Olean Street on the eastern edge of Worcester's northwest parklands, the Cascades. The Cascades are 350 acres of park and conservation lands along the borders of Worcester, Paxton, and Holden, Massachusetts. Home to countless species of plants and animals, the Cascades are open to passive recreation year-round.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Coyote Tracking


So, about 9:40 am my daughter and I are waiting for a school bus on Olean Street. The street is quiet and there is little traffic as a result of the 2 hour snow delay. And then we see it! A full grown coyote pops up from the Cascades Brook, crosses the street in broad daylight right in front of us, and heads up Cascading Waters and out of sight.

It was big enough where your first impressing was not "scrawny coyote" but "big dog." This was a healthy critter! Its shape, posture, coloring, and gait all were clearly coyote and before it was half way across the street you are thinking "wait a minute!"

Now, we all know coyotes live among us. Some of us hear their howls. Some of us see their scat. Some of us see their prints. And from time to time some of us see them in person. My last good clear sighting of a coyote was in the middle of a hot summer night some years back when a coyote had managed to separate a baby raccoon from its mother and had it cornered under the Lodge, and, as fate would have it, under the bedroom window. The horrific screeching of the baby raccoon got my interest and attention, and that was more than the coyote was willing to deal with. But then nothing. No coyotes. For a real long time. Until this morning.

So my next thought, after all school bus issues were addressed, was to follow the coyote tracks to see where they came from. This led me down and out onto frozen Cooks Pond, around a few of the minor islands, and to a place where the coyote had clearly bed down on a smaller island. It was really cool to see that. Then following it back further in time out to the Cooks Pond beach and up the driveway. I was struck by the way the coyote used other tracks when available to mask its own. Once I managed to track it to a mess of prints around the driveway entrance on Tory Fort Lane I changed my path and headed back to Olean Street to see where in the Cascades it was headed.

This was also interesting. The coyote used other tracks when available, be they tire tracks, foot prints, or other dog prints. The coyote happily mixed following the brook and following the trail. Once up at Cataract Street the coyote headed north on the cart path for a while, then hopped up the slope and found a prominent stone wall with a view to scope things out.

When moving through the woods the tracks are a straight line, but when approaching a street or an area of activity they zig, pop up to a spot, return down low, and are more tentative.

Here is one of the coolest things for a trails designer, builder, maintainer, hiker. The coyote used the dang switchbacks up the Cascades slope! How crazy is that? Following the switchback for a better grade and to double up on other prints when possible.

Then we took off through the woods and headed over to the Chatanika / Wild Rose / Navasota neighborhood where the coyote used the back lines, and side property lines to weave its way through the neighborhood, with more of the careful zig and pop when getting to an active area.

I finally lost the tracks at the corner of Middle Mower Street. I walked up the street and down the street to find where the tracks started again, but found nothing. It must have walked the street for a ways before ducking back into the snow and the cover. By this point I had wet boots and socks from being heavier than a coyote on a frozen stream so I was ok with letting the adventure stop there.

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