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Big Sean the Brush-Wolf

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I was headed for the car, which was loaded up with packages, a bit before noon on May 16. My destination: the Lower Salem post office. I was already pushing it for time, but I knew I could make it before the place shut down at noon sharp. I raked the meadow with my eyes, the way I always do, and picked up a distant anomaly.


First look.  Oh, that's something good out there in the meadow. That's a canid.



Grabbed my car binoculars to confirm. Coy-wolf, brush wolf, eastern coyote, hybrid canid. Take your pick. Big male. Catching and eating small things. Jackpot!


I happened to have my Canon 7D with me because going anywhere in May without it is just stupid.
There is so much to see and photograph in May. Every time the animal dropped his head, I ran closer.
Looking at these shots, I'm pretty confident he was picking off freshly-emerged periodical cicadas as they clung to the grass blades. Brood V is coming out of the ground in Ohio after its 17-year sleep!! if the rain and cold ever subside. The first few have started coming out. Bracing myself. It's gonna be huge.

 And thus I kicked off my personal Brood V Project: to photograph as many creatures as possible, exploiting the abundant food these cicadas provide. So far, coy-wolf is the first, and a new one for me. Cardinal: #2.  The way my biology professor friend Dave McShaffrey puts it, "This is like Halley's Comet coming around for astronomers. Brood V is an entomologist's Halley's Comet." Exactly. I don't pretend to be an entomologist, but I had a blast documenting species eating cicadas in the summer of 1999, when I didn't even have a proper camera. This time: look out.


Finally I got close enough to the preoccupied coy-wolf to get his attention. I'm sure he smelled me before he saw me. He suddenly picked his head up. Imagine being able to smell a reasonably fresh human down the length of a football field.


He raised his head higher when he saw me.


There was that moment when he said, "Oh, crap. Now what?"

 He looked away in annoyance and confusion. How could I have let that woman creep up so close to me? What an idiot I am. Having so much fun eating these delicious big bugs I completely overlooked the fact that there's a house up there. And primates pop out of it during the daytime. Duh, Wile E.


Gonna mosey on.


I marveled at the heft and beauty of this animal. There is coyote in him, yes, but there's a lot of something else, too, something big, dark, strong. Eastern wolf, Canis rufus. We didn't quite manage to exterminate them. Left just enough of them in a Canadian refuge to mingle their genes with those of western coyotes and produce something larger, stronger, brainier and more adaptable than any canid we've ever seen. Evolution, afoot.

Evolution happens, right before our eyes. It's always and still happening, whether we acknowledge the process or not.  No Deus ex machina required.

The pattern of his coat, the fine white bib and the red flammulation. The fine stippling of his dark fur, tan, red and black; the thick ruff and long legs. The shorter, deeper muzzle; the robust dentition; the bigger feet. This creature is genetically set to take down much larger prey than cicadas. Groundhogs. Deer. Feral cats, to name a few. Welcome, coy-wolf! Eat hearty! We are serving all your favorites today. 



I was grateful to be so close, thankful to have caught him on my camera. What a gift. How do I know he's a guy? Too big and bulky to be a gal. I can't really see his bits in any of my photos, but there's enough to suggest his sex in his build. Though a radiotagged female coy-wolf in Massachusetts tipped the scales at 60 pounds, twice the bulk of a western coyote.

 "Coyote" just doesn't fit. I like "brush wolf." Might start using that.  And "Coy-wolf" is a lingual stumble. It has no music to it.


He glared at me. Thanks for wrecking my hunting, woman.


His ears, set backward in disappointment.


With a last stink-eye at me, he simply melted into the unmown half of the meadow.


I saw him enter it, but never saw him exit. There's an open path on the far side of the tall vegetation he's going into that he'd have to cross to gain the woods. I never saw him cross it, and repeated scans of the unmown half with my binoculars showed he'd simply disappeared. What he actually did, I'm almost sure, was come toward me until he was behind a small rise, then dart behind that into the woods. 



I love the gotohell look on his face. He's not afraid of me. He just knows he has to curtail his current, enjoyable activity (eating tender, freshly emerged cicadas) and beat it out of here. Because that's how the world works. He's the king of his little pack; his basso profundo howl makes shivers run up and down my spine, but he's outta here, because the two-legged pale creature cannot be trusted. Might be packing heat.


Because my kids have polluted my steady musical diet of Americana with the songs that most move them, I've named this magnificent animal Big Sean. There are times when his hit song is the only thing I want to hear. Had it up to here with it all, OK with explicit rap? Enjoy. Heck of a bit of filmmaking and acting--Big Sean manages to convey hurt and a sweet vulnerability despite his profane braggadocio. I can hear my kids and their friends (I'm lookin' at you, Thunder Squad) laughing at my pin-headed critique, reading my stiff appraisal aloud even as I write.

Easily offended? I pray of you, don't click. And if you do, and get all huffy, scolding me is not your best choice. Like coy-wolves, like evolution, explicit material is going down all around us.


I never made it to the post office. That's OK. I had an audience with Big Sean, whom I adore.

 Who hates me. 

 I'm OK with that, too.  

11 comments:

I also don't usually partake in the hip-hop, rap world but I kind of think that song is PERFECT! *goes to actually read lyrics*

Maybe you need to drink some Lemonade à la Beyonce???

What an interesting post. I didn't know there were such hybrid creatures running wild in the hills back east. :) Great pictures too!

I am lovin' on your new friend Big Sean! The expression on his face is definitely a big "eff you, lady!" Is he fairly safe from human predators? Are people allowed to shoot/trap them? God, I hope not.

I'm looking forward to some years from now when you can reminisce with your kids (in front of their kids) about their choice in music.

Nice Doggie, though. I hope Chet doesn't want to scare him off.

I so enjoyed reading this today, what a magnificent animal.

Miz S, they're hated by many, and often, legally, shot on sight here. Local Soil and Water Conservation District has a big public coyote hunt yearly. Two years ago, they got none. Last year, one, I think. Ha! Try and find them when you want to. Good luck! They're trapped by my neighbors, who claimed to have taken 120 + in just a couple of years. True or not, Big Sean is a survivor, and he's no dummy, clearly. He just had a momentary lapse of vigilance. Understandable, on Indigo Hill Sanctuary, where he's safe.

I will say that they have been very hard on the fox population, which is only just rebounding. I saw more foxes in 2015-16 than in the ten years before, combined.

As for Chet, I figure if Big Sean had wanted to, he'd have taken the Bacon years ago.

JZ

Julie, what a nice surprise. PBS is running their Nature program on Coywolves again later next week. I loved learning about them when I saw it before, but you are the first person I know to actually photograph one! I thought it was a coywolf before I actually read the comments or the blogpost due to that short, thick muzzle. I followed the link from your FB page. Very well written. I would have skipped the P.O. too!

Julie, what a nice surprise. PBS is running their Nature program on Coywolves again later next week. I loved learning about them when I saw it before, but you are the first person I know to actually photograph one! I thought it was a coywolf before I actually read the comments or the blogpost due to that short, thick muzzle. I followed the link from your FB page. Very well written. I would have skipped the P.O. too!

Don
t even know the song; still love this post!

Wow! He really is giving you the evil eye.

I've seen big ones here lumbering across front yard. One is all white with striped red tail!!

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