Tag Archives: coyote

Coyote in Our Camp

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Coyotes live in the southern Arizona desert. I know this because I’ve heard them in the evenings and early mornings yipping, yapping, and yes, howling. It has been their desert before it was mine, and I’m not afraid to share the area with them. I don’t have any little dogs to protect, and I haved no fears for my own safety, as I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking an adult human.

I do, however, expect coyotes to keep their distance. What do I have that a coyote might want? I seldom cook meat–maybe a little seafood now and then–so there are usually no enticing odors or bones lingering around my camp. It’s a big desert, the friend I share a campsite with says, and it’s true. I believe the coyote and I can coexist there without getting in each other’s way.

I was surprised to see the coyote(s) skulking near another friend’s camp as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. We were eating boiled shrimp, it is true (this desert isn’t so very far from the sea), but the coyote(s) displayed quite a boldness to get so close to the camp. I suppose the smell of shrimp was too delicious to ignore

(I’m still not sure if we saw one or two coyotes moving around the outskirts of the camp. I never saw two together, and I was unable to distinguish any identifying features, so I may have only seen one coyote changing its location.)

The friend I was visiting does cook red meat often, so I suppose his camp beckons to the canines with a plethora of enticing aromas. He doesn’t feed them, and he makes sure his garbage can’t be broken into, but still the coyotes come.

My friend suspects other campers feed the coyote neighbors, which is never a good idea. If wild animals grow accustomed to eating handouts, they’re going to hang around where people are. If coyotes hang around campsites or homesteads, one of them might snack on a cat or a little dog. If a coyote kills a pet, people will call for a coyote hide. In the desert, coyotes and humans should keep a respectful distance from one another.

But at least one coyote was close the night of the shrimp boil, hoping for a handout or an opportunity to snatch a delicious morsel. We offered neither.

A couple mornings later, I got out of the van and walked toward my campmate’s rig. In my path was a large pile of feces.

Look at this! I called to my campmate, who strode over.

I think a coyote has been here!

Are we 100% sure that’s not from a human? my campmate asked.

I shot her a look. We’ve got big problems if a person’s coming onto our campsite to shit.

She got her camp shovel, and we bagged up the waste.

Why would a coyote be in our space? we wondered. Then I spotted the five-gallon bucket set next to the firepit. Yep, it was full of water. The coyote was probably passing through our site to drink from the fire safety bucket. We dumped the water and agreed to offer no more drinking opportunities.

I can’t remember if it was that very evening or a few days later, but soon after, I was sitting in the doorway of my van in the late afternoon. I was making a hat, but some movement in my peripheral vision caught my attention. I looked up, and there was a coyote sauntering through the camp. It was on a trajectory which would bring it past where the bucket of water had stood, straight to the area where a coyote had left a poop deposit.

I didn’t even consider what I should do. I just yelled.

Hey! I shouted in my sternest voice.

The coyote froze.

Get out of here! I yelled as meanly as I could. I would have liked to befriend the coyote, but I knew we belonged to two different worlds. It was better if we didn’t try to meet.

The coyote turned tail and ran off the way it had come.

About that time, my campmate came tumbling out of her rig.

Is everything ok? she wanted to know.

I explained I’d just chased away a coyote.

I heard you yell, she said, seeming a little dazed. She obviously hadn’t known just how big my mouth and loud my voice are.

I used to be in pep squad, I explained.

Apparently the voice I once used to cheer on the football team works just as well to chase off coyotes.

 

Coyote at the Bridge

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I’d been away from the Bridge for a while. When I left in late October, I planned to be back in time for Spring Break, but plans change. By December, I’d decided I wanted to spend the summer working as a camp host. By January I’d applied for several camp host positions. By April, I was on my way to California.

I decided to head back to New Mexico when my work season ended. If nothing else, I needed to say good-bye to friends who thought I would only be gone a few months when I left. Of course, once I was back, I couldn’t resist the siren’s song of making a few bucks at the Bridge. Soon I was unfolding my tables and setting out my wares.

Many aspects of life at the Bridge were unchanged. A dozen or more vendors vied for the tourist dollars. Vendors still fought among themselves but showed each other kindness as well. I continued to arrive early to get a good spot where I could attract the attentions of shoppers. Of course, the scenery was still beautiful; the rugged high desert landscape surrounded by snow-peaked mountains always makes me stop and take notice.

There were differences too. Although still officially fall when I arrived, days were cold. I soon wore a comical number of colorful layers in an attempt to stay warm. Days were shorter too. While in the summer we had until seven o’clock or later to catch the sunset visitors, in October and November, daylight was gone by 5pm. Also, the number of visitors must have been less than half of what we saw in the summer.

This photo shows the wild coyote in the vending area at the Bridge.

My favorite addition to the Bridge community was the coyote.

During the many nights and early mornings I’d spent at the Bridge, first while sleeping in a picnic pavilion and later in my van, I’d heard plenty of coyotes. Sometimes there’d be simple, predictable howling, but often I heard the yipping and yapping I anthropomorphized as “partying”–as in the coyotes are really partying tonight. While I knew the coyotes were relatively close because I could hear them, I never saw one. For all the noise they make, coyotes know how to be visibly discreet, so I was surprised to see one skulking around in the sage on the highway side of the fence, pretty close to where the vendors set up.

I was excited to see the coyote, but other vendors were blasé . They knew this coyote; it had been coming around for a while.

Some of the vendors left food our for it. Early in the morning, when there weren’t many people around and food was available, the coyote would come right into the vending area. That’s when I realized the coyote walked with a limp, which is probably why it hung around close to humans who were willing to leave it food.

By talking to other vendors, I pieced together the coyote’s story.

Sometime after I had left the previous fall, the coyote’s foot had been injured. I don’t remember anyone saying what exactly had happened, but whether by trap or by gun (or some other way entirely), the coyote’s foot had been seriously hurt, and it could barely walk, much less run. The vendors saw it limping around and one of them (a great friend to animals although often causing strife for humans) started leaving meat out for the coyote. Her offerings probably got it through the winter when it couldn’t hunt.

The vendor who told me the coyote’s story repeatedly referred to it as “she.” I wasn’t sure if he could tell the animal’s sex by its size or markings or if he’d been close enough to check out its genitals. While I certainly never saw testicles or a penis, I can’t say I got a definitive look. Maybe because of the months the coyote had been around, the vendor felt confident in what he had and hadn’t seen.

While the coyote certainly wasn’t fat, it was by no means skeletal. I’d expect a coyote that was only living on human handouts to be bony and weak. This coyote was lean, but seemed healthy. I think the coyote was hunting again and only supplementing its diet with what the vendors shared.

Although the coyote obviously limped, it moved around well. It was still quick. It wasn’t difficult to imagine it hunting, especially if it used cunning to get the job done.

I had mixed feeling about the coyote hanging out so close to the vendors. I typically think wild animals should stay wild and humans should stay uninvolved in the lives of wild animals. I worried about how close to the

I worried about the coyote crossing the road, as it is doing in this photo.

road the coyote came when it skulked around the vending area looking for food. I got really nervous when I saw it actually cross the highway. I worried about what might happen to the coyote if it did a perfectly normal coyote thing like snatch a little dog for a snack. Now that the coyote could take care of itself, it was better off leaving humans behind.

On the other hand, I was glad the vendor had fed it when it was injured and couldn’t hunt. I’m glad she saved the coyote’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to see the animal up close too. Not everyone gets to see the beautiful independence of wild creatures. Even though the coyote was eating scraps left by humans, it wasn’t begging. One look at the coyote and I knew it belonged only to itself.

I haven’t been to the Bridge in over a year, so I don’t know if the coyote still visits with the vendors early in the mornings, but I think of it whenever I hear a coyote howl.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Gunsite Wash

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During my first trip the area around Ajo and Why, AZ, I did not camp on the Gunsite Wash BLM land. I was enamored with the free camping on the BLM land adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop and didn’t have much motivation to move my butt anywhere else. But since I like to see new places (and write about them!), during my second visit to the area, I decided to spend a night at Gunsite Wash.

During my first visit, the Divine Miss M and I had pulled into the camping area on our way to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and had a quick look around. Although the area has no amenities (no running water, no trash cans, no toilets–pit or otherwise, no showers, no picnic tables, and no shade covers), it does have several desirable features.

First, if one wants to visit the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, this camp area is in a great location only twenty miles from the Monument’s Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Gunsite Wash would be a great free area to leave a travel trailer or 5th Wheel while visiting the Monument.

Second, the main road was in good condition when I visited (April 2016). There are many spots accessible to vehicles with low clearance. While friends in a minivan and a Prius had trouble finding sites for their vehicles on the Ajo Scenic loop, I think most anyone could find a workable spot in Gunsite Wash.

Third, there is a lot of room in Gunsite Wash. Unless this place gets super crowded in mid-winter, there should be no reason for people to camp on top of one another here.

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I was facing south when I took this photo. The roadside table is on the east side of the road. The camping area is on the west side of the road.

Four, it’s really easy to find. The Gunsite Wash camping area is on Highway 85, just south of milepost 55. Right before the camping area is a sign for a roadside table. (The sign also shows accessibility for folks with disabilities.) The roadside table is on the east side of the road.¬† The entrance to the camping area is on the west side, directly across from the entrance to the roadside table area.

After making the turn into the camping area, look for a couple of tall saguaros and a small sign that says “RVs”. Follow the sign’s arrow to the right.

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Drive a very short ways and look for the cattle guard on the left. Cross the cattle guard. You are now in the camping IMG_5663area!

To the left of the cattle guard is one of those signs warning about smuggling and illegal immigration. During my day and night at Gunsite Wash, I saw no one who seemed to be smuggling or immigrating illegally.

IMG_5664From reviews I read of this camping area, I expected to see a camp host. In fact, I’m pretty sure there was a camp host there in January (2016) when Miss M and I popped in for a quick look-around. On that day there was a rig parked not far over the cattle guard and to the right. Also on that day, there was a sign-in sheet on the sign board. In April, there was no camp host and no sign-in sheet. There were, however, signs saying there is a 14 day limit on camping in the area.

IMG_5662While Gunsite Wash is by no means an ugly area, I don’t think it is a pretty as the BLM free camping areas adjacent to the Ajo Scenic Loop. (That my be why one place has “scenic” in its name and the other doesn’t.) While Gunsite Wash does include a few saguaros (some very large, which means very old), I saw no organ pipe cacti or any type of cholla out there. Gunsite Wash has a lot of creosote bushes and even some trees, which is nice in the desert. If one went far back and to the right on the main road (which is actually little more than a wide dirt trail), one would find a large tree offering some shade. I think it would be nice to camp with the tree.

IMG_5706Throughout the day I spent in the area, I saw critters moving. There were so many quail, I felt as if I were at a Partridge Family reunion. Sometimes little rodents dashed out into the open as they moved from one hole in the ground to another.

The most exciting animal I saw all day was a coyote. I must have noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked over, I saw a full-grown coyote standing next to a bush. I looked at it and it looked at me, then it moved on.

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The cow in the trees.

When I read the information at the sign board, I noticed a note written by the camp host. It said campers should be nice to the cows in the campground because they are “paying customers.” Apparently one or more ranchers lease the land for grazing. I definitely saw fresh signs of bovine presence. While taking an early evening walk, something up ahead moved in the trees. I thought maybe it was another coyote, but it was a cow (or maybe a steer).

I only saw one other rig (a big 5th wheel) parked in the area. After dark, I could hear the generator humming over there, but I was far enough away that it was a quiet hum. I could hear vehicles passing on Highway 85, but the road wasn’t very busy, and I wasn’t disturbed. I think by camping farther back, one could eliminate some of the noise I encountered.

I think this is a fine camping spot. However, since I don’t need to be close to the National Monument and my vehicle has decently high clearance, if I were in this area, I would probably choose to camp on the BLM land right outside of Ajo.

A note on spelling: I orginally used the word “Gunsight.” Then I saw on it spelled “Gunsite” on the Free Campsites website, so I changed my spelling. Then I searched on Google and saw it spelled both ways. I didn’t want to go through and change my spelling again, so I’m leaving it as “Gunsite.” I don’t know what’s correct in this situation.

I took all of the photos in this post.