It's been exactly two weeks that four young Coyotes were released back into the wild by a group of us, thanks to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. I had the honour and privilege of being invited by Andrew, the Centre's Head Rescue rock star, to help out with the catch-up, or rather round-up of these four beautiful animals that had been admitted for mange a few months ago but had all made a full recovery. Now it was time to bring them back home from the large outdoor compound that they had called home for the past several weeks.
As it was a half day's drive to our final destination in northern Ontario, Ann and I left the city on Friday morning and took our time by birding en route, the highlight of which was an adult Bald Eagle seen terrorizing the gulls and Common Ravens at the North Bay dump, as this was one of our target birds for the week-end.
We were the first ones to arrive at our final destination at sunset and managed to get settled in (code word for "we-were-so-tired-we-crashed") well ahead of the others who arrived around 11 p.m. Next thing we knew, Andrew was bellowing out to us that it was time for the midnight feeding of the Coyotes, so off we went in the dark, climbing over rocks and trees to arrive at the massive enclosure, armed with enough food to feed an army. Of four Coyotes, that is! We used our headlamps and flashlights sparingly, but we had our first glimpses of the four young Coyotes, furtive eyes glowing in the dark, it was a wonderful moment, under a clear, dark sky where the winter constellations of Milky Way were almost blinding!
The next morning I quietly snuck out to enjoy an early frosty sunrise over the river:
In the end I was so glad that I did, as this was the only frosty morning that we had:
It was such a magical moment, but it vanished within an hour as the morning sun melted away the frost:
I quietly made my way next to the enclosure, wanting to see it in daylight and perhaps catch a glimpse of the Coyotes without disturbing them, this being their last full day under the care of TWC. It was huge, three quarters of an acre, I was told later by Andrew. Of course the night before we had no idea because it was pitch black out. I quietly sat myself down behind a tree, on a chunk of pre-Cambrian shield and waited. And waited. And finally saw this beautiful young, healthy, Coyote:
But respecting their privacy and not wanting to stress them, I did not linger, and returned to the river for my final views of frosty reflections in the icy waters:
By now everyone was back in the land of the living at the cabin, so seven of us had an amazing breakfast in town and then split into smaller groups for the next few hours to explore the area. Emily and Andrea joined Ann and I as they just could not refuse our invitation to the dump (yeah yeah, don't say it) hoping for more Eagle sightings. Our first stop on the way out of town was at a American Bison farm where there were several young calves we could not resist:
The male is larger than the female, and here's mom, with her pretty-in-pink-and-black tongue sticking out! I admit to being incredibly thankful for the fence between her and me, as these suckers weigh anywhere from 350 to 1,000 kilos, yikes!
On the birding front, the week-end highlight was no doubt the reliable flock of Pine Grosbeaks that I spotted while Andrea was enjoying her closest view ever of a Common Raven. One thing I have learned with birding is to always look around, as well as to listen, and especially look where others are not looking, which is exactly what happened with these Pine Grosbeaks who were gorging themselves in berry bushes:
This male, albeit a sloppy eater, is a spectacular looking bird:
The female Pine Grosbeak is much more subdued in appearance, but still is quite lovely:
The male had much more gray than I ever realized until now, as this was the closest I had ever been to them:
There were a few first year males mixed in with the flock, as identified by more of a reddish tinge on the head and rump:
But back to that adult male, those dark wings with the white bars contrast perfectly with the rosy red and gray on his body:
What a handsome bird!
We dipped on Eagles at the dump, but at least now Emily and Andrea are in on our dirty little secrets at the dump! We met up with the gang later on and cooked up an impromptu feast of a dinner that could have fed us for days on end, it was a fabulous evening as we all shared wildlife stories, played cards, enjoyed wine, baking, nibblies, junk food, healthy food, pasta, salads, Empress snoring, etc, etc.
The next morning was different, though, as we all knew what we had to do that afternoon, so some of us broke off into smaller groups again for a few hours. Yes, Ann and I did another dump run, but on the way there at dawn, we stopped off at a farm to see some Elk, when I suddenly realized that one of the farmer's Elk was on the outside of the fence!
What to do, what to do??? I decided to go knock on this poor farmer's door at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to let him know one of his Elk was loose, only to be told that no, it in fact was a wild one that came by to visit his herd every few days. Okfine, at least now I could count it as a wild versus captive sighting, whooohooo!
Other than that, and a few distant views of Bohemian Waxwings and of course the Pine Grosbeaks again in the same berry bushes (!), it was quiet, so we returned to the cabin to get packed up, and I snuck off again for a few quiet moments at the water's edge:
But it was almost time now for the Big Event, and I needed to learn what my role was, as well as everyone else's, to be prepared. Andrew explained it all to us, indicating it could take anywhere from one to two hours to round up all four Coyotes.
In the end, it took less than an hour, it was an unbelievable event that I will never forget. Here are a couple of photos taken with my toy camera before quickly putting it away to focus on the serious task at hand. The Coyotes had remarkably established a system of trails in their enclosure, it was incredible to watch them follow these trails as we conducted our big Round-up, can you even find the Coyotes in these photos?? Double click to enlarge them!
All four Coyotes were eventually caught up without incident, quickly examined by a vet, and then given one final dose of medication to help protect them a little bit longer as they transition back into the wild. Andrew gave me the honour of restraining one of them, as well as administer the meds to a second one, what a thrill! Thanks go to Andrew for his tenacity, professionalism, dedication, compassion, and caring for the welfare of the Coyotes at all times:
We returned back to the city with the Coyotes and they were successfully released exactly two weeks ago now (as I just checked my clock!!), it was wonderful, a full circle for our Coyotes!
Nothing was heard of the four Coyotes until just last week, when the home owner where the release took place heard yipping and howling outside. Upon further investigation of the sounds, he saw at least two, if not three Coyotes run across his property that backs onto a creek and some woods.
No doubt it was our Coyotes that were there, healthy and happy, thanks again to the Toronto Wildlife Centre!