Bay Area Coyote in Golden Hour Light

Coyote on a Bay Area Trail

This gorgeous Bay Area coyote appeared in perfect, golden-hour light.

As Hugh and I were rounding a bend on the last leg of a lazy hike, Hugh said aloud, “I wish there were a coyote here right now.” We both love coyote sightings … any wildlife sightings, frankly, but coyotes are at the top of our list.

An instant later — I mean a mere instant — I noticed a pair of those telltale ears pointing up from the tall grass. Sure enough, Hugh’s wish manifested as quickly as the thought left his mind. It was incredible. The coyote moved out of hiding and into the pose above. We stayed still, along with another couple who noticed and also stopped to take a look.

After a few minutes of observing us while sniffing about on the ground, the coyote took off in a trot, headed for a crossing on the trail. We stayed in place, and I shot all of these images at full extension, 800mm-equivalent on my 100-400mm lens. The images are further cropped, so we were a healthy distance away. And, the coyote was behaving as you always want them to behave: with a healthy wariness of us while also getting on with the important tasks of the day.

Bay Area Coyote Running in Meadow
Bay Area Coyote Crossing Hiking Trail

Fed coyotes, habituated coyotes have a vastly different reaction to people. I didn’t experience the difference personally until I encountered a couple of coyotes that, sadly, had been regularly fed. They did not show the same trepidation. They were comfortable watching us in a parking area, and they looked at us expectantly when we opened the car door, likely hoping for food.

It broke my heart to see the wild spirit of these beautiful song dogs, dampened by human intrusion. That is not the behavior you want to encourage in a wild coyote. Their survival and safety depends on a healthy guardedness and vigilance around humans, many of whom do not have the coyotes’ best interest at heart. If coyotes become too familiar with people, if they lose their fear, conflicts invariably follow. And too often, the coyote ends up paying with his or her life, for the mistakes humans made.

Don’t let that happen. Keep coyotes wild and respect their right to exist alongside us but separately, in our crowded world.

[Note: To protect the safety of animals like coyotes, I generally don’t disclose specific locations. This was in a protected park area where I hope the resident family will always be allowed to live without intrusion.]

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