Coyote ugly…

The title is not meant to offend any of our faithful readers as we are talking about a real coyote here and I DO consider them all ugly because of the damage they do and the dangers they present, but they are fascinating to watch in the wild because one rarely has the opportunity on the Tennessee River.

On the final day of our odyssey we had only 26 miles and one lock to cover. We were traveling in familiar waters and did not expect any excitement or unusual occurrences. So you can imagine our surprise when we spotted something ahead swimming across the river.

 
 
The Admiral said it was a fox, a red fox, and that would have been an excellent guess, but I took one look and knew it was a varmint. One that we have seen before when we kept a boat in Chattanooga and had seen on the road to Huntsville. A lone coyote was swimming strongly across the Tennessee at a point approximately 1/4 mile wide with a brisk current. These devils are totally adaptable which is why they have expanded their range so far. Another reason is they have no natural predators here except automobiles and they are far better than most creatures at avoiding vehicles.

In older times they had a predator that kept their numbers in check. That predator was the gray wolf but there are few around anymore. Our home state of Georgia has actually reintroduced wolves into the North Georgia mountains but it is a slow process and the wolves are subject to coming into conflict with mankind and do not reproduce as prolifically as the coyote. And who wants to swap a coyote in the backyard for a wolf?

Anyway, here was this coyote swimming across in front of the boat. As we passed by our wake actually assisted it to get to the other side much as a wave washes a swimmer up on the beach.

 
 
We decided to not only slow down and observe but we actually turned Cbay around and went back to get a better look.

 
 
First it climbed out on a rocky ledge where the shoreline was a sheer cliff and began pacing, looking for a place to climb up. Then it tried to climb up a crevice that would have been tough for a rock climber. Remember this thing has paws like your dog and not hands with fingers to grip. Up, up, up about 15 feet wedging itself into the crack. It was scrambling but the dirt and rock began giving way and it started to slip backwards. But as the earth gave way there was a bonus for the coyote. A poor rabbit had made a burrow down from the top and the landslide undercut it’s tunnel. As the coyote was falling he saw the opportunity and snatched the falling rabbit and rode the avalanche down to the river never releasing his catch. Once he hit bottom he bounded back along the shore until he found another path to the top and bounded up and off to enjoy his lunch proving some coyotes are more Wile than others. Beep beep!

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