Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In the Interest of Accuracy: Coyote

I speculated a couple of posts ago that this animal looked to me more like a fox than a coyote. I was thinking Gray Fox, maybe.
Well, I dug my Field Guide to the Mammals off the shelf and discovered that the Gray Fox doesn't occur in this area. It lives in western Oregon but not, according to the range map, anywhere in Washington.
The Red Fox does occur here, but even the black and cross phases have a white-tipped tail and blackish feet.
The Coyote occurs virtually everywhere, and I learned that they sometimes hunt in pairs, have a sharper nose than a dog, can have a reddish-gray cast to their coat, and have whitish throats and chests. And black-tipped tails.
I also learned that foxes run with their tails held straight out, while coyotes run with their tail held down between their legs. This one is trotting, not running, but there's a definite hang in its tail.
And foxes are much smaller than coyotes. A coyote is three feet long in the head and body, has a tail 10 to 16 inches long, and weighs 20 to 50 pounds. A Red Fox is two feet long in head and body, has a tail 14 to 16 inches long, and weighs only 10 to 15 pounds.
I thought I could recognize coyotes instantly, but this one had something different about it. Perhaps it was the sleek summer coat, perhaps it was seeing it in an unexpected environment.
Whatever. It was still good to have it there.

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