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john disque journalistRising with the Daily Sun
A daily column by John Disque

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Good Morning East Tennessee!

In the middle of processing thousands of pictures, editing dozens of videos and juggling 31 articles, a phone call came out of nowhere and asked me if I wanted to take a trip.

"Of course I want to take a trip, but I have a million things to do. Besides I slept way too late and I...." Then she said, "You might get to see your coyote."

"Oh, what the heck! The news can wait!" You see - it helps when the person asking you is the publisher. While I certainly didn't want to disappoint anyone. It was more about really needing a break, and I might even get some work done. Actually it was about getting a picture of a coyote.

When I was a little boy I picked up a book in the library and started reading about the most fascinating animal I have ever known. Since then I've wanted to get up close with this elusive, mysterious, tough, beautiful creature. Thousands of times I set off into the woods and have run across every animal you could name in almost every state in the U.S. I have come across fresh coyote tracks, the remains of well-spent meals, dens and every other sign indicating that I was close but always a day behind.

What's so fascinating about an animal that looks like a dog and could be a fox? It's their adaptability, their refusal to quit, their intelligence, their teamwork and their family values.

This animal has been shot, had their jaws blown off, trapped, poisoned, fenced out, hung, set on fire, drowned, and decoyed yet still they manage to survive and outsmart the human being as if playing a game. The coyote is the most hated animal in existence and has literally driven farmers to nervous breakdowns and suicide. They are responsible for destroying more farms than anything in existence. Each time the farmer thinks he has a handle on the situation the coyote comes back smarter than ever.

They travel and work in packs. Each of the pack members has a specific job. When caught in a trap they'll work in shifts to chew the pack members legs from the trap and designate certain members of the pack to nurse it back to health while the other members hunt and bring their hospitalized member food. When the wounded coyote regains it's strength, it's expected to perform like any other member of the pack. No matter how crippled they are they do.

Today they are known to catch small prey but not kill it. They'll use the animal, such as a rabbit, to lure the farmer's dogs. They drop the rabbit in the middle of the field, the dogs chase it, the coyote pack comes out of hiding, surrounds the dogs and destroys them. They then go about destroying the farm.

They move from farm to farm throughout the community until they've created enough chaos to fulfill their agenda. When they've decided "it's time" they just get up and head to another community. While most stay with the pack, others have different plans and prefer to travel alone. They've been known to hitch rides in cars, boats, 18-wheelers and trains. They've been seen in subway cars and even on airplanes. They've been known to sneak into motel rooms, steal food from truck stops and, the greatest of all they'll pretend to be a wounded dog so good hearted pedestrians will stop and help them. At that they take whatever food the pedestrians brought them and run off into the woods as if to laugh at another outsmarted human.

Yesterday, after taking pictures of many deer in the Smoky Mountains we pulled over to the side of the road so I could smoke a cigarette. Back in the woods about 50 feet from the side of the road appeared to be a fox. Naturally I grabbed my camera, but the forest was thick I couldn't get a decent shot. As he made his way through the forest I told Jeaneane I had to do this and began slowly, carefully tracking him. When he came to a clearing, there he was in all his clever, beautiful glory: what we initial thought was a fox was indeed the coyote I've been looking for my whole life.

He didn't run from me so I kept getting closer. He seemed confused as if he were looking for his pack, but I know the animal well and wasn't about to fall for that one. It's very rare for a coyote to hurt a human but they will mess with you. So while my heart was beating through my chest, it was more about getting the pictures and trying to watch my back for his loving brothers and sisters. I certainly didn't want them thinking I was a farmer.

I would love to have gotten closer, to spend a day or two with the pack and document everything they did, but I did manage to get 20 close-up pictures. When he began trotting away I decided it was enough for today for it was a "calendar marking, lifelong, goal accomplishing moment."

Have a great day!

Published February 15, 2011

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