About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Friday, December 19, 2014

Running With the Big Dogs

The morning is cool and crisp; perfect for running our usual trail in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains beside the Cimarron neighborhood of El Paso. Suddenly, my dog Lucy takes off after some critter. Probably a jack rabbit. My other two, Sierra and Taz follow in Lucy’s wake quickly bounding up a hill towards the top of a mesa. In the distance I notice five dogs, but wait a minute, I only have three. Where did the others come from? Coyotes; this could be disastrous!
Sierra (above) and Taz (below)

I’ve read about packs of coyotes who work as a team to hunt prey. One or two will lure an unsuspecting animal closer to the pack and then the rest will surround it, preventing it from escaping to safety. Soon I’m closer to the action and can see that one coyote is behind and downhill from my dogs and another is in front and uphill from them. The wily canines are closing in yipping and barking while mine return an equal amount of rhetoric. Taz, the smallest dog, sounds like he is about to go all Tasmanian devil on them.

We’ve encountered coyotes on several other occasions while running at the BR Ranch and have even had them follow us for quite a while before giving up and returning to their territory. What is the intention of these coyotes this morning? Luring us into a trap?

These coyotes followed us last summer
Notice his tucked tail
My dogs love nothing more than running off leash out here in the desert where they can sniff, chase and be dogs. Lucy especially will whine and follow me around at home until I finally succumb and don my running shoes. When we reach the trailhead, chaos erupts inside the car and it’s all I can do to control three dogs. Once on the trail, Lucy is all business and is totally focused on the task at hand which is running. If I stop to smell the flowers or take a picture, she is like, “WHY AREN’T WE RUNNING!” She is part whippet after all which were bred for speed, power, and balance; and according to the American Kennel Club, purebreds are capable of speeds of up to 35 mph. 

On our way to the trailhead
Unfortunately, coyotes can run 40 mph for short distances which means my dogs are no match for these wild canines. Coyotes are highly successful animals and can be found in almost all of North and Central America. They are omnivores who will hunt small prey as well as large animals like deer. In addition, they will eat just about anything; frogs, snakes, bugs, fruit, carrion and pets (yes, pets). They love melons, as farmers will often complain about coyotes stealing their watermelons. Since dogs are related to coyotes they also will eat watermelon. If you doubt me, give your dog the white part of the rind the next time you are cutting up a watermelon.

Give me some of that sweet watermelon!
Because coyotes aren’t picky eaters, they have flourished in the United States and have begun encroaching upon neighborhoods and have even taken up residency in urban areas. They bark, yip and howl to communicate with their kind and as a warning for intruders to stay away. Another interesting fact is that coyotes will breed with dogs creating a coy-dog. Somehow I don’t believe these coyotes want to breed with my dogs this morning.  

As the dogs interact with their wild ancestors, I yell and make as much noise as I can to scare them off. Nevertheless, I’m still able to get close enough to see that one coyote has his tail tucked under his body as far as it will go which In dogs means nervousness. Coyotes, on the other hand, sometimes run with their tails tucked, but it can also mean they are afraid. Today I think they are bluffing and their bark is worse than their bite so I continue to run towards them flailing my arms wildly above my head.

Things could probably be much worse if the dogs were out here on their own. Would the coyotes be as scared if a human wasn’t with the bunch? Taz is quite small, but the feistiest one of all and relentlessly barks and lunges toward the coyotes. I’ve even seen him do it to a javelina (collared peccary). He has no idea that he is about to become a tasty snack. 

Sunrise in the Franklins

I run up the trail as the coyotes come down the embankment towards me. I pick up a rock and throw it in their direction and they finally turn and run away. The best thing we can do for these beautiful animals is make them afraid of humans so they will stay wild and keep to the mountains and deserts instead of our cities. 

On a water cache mission

I make it to the top of the hill as the coyotes carry on their yipping and barking from a distance. The dogs don’t seem too bothered by the experience and Lucy is completely focused on running now. Just another running adventure in the Desert Southwest. After all, if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. 

All tired out from running with the big dogs
See you on the trail.

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