Coyotes In Harriman State Park
There is a campsite near Lake Tiorati that I have been using for two decades. It has been one of my go-to favorites. A few days ago, I went on an overnighter with my son and a friend and it was much the same, as expected.
But at about 1:30AM, we heard some coyotes howling not that far away. The howling can be alarming to those that have never heard them before. But to an outdoorsman, their call is awesome. It was the first time I had ever heard coyotes at that camp. Normally, I would not be that concerned. But on this trip, a friend brought with him not one but two whole rotisserie chickens that were complete when we went to bed. Nobody ate any. I took the precaution of wrapping them in two separate paper bags in an attempt to prevent animals from smelling them but I am not sure that helped.
I realized that a bear or raccoon could smell that chicken from a great distance but I had discounted a coyote since I had never heard any in the area before. Anyway, I put the chicken next to the fire to make it much more unappealing for would-be invaders. I went to bed uneasy about the chicken out there. At about 5:30AM, I awoke to the howl of a coyote on the hill above our campsite. I quickly thought about our firepit and knew there were probably only embers left. I was not sure that the coyotes were there for the “goods” but I realized that the only thing that would discourage them would be a good fire. I did not bother to wake anyone and got out of my tent to get a fire going. Luckily, the previous campers left some wood and I had plenty to get a fire going quickly. The embers were still lit so getting a fire going was a lot easier. Soon the fire was reflecting light from the tree canopy across the campsite. It was pitch black and the fire made a huge difference in the defense of our campsite.
One coyote could be heard on the hilltop above our campsite. When that one howled, others behind it howled back. There were about three to five in all and their howling made me uneasy. I had a long Gransfors Bruk axe with a SOG knife and a spear that I quickly fashioned from a branch while I was waiting to be overrun. I left the bear spray at home and I regretted that mistake. Given that my son was in the tent, I decided that I would keep the fire going and remained awake until the morning sun when coyotes normally return to their dens. During that time, I carved a walking stick for my son.
An hour after starting the fire, I did not hear anything more from the coyotes, although when I heard anything in the brush my attention was always scanning and waiting to see a coyote up close and personal. Thankfully, that opportunity never came. The point is there are coyotes in the seven lakes area, specifically in and around Lake Tiorati. Should you be concerned? Well, that depends on how much rotisserie chicken you bring to the camp. Ok seriously, coyotes are normally nocturnal animals and generally stay away from humans. Coyotes that approach you may have been fed by others and lost their fear of people. It is rare to see one in the woods. Worldwide two people have been killed by coyotes. A child in California in the 1980s and a 19-year-old woman in Nova Scotia in 2009. That does not mean you should not have respect for these animals.
Coyotes are not naturally aggressive and their diet consists of small animals like field mice and voles. They will take advantage of food left unattended and have been known to raid fruit patches. The point is to take care to lessen the chances that a coyote will find food at your camp by taking precautions as you would avoid bears. I never saw a coyote that night but my healthy fear of an encounter caused me to take action to avoid them and that’s a good thing. If you see one the best thing you can do is scare it away. That way it will remain leery of people and avoid contact that can cause harm to the animal. Coyotes are here to stay and their proliferation is evident in that we are beginning to see or hear them in places we did not before. Including urban areas like New York City.
Some consider them a nuisance, I think it is a beautiful animal but I always encourage others to keep away. By the way, the next time you head to the woods make sure to let your friends know to avoid bringing that rotisserie chicken. Safe trails…