Coyote Looking Over Shoulder - The Story Behind the Image / by Todd Henson

Coyote in a field looking back over its shoulder

Coyote are far more widespread and abundant than we might think. They are sly creatures, able to stay mostly out of view and under our radars, even while living almost next door. I have only rarely seen them and only in one wildlife refuge.

I had spent the afternoon hiking the refuge and photographing anything I could find. It was nearing closing time of the refuge so I started picking up my pace. It’s difficult to photograph here in the afternoon knowing there’s a fixed time when the gates close and I need to be out. If I find something interesting to photograph I want to stay as long as the opportunity holds. But when visiting in the late afternoon I always have to temper my enthusiasm enough to keep moving towards the exit.

Coyote at the end of the trail, watching me

To reach the parking lot I needed to hike along a service road that splits a large field. The refuge personnel had recently mowed this field, so it was easy to spot any sizable creatures hanging out in the field. I didn’t notice anything until I was close to the end of the field where I noticed a coyote standing at the end of the road in front of me.

Up to this point every coyote I had seen had quickly trotted to cover when it realized I’d noticed it. Quite likely, some had seen me and disappeared before I ever noticed them. But this coyote was different. When it noticed me, it trotted out into the field to my left. Perhaps that’s what they always did but I never noticed because the field wasn’t mowed at those times. Eventually it turned and began walking parallel to me but in the opposite direction, limping, as it appeared to have injured a leg. When it was finally perpendicular to me it stopped and turned back the way it came, the direction I was going.

Coyote watching me from the edge of the field

Coyote limping, notice the reddish patch on its rear leg

I didn’t capture a large number of photos since time was short, but I did capture some. In one image the coyote is paralleling me with it’s head forward and its tail raised. In another it stopped and looked directly at me, sniffing, perhaps as curious about me as I was of it. I was watching its behavior closely, in case it began moving towards me, but it never did.

Coyote walking parallel to me, tail straight out

Curious Coyote, watching me and sniffing

The final image is my favorite. The coyote is standing still looking over its shoulder back behind it. I like that pose. It prompts me, and hopefully the viewer, to wonder what the coyote was looking at. Was it looking for prey? Had it just heard a noise, perhaps a motor boat along the river? I’ve no idea, but I’m glad I captured an image that leaves me wondering and thinking. And I’m also thankful I had this opportunity to photograph a coyote. Perhaps I’ll have other opportunities in the future.

Final image of Coyote, looking back over it's shoulder