The Coywolf and Me

In Fall 2018, Steve Wightman took this photograph near his home in Bedford. Here is his story about the encounter:

As I got closer and closer to get this shot, I pretty well knew that I’d be detected. After all, coywolves’ combination of hearing, eyesight, and smell are far and away greater than my own. Even with my low crawl and sloth pace through shrubs and with my camouflage skin, those ears homed in on my location as accurately as any radar.

First he studied me. Then he came a little closer, ran a bit, stopped, scent-marked, and then sat calmly as if to say; “This is my field, I’m the king critter here now.”

So, we played a little game; I studied him, he studied me, and we both seemed to agree on a comfortable distance – for now. Neither body telegraphed aggression. Peace was at hand.

Given the wind direction, he now likely knows what I smell like, and that is unique and indelible. Next time, he’ll remember me and likely be very curious about me. He’s trying to decide if I’m a foe while I’m trying to communicate that I am not. Our careful dance shall continue.

It’s not every day that I get to interact with a predator. I recall Kevin Costner playing with wolves in Dances with Wolves. I’m not sure which side had more fun. The key to it happening at all was a strong mutual trust and acceptance. That could never happen without a deep understanding of behaviors and language.

Yes, all wolves have language – most of it is body language, but it also involves scents and sounds. This helps them set social order, identify friend or foe, coordinate hunts, and coordinate adult care for their young. Perhaps that’s why they have survived for more than ten thousand years all around planet earth – and like this encounter, perhaps mankind and nature can work as one where neither is threatened.

About the Author: AMC and Sierra Club member Steve Wightman is a public speaker and a nonfiction producer and publisher of books, blogs, videos, and print articles. He writes and speaks about aviation, personal finance, nature, and America then and now. In 2019, he plans to produce a memoir of his building and flying the world’s fastest single-engine amphibious airplane, a Seawind, and another book - a view of the fate of mankind and our relationship to our only planet including some First Nation prophecies. Learn more at: and

SVT Note: There is debate on the naming and use of the term "coywolf. " In general, SVT uses the terms "coyote" or "eastern coyote" but has not edited Mr. Wightman's lovely account of his experience with our region's wild "canid."