A friend was jogging out on Bull Flats along the old two-track which now sprouts
a bit of sage and rabbit brush as it heads south toward Tumalo Reservoir.
Sadly, our friend’s “runner’s meditation”, that product of a quiet mind focused only
on footsteps, was about to turn garishly surreal as she very nearly tripped over
a live coyote. Stunned, she backed off and realized the animal was chained and held
by its forepaw in a metal trap.
Making a split-second decision she ran up the trail to our house and breathlessly
explained what she’d seen. Some moments of “logical “ discussion ensued until our
hearts took over and the three of us headed quickly back to the trap site to see
what could be done.
When we initially approached the coyote, it was clearly in pain, frightened and struggling-
as would be expected.
Not wanting the animal to be injured further, we intuitively stopped about 15 feet
away and knelt quietly down on the ground. As we remained still, Coyote surprised
us by abruptly stopping its struggle and also sitting down.. A few moments passed
until my husband stood up and spoke to directly to Coyote as though addressing a
well-known canine companion. He explained in a logical tone what our intentions were
and that we didn't want to hurt or be hurt. What happened next, still seems impossible.
Coyote laid down on its chest, remained perfectly composed, and simply watched my
We had brought a long piece of steel rebar with us, thinking we might use it to spring
the trap. That didn’t work. Instead, we held the rebar length-wise in front of Coyote's
chest as my husband laid down on his stomach and reached for the trap. With gloved
hands, he managed to release both mechanisms at the same time and we all exhaled
as the jaws separated.. Amazingly, Coyote remained composed and cooperative during
this entire process. Even as my husband "growled" loudly with the physical effort
of trying to spring the mechanisms, Coyote just watched his face or occasionally
glanced down at the trap. Obviously, the game plan was perfectly understood.
The 3 of us were so moved by this intense and oddly "magical" encounter with a wild
creature. It was remarkable to see an animal so clearly understand and respond to
our intention. There was never a moment when we felt threatened by the coyote and
even after it was released, it remained quiet and comfortable with us.
It was while savoring that almost intimate moment, that we saw two men walking up
the trail. Thinking they would be as enchanted as we were upon hearing our story,
I hurried to greet them and asked them to hang back to allow Coyote a moment to recover.
In response, the two men identified themselves as trappers and produced a “Furtaker’s
With disbelief I realized these two had arrived to “take” Coyote.
An intense yet civil conversation ensued. The trappers were confident of their legal
rights- while we were determined that this animal, who had put it’s trust in us and
demonstrated such uncanny camaraderie, would not die that day.
Fortunately, as the human debate continued, Coyote, as coyotes famously do, disappeared
quietly back into the sage.
After the fact, we learned that, currently, releasing an animal from a trap is illegal.
In an attempt to try to understand such a foreign concept, we sent away for the
educational material that trappers use to obtain a “Furtaker’s License”.
As macabre as it looks to the rest of us, the recommendations and procedures outlined
in this material should be required reading for anyone unfamiliar with the business
of trapping and “fur taking”. One day, we’re confident that human decency will prevail
and this outdated and unnecessary “sport” will be outlawed.
Until then we wish Coyote well.
This was a lucky coyote to be discovered by people willing to act on their conscience.
We thank them for the strength of their convictions.