Sara Montour Lewis — Seattle Commercial Children's Lifestyle + Wildlife Conservation Photographer

Field Notes

These field notes are a little peak behind the scenes of personal adventures, creation of stock imagery, location scouting, etc.

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Our Urban Wilderness — Coyote Encounter

We had been driving all day and needed a spot where we could walk a little bit, smell the fresh air, stretch our legs and enjoy the setting sun so I found the closest spot I could find that would allow all of those things to happen.

Within 2 minutes of getting out of the car (no exaggeration) I saw something moving down the path, way in the distance. At first I thought it was a deer, but quickly realized it was actually a coyote, so I got into the best position to just wait, let it do its thing and see what happened.

Little did I know that “letting it do its thing” meant that it would walk directly to us, getting within inches, before finally turning and carrying on.

Coyotes get a bad rap for a whole host of reasons, but they’re fascinating creatures and when you dive into their ecology you see that they can play a crucial role in the ecosystem around them. There are several interesting studies showing that areas with high coyote populations have more diversity in the types of native wild birds and that big cat predators, like cougars and bobcats, tend to avoid areas where coyotes roam.

There are some great organizations doing a lot of work in studying these creatures, so if you’re interested in learning more I highly recommend checking out the work being done by Project Coyote and the Urban Coyote Research Project.

If you aren’t familiar with my Our Urban Wilderness project, here’s a quick recap of the series and my intent behind it from my first OUW post:

Inevitably, every time I post an image on instagram + facebook of the wildlife I find on these walks, someone will say something along the lines of "where did you find that?!" or "I wish I lived closer to 'XYZ' so I could see something that cool!" and I always have to laugh because 90% of the time I was just on a quick walk in the middle of the city and stumbled upon some crazy creature. I'm guilty of it, too, though. If I see a photo of a walrus or a narwhal I want to hop a plane to the arctic immediately, if not sooner. I know, though, that there are a million cool creatures within a few miles of us all right this second and all we really have to do to see them is slow down, open our eyes and be patient. This year alone I know I've seen dozens + dozens of animals that I've never seen before.

The second reason I wanted to do this project is because there seems to be this mental box that we put on wildlife where we think that humans exist in "THE CITY" and wildlife exists in "THE WILD", as if we all live in a zoo together and there are barriers between our habitats. (All you have to do is live in an area where bears or coyotes have wandered into residential neighborhoods to realize how strongly people believe this.) The fact, though, is that we're all coexisting and our paths cross far more often than we all realize. I think this can happen, peacefully, if we're all just a little more aware and if we don't turn into alarmists every time we see something that we're sure belongs in "THE WILD".