Neat feet betray coyote

Dog prints at top of picture, coyote prints at bottom.

Dog prints at top of picture, coyote prints at bottom.

We had a visitor come through the yard last night. There are three sets of tracks in this picture – my two dogs and either a fox or a coyote. How can I tell that it wasn’t another dog?
My dog’s tracks are at the top of the picture. There are a lot of them, four to a step, and they are messy. My old girl and my low-slung corgi didn’t pick up their feet.
Now look at the tracks at the bottom of the picture. Two neat imprints per stride. Wild canines like wolves, coyotes and foxes all make sure to put their hind feet in the prints made by their forefeet. Based on how far apart the prints are, my guess is that this was a coyote, but I don’t really know.
I’ve heard that wild canines step in their own tracks to minimize their scent trail. I don’t know if I believe that. It seems that the doubled-up prints would have twice the scent. And why would it matter? For the most part, wild canines are the hunters, not the hunted, following others trails, not being followed. If this was to minimize their scent, wouldn’t prey species be noted for it, too?
Regardless of my lack of understanding of why the do it, the wild canines are very neat walkers. And their minimalist tracks alerted me to their presence in the neighborhood.

About coloradogeography

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...
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