An image of a howling coyote is an overdone cliche. At least that's what I thought before I saw one.
Last week Fred and I were backpacking in Colorado's San Juan Mtn, escaping the heat and smoky air of Salt Lake's summer. While walking through an alpine meadow bounded by parallel cliffs, we heard a distant cry. We were unsure what animal it was, or was it a human cry for help? It came in segments, a uniform note of varying lengths, repeated with pauses between segments. Coming around a bend, Fred spotted a seated coyote, with his/her back to the setting sun, raising his/her head to howl. The howls were answered by an echo from the opposite cliff (what we heard as a cry). The coyote seemed to intentionally howl, pause to hear the echo, howl again as the echo ended, short, long, longer, as the echo mimicked each howl. Was he/she curious, lonely, intelligent, playful? Coyotes don't have human emotions, right? What awareness did he/she have? What a magnificent scene!