Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Odd Couple

I was going to call this post "The Most Magical Moment of the Year", but as we are only into the third month, that might be a bit precipitous. But it is certainly the most magical moment so far this month!

Just as I was leaving for work this morning, I glanced over at the pasture to where Martin was sitting, alpaca version ( legs folded neatly under him, long neck stretched upward) in the sunshine in the middle of the path. I am used to seeing him there - he likes to stare at the house, watching my comings and goings in case I should venture into his pen with some treats.

But this time, I did a double take - there, beside his cream and tawny head, was a second head - the two heads nuzzling noses and sniffing the air, bodies side by side, necks rubbing necks.

Eyes watering from the bitterly cold wind, I momentarily thought someone had dumped a cria (a baby alpaca) on my property. Wiping my glasses and my eyes, I realized Martin was cocooning with a friend of a different species - the canine species.

Yes, there in the pasture, Martin and a feral canine were having a tete-a-tete, with no sounds of alarm, no signs of stress, no indicators that this was anything but a friendly little greeting.

I'm not really sure who Martin's companion was, whether coyote or wolf or feral dog/hybrid. I don't think it was Brazen Coyote, unless his coat has drastically changed colour in the past couple of weeks. Brazen has distinctive reddish tinges on his legs and tail and multiple shades reminiscent of autumn leaves on his torso, whereas this canine was mostly white belly and legs and chin, with grey back, tail and head. With very long legs, he (or she?) looked larger than a coyote, yet not as large as the wolf who visited this winter, and lacked the distinctive face mask of the feral malamute cross who roams this area.

My friend Nancy was here, and I signalled to her to come see, wanting not only to share the magic moment but also to have someone to witness that the snuggling was not a figment of my imagination. I tried to move in for a photo, but our movements attracted their attention, and Martin's mystery guest moved off with the sinewy cat-like fluidity of a coyote rather than the more dog-like lope of the wolf.

Obviously the canine was no stranger to our pasture, or Martin would not have been so calm. He sounds the alarm and rises to his feet any time a strange dog is in or near the pasture unless I am right by the dog's side. Only with the coyotes is Martin so at ease.

Two fuzzy faces of two natural foes- checking each other out with nary a sign of animosity.

Magic. Pure magic.


Black Jack's Carol said...

Your imagery is so vivid, I see them and feel your wonder, without the photo. The mind picture of Martin's ease with his visitor will stay with me for a long time, as I know it will with you. Quite a gift!

Anonymous said...

Oh Wow! What a special thing to have witnessed.

dp said...

Hmmm...fascinating! I wonder if coyotes and alpacas really are natural enemies, though? Without human intervention they probably never would have encountered each other. Regardless, nice to hear that Martin has made such an unlikely friend, and vice versa.

Jean said...

dp, I wondered if they were naturally enemies also, and did a little research on the topic.

Apparently there are no coyotes in South America, so in their native Peru they would be unlikely to encouter them.
However, wolves and coyotes are natural predators. They rarely attack alpacas here because alpacas are usually in herds, and once the lead male sounds the alarm, the herd will form a formidable tight-knit group and cause the coyote to rethink his position.
But alpacas that are not in a herd are at risk. In fact, the most common and dangerous enemy to the alpaca is the dog, and I have witnessed a stray dog attack the llama next door. I think a hungry coyote would not hesitate to attack a small lone alpaca.