January's full moon, which passed last week, is known as the Full Wolf Moon. It is so named for the hungry wolves that were once on the prowl at this time of year.
However, though Adirondack wolves have long been eliminated from the North Woods, as a result of trapping and bounty hunting; their lesser cousins, the coyote, remain a viable and active predator.
I was reminded of this fact as I exited the woods following a long ski trip around Scarface Mountain. The snow pack, which has finally condensed enough to provide a solid base, proved adequate to support passage through a nearby cedar swamp.
Although there was plenty of light left in the day, travels through the thick cedar swamp are always a dark, gloomy affair. It can also present such an impenetrable tangle of downed, snow-covered trees that a person can get so turned around, you can find your frontside facing your backside.
Such was the case, as the coyotes first lit up during the late, waning light of day. I wasn't too concerned, their yips and yowls were well behind me, off in the distance.
I kept up the pace, skirting a section of blowdown and crossing a small creek that was frozen over solid. In just another few minutes of skiing, I figured, I'd be at the edge of the swamp, into the open hardwoods.
Then I heard them coming, yipping and wailing and moving fast. The hair went up on the back of my head. I leaned against an upturned stump and remained still. I watched them pass at less than 50 yards distant.
It wasn't the pack of killers I had imagined. They weren't hot on the trail of a feeble whitetail or fighting over a carcass. No, this was just a pack of dogs, yipping and snarling at each other, like a bunch of high school boys snapping towels in a locker room brawl.