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How to photograph coyotes (Go with experts, bring a backpack)

Natural ResourcesCook County Forest Preserve

As is so often the case with news photography, success in documenting the search for coyote pups was all about access. When I became curious about coyotes last fall, I called Bob Bluett, Wildlife Diversity Coordinator for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, who in turn gave me the name of Wildlife Biologist Chris Anchor. "If anybody can put you nose-to-nose with a coyote, it's him," Bluett said.

Anchor leads the team of Cook County Forest Preserve researchers who conduct the searches for dens and pups with a team from the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation as part of the Cook County Coyote Project.

The team members are young and affable, but professional, and protective both of their work and of their subjects. So they're wary of the news media. Anchor seemed relieved when I showed up one morning with hiking boots and a backpack. "I've had reporters show up in silk shirts," he said.

The backpack held water, an extra camera, a long lens and a tripod. At each den we approached, I planned to set up a separate camera to record video so I could concentrate on stills.

But over three days working in the woods with the team, only two of six stops were productive.  I got lost twice, and had to shamefully call members of the team to find my way back to them. When we did find pups, the researchers were ahead of me and walked up on puppies that were already out wandering.  Things were moving fast, so I chucked the backpack and alternated between stills and video.

The long lens was never used; it was folly to think I would actually see the mother coyote, even from a distance. The tripod only came out later, when the frantic moments had passed.

-- Chris Walker, photographer

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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