Get lost: walk on the wild side at Red Deer’s great trail systems

No matter how hard I wish it, it’s not really feasible to hike in the mountains every day.

So that means neighbourhood walks will have to do.

Thankfully, Red Deer has an extensive trail system. So much so that within five minutes I can be absorbed into the woods.

Nearing the end one of my routine walks in November I came upon a decently-sized canine a good 20 metres ahead of me.

At first I didn’t think much of it, people in my neighbourhood let their dogs run off-leash all the time.

But as I get closer, I see it is not someone’s dog, but a coyote. A coyote that isn’t terribly scared of me and has the high ground.

Impulse tells me to run, but then common-sense takes over — if you run the coyote will chase you.

I slowly walk off, and the coyote continues on the trail in the direction I came from.

This wasn’t the first time I had seen a coyote down in Maskapatoon Park, so I thought nothing of it. It would move on and maybe I’d start seeing some moose or deer, or the rare porcupine, again.

Imagine my surprise two weeks later, as I’m walking along the trail and I see a woman pushing a stroller and observing her two large dogs as they run around, off-leash.

She asks me if I’ve seen the coyote on the trail.

I hadn’t, but the walk took on a different vibe from then on.

I was alert, my dog was alert. We wanted to be sure we didn’t cross the coyote’s path again.

We would, just not that day.

It seems the coyote has taken residence in my neighbourhood.

Though it has yet to become a problem, I fear it will as the winter wears on.

In three subsequent encounters, the coyote has run away from me. Twice in Maskapatoon Park, and once again on the trail that runs beside Kerry Wood Drive, near the Red Deer Golf and Country Club.

It’s early in the season, there may still be some small game for it to hunt.

For now, it’s not causing me any harm, and it is still scared enough of an average-sized man wearing a balaclava and a thick coat.

Maybe it will be this year’s casual animal acquaintance in my neighbourhood.

Last year, it was a couple of moose I’d see every so often (and that scared me one dark evening) and a porcupine climbing a tree on a cold Christmas day.

Similar to reoccurring TV characters, animals make appearances on walks.

The deer who intermittently appear on Kerry Wood Drive, or the moose who move between Three Mile Bend and Mackenzie Trails.

It’s likely still the six-year-old in me that is thrilled to see wild animals as though it’s part of a constant one-upsmanship of what species I see. For no other reason than to say I saw it.

Murray Crawford is a reporter/editor with the Advocate.

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