HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 1, No. 3, May 1982

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 1 No. 3, May 1982

Letter to the Editor
Jim Miller

Dear The Tracker,

I recently read Ernest Thompson Seton's book, Animal Tracks and Hunter Signs. Of particular interest to me as a tracker were his insights almost 100 years ago about coyote tracks, and later his encounter with John Muir in 1899. I would like to share the following excerpts from Seton's book with readers of The Tracker:

The Wolf track differs from that of the usual type of Dog chiefly in size, but the Coyote presents a characteristic that I long ago observed, though never yet have fully explained.

In most animals the two central toe pads of the fore feet are much larger than those at each side. In the Coyote track, however, the two outer pads are markedly larger than the two inner or central toe pads. This I have found to be the rule in the tracks of this animal. My knowledge stood me in good stead on one occasion.

John Muir was well known as a good naturalist, described as "The Grand Old Man of the Sierras". He had paid no attention to my work when, in the autumn of 1899, I visited California. Prominent men and publishers showed me much honor, and my friends were determined that I should meet John Muir. Accordingly, on October 2, 1899, I was taken to Muir's home in the little town of Martinez, not for from San Francisco.

I found the venerable old gentleman coldly aloof and little disposed to converse. All his remarks referred to his own discoveries among the glaciers. Evidently he did not accept me as a naturalist.

However, he showed me his garden with pride. As we examined and admired his watermelons, we come on one partly devoured; and as I stooped to study the track of the predator, I exclaimed: "Well, if I saw that out in the wilderness, I should call it a Coyote track."

"Huh!" he grunted, "that's just what it is. I can't keep the brutes from sneaking in by night and mangling my watermelons. But how do you know it's a Coyote?"

"See there," I said. "At first sight, it is the track of a middle-sized Dog, but the two outer toe pads are bigger than the two inner ones. That is the mark of the Coyote."

"I give in!" he declared. "Now I know you are a naturalist."

From that time on he was most genial, and accepted me as one of the real brotherhood.



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