Snow arrived early last winter and covered the fields, hills, and forests in perfect white. No one expected to starve to death among such beauty. No one expected to fade away where an entire landscape looked like peace; where trees extended their branches out generously offering their snow. Yet, an eastern coyote named Cynthia found herself fading away.
The surrounding silence welcomed all types of sleep. Cynthia could hear her own steps as she hunted. The snow made the combination of a crunch and rub as it compressed beneath her paws. She also heard her stomach growling, moving air and water through her body, and reminding her of her persistent failure to catch prey.
Cynthia had been born healthy and had been among the largest cubs. As an adult, she would have looked like a wolf if she would not have been starving; but she was. Her mostly gray and white coat with some black and red scattered throughout hung on her bones. Her ears remained large: too large for a wolf. Her face and muzzle were thin and foxlike.
The quiet and stillness provided one advantage to Cynthia: she heard more. She heard movement in the distance, turned to look, and spotted a pack of five wolves approaching her. Were it not for the snow, she would have seen them too late; but in the open snow covered field, they could not sneak up on her as easily.
Cynthia knew how wolves hunted. She knew that they did not want her to run yet. They wanted to get as close as they could without her noticing. Once close, they would set up around her and would threaten her until she would run. As she would run, one of them would bite her throat. Her life would quickly end.
Having spotted the pack, Cynthia had two choices: run and hide, or run and hope the wolves gave up their pursuit. If she hid and stayed, Cynthia would be in constant danger: the scarcity of prey that winter drove the wolves to expand and fiercely protect their territory. She would run into the wolves again and again. She was already starving there, so she decided to run.
Cynthia tilled through the snow as fast as she could toward the boundary of the territory. When the pack of wolves saw her flee, they began to run after her. Both she and the wolves were starving, but she was a lot more motivated than they were as she ran for her life. Her rate through the snow was much faster than the pack’s. She pulled further and further ahead of them. After about a mile of tearing through snow, the pack stopped pursuing her. She was out of their territory, and they did not wish to spend any more precious energy on her.
Cynthia traveled a little further to ensure she was away from the wolves. She found high ground and lay down to rest. She was only a short distance from the edge of her old territory, but everything was unfamiliar. She huffed a deep breath and blew it out in frustration. She was tired and lost.
It was difficult to mark how much time had gone by. It was day and then it was night, but not much changed. New snow fell and touched up any spots that had been marked. Cynthia had been just as unsuccessful hunting in the new territory as she had been in the old one. She stopped and howled sometimes, hoping a coyote nearby might hear her. She thought that two or more coyotes might have more success finding food. Each of her howls was quieter than the last.
One day, Cynthia walked slowly through the snow and hunted. She paid careful attention to her nose hoping it would detect something. She listened carefully for any sound stopping frequently thinking she’d heard movement. She reacted so much, she began to doubt her hearing.
Just as she was getting ready to give up on the hunt, she clearly heard something moving under the snow. She faced the direction of the noise. Her ears were perked up and searched for the location of the sound. She tensed her muscles and readied herself to pounce. When she heard movement beneath the snow again, she jumped forward and struck with her paws where she thought her target was. She missed, but saw a rodent flee into a hole in the ground. She began to dig. She dug vigorously at first. The ground was frozen and hard. She grew tired. She slowed down. Her digging became less productive. She could tell she was getting closer, but she was too low on energy. She stopped to rest. She stared at the hole. Although she was starving, she did not have the strength to continue.
After she had stopped digging and had appeared to have given up, an American badger named Jacob stepped in and continued to dig after the rodent. Cynthia watched the badger take her place at the exposed tunnel and dig. She did not threaten or stop him. She did not have the strength. She just watched him dig, find her prey, and catch it. To her surprise, the badger brought the rodent to her. She was grateful, and ate it as fast as her starving body allowed.
Jacob had been watching Cynthia hunt for the rodent. He had teamed up with coyotes to hunt during past winters, so he was looking for an opportunity to do it again. The partnerships had not lasted much longer than the season, but they had lasted long enough to survive food shortages. Cynthia seemed like she could use some help; so, he helped her and made a friend as a result.
Cynthia and Jacob hunted together after that. The badger was familiar with the territory and showed her where they were most likely to be successful. After she regained some of her strength, she became a great hunter. The partnership was very productive. The pair even found time to play together. When they grew tired, they rested together trustingly.
About mid-winter, Cynthia was fully recovered. Soon after, she was driven to build a family. She marked her new territory leaving scents so male coyotes could find her. She became very vocal too: she howled, howled, and howled. Eventually, male coyotes arrived; and Jacob left.
Cynthia never forgot Jacob. She did not know from where he had come. She did not know where he had gone. All she knew was that he had saved her life, and she hoped to find him again someday.
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