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A lone coyote moved slowly across the snow covered field in search of food. The past weeks had been a time of good eating. He had chased an eagle away from the carcass of a deer that had been wounded during the hunting season and had died near the bank of the little creek. The rotting meat was the source of a feast that had lasted several days. He had hunted for voles and mice in the bare fields and experienced no hunger. Feral cats were easy prey, but now there were no more.
First came the rain which turned into ice, then sleet and now snow that covered everything. Now was the time of hunger.
He crept along with nose to the ground, but nothing was stirring. Then a little field mouse emerged hoping to find a morsel of grain to ease the hunger pangs that drove him out of the safety of his hole. He squeaked one last warning to his family below before the coyote bit off his head and ate him. Such is fate at the bottom of the food chain.
It was only one little bite for the coyote who still felt hungry. Nothing stirred so he retreated to the warmth of his den and watched a northern harrier hover and search for rodents. Maybe tonight he would find a stray rabbit searching for food, or more mice willing to risk a search for food above ground before becoming a meal for the hungry coyote.
Evening came. An owl swooped silently down and flew away with something to eat. The coyote flatted himself on the snow as the owl flew over him. Raccoons emerged to hunt for food as the full moon arose from the eastern horizon. The raccoons were watchful hoping to avoid an ambush by the coyote or the owl.
Deer pawed through the snow and ice to find a few bites of dried grass before quietly joining some calves at the hay ring and self feeders to abate their hunger. It was a risky move, but worth trying before retreating to the woods.
An opossum scuttled along hoping to escape the coyote and find scraps of anything to satisfy those pangs of hunger. He approached the nearby house hoping to find some garbage. Light flooded from the windows, and the smell of food cooking wafted out as a meal was prepared. There was no hunger there and the occupants were warm and happy, unaware that for the wild creatures out in the snow covered world it was now the time of hunger.
The coyote lifted his voice, howling, then yodeling, hoping to hear an answer. None came so he continued to hunt alone. Maybe tomorrow he would find food.
-Contributed by Marilyn Goodwin