Monday, July 16, 2012
“They’re here,” Jeanine whispered into her recorder. Crouched beside her in the blind, Tom kept his eyes on the images transmitted from the motion-sensitive cameras they’d planted along the game trail. After three weeks of tantalizing glimpses, one camera had drawn a crowd.
“There’s Mutt and Jeff,” Tom murmured. Jeanine trembled with excitement. The big gray wolf and the scrawny gray-yellow coyote had been caught on camera early on. She’d thought they were mates at first, but both appeared to be male. She’d since observed them hunting and playing and chasing down females together. In her five years filming Nature’s denizens, she’d never seen, read of, or heard about any such pairing as this.
She’d already spent the check from NatGeo in her mind. And it was a hefty one.
“Six wolves,” Tom said, “and one coyote. Looks like they’re all male. Bachelor pack? And what's a coyote doing with wolves?"
“I don’t know,” Jeanine said distractedly. She wondered how well the Emmy for Best Documentary would fit in her hands.
“Look. They’ve found the camera.”
The wolves sidled up to the camera. Their nostrils worked. The lens acquired a wet smear from an inquisitive nose. The pack stepped back, but continued to stare at the camera.
“This is weird,” Tom said. “I know I hid the camera and camouflaged my scent. They shouldn’t even know it’s there.”
“They warned us Talbot’s Peak is strange. The animals don’t behave normally.”
Something was happening out there. Jeanine edged closer to the screen.
Then they saw it. Tom swore. Jeanine gasped. “I don’t believe this.”
# # #
Three weeks ago
“Dog!” Sal came running up, all hyper as usual, jolting Harry out of yet another perfectly good nap. “Dog, you gotta come see this.”
Harry got up, yawned, shook the pine needles out of his fur and shifted to human form. “Dude. Pants.”
“Screw pants. There’s two monkeys sticking cameras on trees down by the deer yard. I think they’re doing a nature show.”
“In the deer yard?” That got Harry’s attention. “That’s Hancock turf. How’d humans get past the patrols?”
“The Hancocks are your family. You tell me. The point is, we’ve just been handed the opportunity of a lifetime. What do we do about it?”
Harry scratched behind his ear. Only a coyote would see a human invasion of shifter territory as an opportunity. “Better show me first,” he said.
In wolf and coyote form they trailed the pair and marked the locations of the cameras. They followed them back to their base camp, a pair of tents and several nervous horses holed up beside a stream at the edge of Brandon Wayne’s ranch. They retreated a safe distance and shifted for speech. “Think Wayne let ‘em in?” Harry asked.
“Doubt it. Your alpha either. Well, we probably shouldn’t kill them. That could lead to a total mess.”
“It’s already a total mess. I’ll have to tell the pack where the cameras are. Scat, we’ll have to tell everybody. If they catch somebody shifting on film, this’ll turn into Monkey Central. The FBI we can deal with, but zoologists?” Harry shook his head. “We have to do something. Any ideas?”
Sal grinned and pointed his thumbs at his chest. “Dog. Coyote.”
# # #
“Does that coyote,” Tom said in a shaky voice, “have a camera?”
He couldn’t. He couldn’t, but he did. Using his teeth and paws, he was taking video of the pack. The wolves struck poses in front of both his and the hidden camera. Two wolves held up a cardboard sign in their teeth. It read Hi, Mom!
Then, at some body-language signal, the pack approached Jeanine’s camera. As one, they lifted their legs and took aim.
# # #
Jeanine and Tom hurried back to their camp to find the canvas tents in shreds, the horses gone, their notebooks clawed to confetti and soaked in urine, and their hard drives wiped. While they were rooting despondently through the wreckage several men on horseback rode up. “Brandon Wayne,” the horseman in the lead introduced himself. “You’re on private property.”
Jeanine gathered up her bravado. It was all she had left. “We were told these are state lands.”
“No, these are Wayne lands. That mountain you’ve been tromping around on belongs to the Hancock Corporation. Neither of us appreciate trespassers. There’s some beautiful public game lands ten miles southwest of here. We’ll see that you make it safely to the road.”
The cowboys herded the humans and their skimpy bits of salvage out of camp. Hidden up a nearby tree, Sal caught it all on video.
# # #
From “Naturalists: Exploiting Nature” broadcast on Talbot’s Peak Cable Access Channel 11
“Sometimes the good guys win one, folks. Sometimes we make it through the infestation with nothing more than some bad film to show the humans were here. We dodged a bullet this time, but we need to keep our eyes open and our wits on red alert, because as long as they stay nosy and have cameras, this is bound to happen again.”
Video shows two humans, one male and one female, trudging up Highway 15 past a sign reading Rocky Top State Park, next left.
“Millions of years ago, so their stories go, the monkeys came down out of the trees and started walking around on two legs. News flash, apes. You left, but we didn’t, and we don’t take kindly to you flea-pickers coming back to play Candid Camera with us. Let this be a lesson to you. Stay the hell out of our trees.”
Video fades to black.
This broadcast was made possible through contributions from the Hancock Corporation, the Wayne Ranch, and from viewers like you.