by Chris Clegg
Clarence Cardinal has been trapping since he was a child, over 40 years ago.
But nothing could prepare him for what he snared Nov. 12: a red-haired coyote.
“I first thought it was too big to be a fox and it wasn’t the colour of a wolf,” says Cardinal, 57, when first seeing the animal. “It puzzled me. It was a big animal and it was red.
“I thought, what would a dog be doing out here?” the Salt Prairie trapper asked himself.
The animal was recently snared and Cardinal believed it was still alive. Because he did not know what he caught, Cardinal was taking no chances.
“I went and got my gun. It was probably dead but I shot it anyway. I didn’t want it biting me; I would have had to get a tetanus shot.”
It was then that Cardinal had realized he snared a coyote.
Later, he stopped at Duane Nichols’ home nearby.
“‘Ever seen a red coyote?’ I asked him.”
Nichols had not.
Fish and Wildlife were called and came out to have a look at the rare animal. They weren’t the only ones once news of the animal spread.
“There were so many people coming and taking pictures,” says Cardinal. About 15-20. One even offered to buy it.
“In all the years I’ve been trapping, this is the first one that’s a different colour. I’ve never even heard of one let alone seen one.”
Red coyotes are extremely rare in the region, but not the world. Wikipedia and National Geographic websites both state that coyotes differ in colour by region. That is, one region will have red-haired coyotes, others grey. Still, it offers no explanation for why a red coyote popped up in Salt Prairie.
Cardinal knows his animals and says it can’t be a cross.
“For it to be a hybrid, it would have to have bigger feet and a different shape. This is a coyote.”
Because the fur is a different colour, Cardinal has no idea what it’s worth. He says he might even decide to keep it.
The male coyote Cardinal caught is about 60-70 pounds and about three years old.
Cardinal was born and raised in Grouard. He trapped with his father before trapping himself. Today, he traps virtually every animal on his line northeast of Grouard and southeast of his home, a total of about 40-50 square miles.