Call of the Coyote:

A Bigelow Trail Canning Adventure

2 hr 1.5 km Easy

Trail Info:

The Bigelow Trail wanders along a wooded area that is located between Glooscap Elementary School and the Northeast Kings Educational Centre in Canning. It is a relatively flat and wide dirt path that is used by dog walkers, students, and local community members. It is possible for wheelchairs, but not in wet times of the year.


Bigelow Trail Canning Trailhead
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Go to Glooscap Elementary School at 1017 J. Jordan Road in Canning. Park in the northwest corner of the main school parking lot, which is to the right (north) of the school building. There is no public transport to the trail.

Trail Tools

Bring a daypack with water, snacks, sunscreen and a first aid kit. Prepare and gather the following tools for each person before heading out on the trail.

  • Blindfold (bandanna or scarf) (stop 2)
  • Coyote scope or magnifying lens (stop 4 & 8)
  • Adventure Journal (stop 6)
  • Scent catching potion: (water in a small plastic bottle) (stop 9)
  • Small piece of sponge or water dropper to drip potion on nose (stop 9)

Join the Pack

Walk from the parking lot across the field past a concrete shed with a red roof. After the shed, follow the line between the field and the woods on the right for about 50 m and enter the woods on a wide trail. Go about 15 m in the trail and circle up at a trail junction.

The coyotes of Canning need your help! The seven pups were playing in the woods near here and one of them got lost. Can you find the lost pup? The parents have to care for the others and can’t take time to search. Will you help them?

First, you need some coyote skills to know where to look and how to search. The best way to learn is to turn into coyotes. Here’s how:
• Crouch down on your back legs in a circle facing in. Curl your arms in front of your chest to become the coyote’s front paws.
• Close your eyes and repeat these words together, followed by a big coyote howl:

With coyote legs I want to prowl.

With coyote eyes I’ll see.

With a coyote voice I’ll give a howl.

A clever coyote I’ll be.

Ow… Ow… Owwwwwwwww!

•  Open your eyes, jump up, and hop around making yip, yip yip sounds. Every time you see someone hop, jump even higher while yipping!

You’re now coyote pups! Remember to howl and yip. This might help the lost pup find you.

How Did Coyotes Get Here?

Coyotes are not native to Nova Scotia and were not regularly sighted here until the 1970s, though there may have been a few earlier on. They slowly started to expand their range eastward from the west in the late 1800s as a result of land clearing and development. The first coyotes in the Maritimes travelled from Ontario, Quebec, and New England. They found suitable habitat with few carnivores here to compete with as the result of people killing the wolves.

1. Mystery Runners

Read the instructions below at the trail junction, and then move as coyotes on the left trail that parallels the field past a large pine tree with its top broken off. Go about 75 m in the coyote line and stop just before a trail junction with a trail coming in from the left.

Let’s move as a pack. When coyotes travel, they are very clever, tricky and secretive. Even when there are lots of people around, it’s hard to see them.

  1. Stand in a line with your pack.
  2. The first coyote starts to quietly trot along the edge of the trail and the others follow closely behind.
  3. If the lead coyote sees a human or any danger, they yip, and all the coyotes hide behind a tree until the danger passes.
  4. When the coast is clear, the lead coyote yips and the pack starts trotting again.
  5. Rotate leaders as you go.


There is a myth that coyotes are bad because they prey on farm animals and pets. In fact, they typically are scared of and avoid humans, and do not bother domestic animals, if they have sufficient wild food and habitat. Coyotes are adaptive omnivores, which means that they will eat the available food around them such as chipmunks, squirrels, mice, rabbits, fruit, insects, fish, garbage, and eggs. As a larger meat-eater, they are critical to maintaining a balanced and diverse food web in nature. They control abundant populations of small animals such as rabbits, mice and squirrels. Large, wildcats, which are few, are their only equals in Nova Scotia. For a healthy ecosystem, you need lots of different creatures in each role. This is called:

Learn about the Earthworks

2. Snatch Your Supper

Trot 75 m from the previous trail junction and stop on the trail just before a new trail enters from your left.

One thing coyotes love to eat is baby chipmunks. It’s time to practice hunting! The quietest coyote catches the prey! If the chipmunk hears you, you’ll be hungry.

  1. Have one person sit on the ground with a blindfold on or eyes closed. They are the “mother chipmunk.”
  2. Put 3 short sticks on the ground between their legs, which are the baby chipmunks.
  3. Everyone else are coyotes who are stalking the baby chipmunks. 
  4. The mother chipmunk gives a chitta chitta call when ready, and the coyotes start stalking from at least 5 metres away in any direction.
  5. If the mother chipmunk hears a coyote and points directly at it, the coyote must return to 5 metres away and start again. If a coyote snatches a baby chipmunk before it is pointed out, the coyote wins and gives a big howl.
  6. The mother chipmunk can wave her arms and hands to try to touch a coyote as they are trying to grab a baby.
  7. Rotate the roles after each round.

To move on, continue trotting in a line to the next stop with a leader as you did before.

Coyote Habits

Coyotes sleep from a few minutes to 12 hours per day! They will only sleep for a long time when they are safe in their den. Because of their incredible hearing, they will wake up frequently from little naps. They are most active when their prey is active, often near sunrise and sunset. You often hear them howling at night, and they move about and hunt in the dark to avoid humans.

3. Build a Den

Bend right in 5 m at the 1st trail junction and then take a left at a 2nd junction in another 5 m. Continue on this trail about 50 m to a large, old tree with many trunks on your right.

The lost pup may have dug a den to stay safe from people and predators. If you learn to build one, you will know what to look for.

Working together, find the best hidden place for a den in this area.

• Look for a low spot or existing hole. Or find a protected spot behind rocks, bushes or a tree, and try digging a bit of a hole there (it is hard work so you may not get very deep) 

• Place dead sticks or leaves around your entrance to hide the spot

When you are done, lie down inside and listen to nature.

Trot to the next stop as a pack with a new leader.

Coyote Families

Coyotes mate in the winter and give birth in an underground hole about two months later in the spring. Most dens are on hillsides with good drainage, and where parents can look out for danger. They have between four and seven pups who are born blind and helpless. Yet they are out playing within three weeks and weaned in about seven weeks. They stay with their parents for six to nine months until they are fully grown—unless they get lost!

4. Search for Clues

Move 60 m further along the trail to a dirt hill on your left with holes dug in it.

Look at the hill, who has dug these holes? Could it be the lost pup? Why would a pup dig holes?

Use your coyote skills and get down on all fours to search around the hill for clues using your scope or magnifying lens. Can you find… fur, paw marks, animal holes, insects, etc. Who do you think did the digging? Why?

Why Do Coyotes Dig Holes?

Look at the hill, who has dug these holes? Could it be the lost pup? Why would a pup dig holes? 

Coyotes are good diggers and use their sharp claws. They will dig holes, often on hillsides where it is dry for dens. They also will dig to find food such as mice, moles and other small animals. They also can use holes to hide and store food, to hide from other creatures or to mark their territories. These holes here could well have been dug by coyotes.

5. Coyotes Races

Continue down the trail about 110 m and stop where the trail runs into the border of a field. Stop here for the race instructions.

Coyotes are excellent runners. They can run 65 km/h, which is as fast as a car! Rabbits are also very fast and can run 45 km/h, so coyotes need to be in top shape to catch one. How fast can you run as a coyote?

  1. The starting line is where the trail meets the edge of the field. The coyotes are to sprint 100 m on the trail along the edge of the field to a cluster of tall spruce trees, on the left of the trail ahead. This is the finish line. The trail re-enters the woods here.
  2. Each coyote can set a time goal.
  3. One adult is the timer and walks up to the finish line. 
  4. When everyone is ready, the timer shouts “go,” and the coyotes run the whole distance to the spruce trees and their time is clocked.

It’s time for a drink at the finish line. 

6. Meet the Trees

From the spruce tree finish line, re-enter the woods and go about 25 m to a trail junction with a bridge to the left. Stop here.

Coyotes need to know their surroundings, including the trees. Count how many different trees you can find right around this spot by checking out differences in their bark and leaves. Look for as many different leaves as you can on the ground. Look closely to see what makes each of them special.

Take out your adventure journal and pencil, sit by a tree, and trace three different types of leaves in your journal. Colour them in. What makes each one special?

What types of leaves do you think they might be?

7. Coyote Sound Walk

Move 80 m down the trail to a spot with some large fallen tree trunks on the right.

How agile are theses coyotes. Try walking along the tree trunks without falling off.

Coyotes have incredible hearing! This helps them find their prey and to stay away from humans and predators. Practice your listening skills so you can hear the lost pup.

  1. Form a small circle standing up with everyone facing out.
  2. Put your hands behind your ears and press them forward to improve how they catch sounds.
  3. Close your eyes and takes 2 big breaths in and out.
  4. Pay attention to all of the sounds, both near and far.
  5. After a short time, open your eyes and one coyote repeats a sound they heard out loud.
  6. The pack then moves 10 m toward that sound and repeats the listening process. 
  7. Continue to listen and move as a group until at least everyone has shared.

Move up the trail as a coyote pack as quietly as possible and listen for the sounds around you. Share the sounds each coyote heard when you arrive at the next stop.


Coyotes came to Nova Scotia recently, hence they are not a traditional part of Mi’kmaw culture. On the other hand, the wolf is an important animal. Mi’kmaq have seven sacred teachings, each associated with an animal, and the wolf is symbolic of the important quality of humility.”35 “Central to the wolf is the family pack. To ensure survival, the pack must be as one… In the wolf pack, each member understands his individual role and in our individual lives humility becomes the factor, which allows us to ask for guidance humbly.”35

In many Indigenous cultures to the west where coyotes are native, the coyote is frequently present in stories as the trickster. Coyotes are always trying to get ahead in the world by being clever and outsmarting others, but often their tricks end up backfiring. In Mi’kmaw culture, the rabbit and the otter are light-hearted trickster animals.

Learn about Netukulimk

8. Track the Pup

Continue along the trail for 150 m until the trail turns down to the left and crosses over a bridge. On each side is a little stream with muddy banks.

It’s time to see if there are any other coyotes or animals around! Maybe you can find a track for the missing pup? The sides of this little creek are full of mud, which is perfect for finding tracks! As animals stop for a drink, they leave behind their prints.

Jump down by the stream and carefully examine the mud banks (use your magnifying glass or scope) How many tracks can you see? Can you guess which animals made them? 36

Watch out for the pricker bushes around the stream area. They can really hurt.

Ouch, It’s a Multiflora Rose!

The prickers along the stream and throughout this trail are multiflora rose, which is from Asia and was introduced to North America in the 1800s. This is an extremely invasive plant that is very common in old fields across the Annapolis Valley where it can grow up to three or four metres high. It was used in earlier times to fence animals. It grows well in the sun but can also spread into the shade, which it has done on this trail. It produces beautiful white flowers in June followed by red berries later in the summer. It typically grows in thickets as it can spread by its roots. It has no predators and birds also eat the berries and spread the seeds.

9. Slinking through the Woods

From the far end of the bridge, go 15 m up a small hill to your left and stop at the 1st large tree on the left.

Coyotes are clever animals. They can slip around trees and hedges very easily. They don’t like to stay on the trails. Practice running through the trees here, zigging and zagging off the trail. Stop every few trees to look around for danger, then continue with another zig zag. To start, step off the trail on the right side.

Zig zag for about 100 m to the right of the trail until you rejoin the trail just before it goes up a small hill and into an open area. Run!

10. Scratch and Sniff

Stop at the end of the zig zag, just before the trail heads up the small hill.

Coyotes have a great sense of smell! Did you know that dogs, coyotes, and wolves have wet noses to help them smell better? Every scent is made up of tiny little scent particles. They get stuck to their wet noses and it helps them smell better!

Smells are hidden just below the surface of things. That’s why coyotes scratch at things with their front paws—to release the smells. Then their wet noses catch the smells. Here’s how to smell like a coyote:

• Get down on all fours just off the trail and give a few yips.
• Take out the bottle of scent-catching potion and drip a few drops on your coyote nose.
• Crawl around and finds interesting things to sniff—dirt, leaves, sticks, moss, tree trunks, needles, etc.
• Use the nails on your front paws to scratch the object, then get very close to it with your nose and take a big sniff. 
• Give a big howl when you get the smell.
• Try many different objects and explore the coyote world of smell.
• Finish by bringing the other coyotes in the group over to try your favourite smell.[i]

Move slowly to the next spot and search for interesting smells along the way. Does anything smell like the scent of the lost coyote pup?

Earth Steps

Coyotes need space to survive. Their territory is often between 10 and 40 square km depending on the amount of food. They become problems for humans when they do not have enough wild land. Overall, protected areas support biodiversity and all creatures. In Kings County, we have less than 5% of land protected as wild land, yet the provincial goal is 20%. The Blomidon Naturalist Society and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust are working to protect more land. Check out how you can help.

11. Coyote Workout

Head up the small hill into the open and go about 75 m to a work out gym.

What is this weird set of human-made contraptions here? It looks like a place for people to build their muscles. You’re clever coyotes. See if you can figure out how to use the various contraptions and become a stronger coyote.

12. Catch a Rabbit

From the workout gym, follow the trail into a short stretch of woods for about 25 m until it again re-enters a field area.

Often, rabbits and other small animals have to go from the safety of their homes across an open area to get to their feeding area. If you’re prey, and a predator like a coyote shows up, what are you going to do? Run like crazy! See how you can do as rabbits when chased by a hungry coyote.

  1. There’s a coyote in the middle of this field, and you are a rabbit and have to cross to the other side. 
  2. Mark the start and end lines of the open area with sticks or other natural markers.
  3. Behind the near line, you’re safe. Behind the far line, you’re safe. 
  4. Pick 1 person to be the coyote—they stand in the middle of the area. 
  5. Everyone else are rabbits and line up on one line. When the coyote howls, the rabbits run across the opening. 
  6. The coyote tries to tag the rabbits. If they get tagged, they become a coyote for the next round. 
  7. The last rabbit tagged becomes the new coyote.

If You Meet a Coyote…

Coyotes are typically scared of people and avoid them. Sightings are rare in this region. However, occasionally coyotes become used to people, especially if they have been fed around people. These coyotes can be dangerous. Take no chances, if a coyote comes near you:
• Be aggressive: Clap your hands, wave your arms toward the animal, shout in a deep voice.
• Stare it down and make yourself look big.
• Throw rocks, sticks, or other objects to scare it away.
• Do not turn away or run, it may think you are prey.
• If it continues to advance, back slowly away while still looking fierce and threatening it. 

13. Find the Lost Pup

From the place where you re-entered the open area and played rabbit tag, continue on the trail about 130 m until you come to a post with a receptacle for dog poop bags. Stop here.

You are likely tired coyotes by this point and you have gained lots of skills. Can you find any evidence of the coyote pup? It is getting late.

Look around this immediate area for the lost pup. If you can’t find it, see if you can find a picture of the pup. Where is it? Put the name of where you found it below and you will get the creature sticker for this trail for trail on-line. 


The plaque symbol is:



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To return to the parking lot, head to the left along the fence in front of you.

Coyotes are important animals in many Indigenous cultures to the west and there are numerous collections of coyote stories for kids. Thomas King, the noted Canadian author of Cherokee ancestry, has written two wonderful tales for kids, A Coyote Solstice Tale, and Coyote Tales. There is also a superb book of coyote tales retold by Joe Hayes, entitled, Coyote &, which can be ordered, and is also available in an audio format. They can bring lots of enjoyment to the kids.

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