Using a time-honored trick of domestic dogs, Limpy — a coyote that lives in Yellowstone National Park — greatly exaggerates an injury to his right hind leg in attempts to sucker tourists into giving him snacks.
“He’s very predictable. He walks down the middle of the road in Lamar, looking at every car and looking sad,” wildlife photographer Isabella Smedley told Cowboy State Daily. “His limp is much more pronounced when he’s along the road.”
Domestic dogs will sometimes exaggerate injuries to get sympathy and treats, and Smedley and other observers suspect Limpy’s been playing the same game.
Smedley lives in Washington state and frequently visits Yellowstone to observe and photograph wildlife. She’s been watching Limpy’s antics for a few years now, and last saw him during a visit to the park earlier this month.
This crafty coyote is well-known, and has a few names, she said. In addition to Limpy, he’s also frequently called Tripod by those who know about him.
And some folks call him Chester, after the character with a limp on the classic Western television show “Gunsmoke.”
Feeding wildlife is strictly forbidden in Yellowstone. So, Smedley said she refuses to cave in to Limpy’s “poor me” routine, as do other regular visitors who know the rules and realize what that wily coyote is up to.
“There’s been times he’s come right near me trying to beg, and I’ll be like, ‘Dude, just no,’” she said.
But that doesn’t stop Limpy from trying his luck with less savvy visitors.
“When you see him, he looks healthy like he’s been eating well,” Smedley said.
Aside from any ill-gotten snacks, Limpy seems adept at getting regular coyote food, such as small prey or carrion, she said.
Origin Of Injury Uncertain
Limpy’s leg injury is genuine, although apparently less severe when he’s not doing his roadside pity party show, Smedley said.
“When he’s along the road, sometimes he’ll lift his injured leg into the air. But other times, I’ve seen him putting some weight on it,” she said.
It’s not known for certain when and how his leg got hurt. The most plausible story is that a visitor fed their dog by the side of the road, but then irresponsibly left behind some kibble that the dog didn’t eat.
As it’s told, Limpy was so intent on gobbling the leftover kibble, he didn’t notice an oncoming vehicle and was struck and hurt, Smedley said.
Limpy, You’re Not Fooling Anybody
She added that she’s seen just how spry Limpy can be when the situation calls for it.
She recently got video of him running at quite an impressive pace when he was being chased by another coyote.
The other coyote was feasting on a carcass and Limpy started moving in, apparently hoping to share in the spoils, she said.
But the other coyote wasn’t having any of it.
“The other coyote charged at him, and Limpy ran away — very quickly,” Smedley said.
She said that shortly thereafter, Limpy also swam across a river to fully escape the other coyote’s wrath, thereby offering further proof that he’s far more fit than he sometimes pretends to be.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.