Brief coyote encounter

I saw my first coyote, up close and personal, ten feet away while walking my favorite trail the other day.  The rural outdoors is after all not a Disneyland set and belongs to the wilderness creatures who live there.

Still, I'm a big city transplant and it caught me by surprise.  In nanoseconds my lizard brain sprang into action assessing the potential danger and I tried to predict whether I would handle any encounter heroically or with panic.

While my cerebral cortex was trying to logically and reasonably predict my actions, my primitive instincts kicked in.  My focus narrowed, my heartbeat picked up and I quickly scanned the terrain for cues.  I saw a ground squirrel perched on a high limb of a nearby tree signally loudly. But being neither a rodent or a cat, coyotes' preferred prey, I appeared to not be in imminent danger. 

Some background information: A coyote is a bit larger than a dog, but is still a dog. At about 20 pounds they are like medium size collies who are more likely to be afraid of you than vice versa. Unlike the wolf, the coyote's range has expanded in the wake of human civilization. It's not unusual for coyotes to reproduce in metropolitan areas but it is unusual to see one on a hiking trail frequented by humans.

Along the trail I saw a few other hikers who had assumed that they were looking at a dog.  Our perceptions color what we see.  A few were so engaged in conversation or engrossed in their music players that they missed the event entirely.  Too bad, for as briefly as it took place it was still quite an adventure! In the end the coyote veered off the path and back into the deep brush.

How do you handle unexpected and maybe unsettling events while you are traveling? What might you have thought or done in my situation?