On Saturday, it was 48 degrees, so I took off cross country up a stream to an old game trail through a hardwood slope to avoid the crowds. Trees felled by 14 inches of heavy wet snow in early November had obscured some of the trail, although damp leaves tamped down by passing feet made the detours easy to follow. A large coyote that had obviously been dining on gray squirrel had territorially marked a hummock in the middle of the trail with scat full of gray fur and bones. Another coyote had come along - or perhaps it was the same one reinforcing its territorial claim on a more recent trip - and left a new pile of fresh dark scat.

Through the years, I've noticed many animals have daily routines as regular as coffee breaks and dinner dates. In summer, the skunk lurks along the same path near the summer camp kitchen nearly the same time every night. A beaver routinely swims around the island in the lake at sunset during August. The mice come inside for their nightly romp around the camp rafters at two in the morning in early September, waking me.

Coyotes are relative newcomers to the Maine landscape, having been here only since the 1930s, taking the ecological niche once held by wolves until they were driven out. Wolves and mountain lions, caribou and whippoorwills. It was wilder country, once, this northern state that is still a big unusual forest so near the big eastern cities, even if it is a bit carved up, with fewer large mammals, too many turkeys and questionable heavy-handed wildlife management in favor of deer.

Would wolves be welcomed in this landscape, now that we think of them as a rare symbol of wild places? I doubt it. They're big and they bite. It might shake out the number of holiday hikers, though, even though the greater threat is not a large carnivore, but more likely a tiny tick that passes on a debilitating disease after feeding on deer.

Christine Parrish was the first woman hired for the maintenance crew at Camden Hills State Park in the late 1970s.