A few hundred miles into their 1,000-mile journey along the Baja California Peninsula, National Geographic grantee and explorer, Justin DeShields, and his expedition partner, Bryan Morales, stopped for the night on the remote outskirts of town. Tired from their arduous travels, the pair opted to sleep under the stars and forgo setting up a tent.
It didn’t take long for them to regret that decision.
After sliding into his sleeping bag, DeShields felt a tugging at his feet. “I look down, and there’s a coyote with his teeth in my sleeping bag, tearing at it.”
The brazen coyote was preceded by his reputation, DeShields says. “We had been hiking down the peninsula for about 200 miles when we started hearing these stories of this white tail coyote that was more aggressive. People were saying that it had a—not a taste for humans—but it was seeking out humans somehow. After hearing [the stories] for about a week/two weeks, we started to believe them.”
DeShields lunged at the coyote to scare him off only for the animal to return moments later. The odd behavior had the explorers understandably concerned. “We didn’t know if there was a pack of coyotes and if they were rabid, or if this guy was rabid,” DeShields explains. Attempting to put some space between themselves and the bold animal, the team set up their tent.
The coyote was undeterred.
“We would wake up during the night and the coyote was standing above us, looking into our tiny little backpacker tent. His nose and teeth and everything was six to eight inches away. And he’s sitting there, standing above, just staring down,” DeShields recalls. “Even though a coyote is not a large creature, it’s still this wild animal. I was frightened.”
The explorers survived the night unscathed, only to have a another close encounter shortly thereafter, when they came face-to-blowhole with one of the largest animals in the world. Watch that encounter here.
Listen to Justin DeShields recount other remarkable moments from the journey in his National Geographic Radio interview below.