No Puppies?

It is pupping season, females are having their pups. It has been noticed that the amount of resources and territory size seem to affect litter size. In an urban park with limited resources, the litters that I am aware of from previous years were small in size: one or two pups is what I have seen.

But why would a female coyote not have pups at all this year? My husband suggested that she might not have found the right guy! This is a likely possibility since we have not seen a male around in her area. However, males have made their rounds in the past, why not now? Another possibility for no pups is that any puppies didn’t survive for long. Apparently there is only a 5-20% survival rate for coyote puppies. Although there will be no way to tell for sure, there are various indications that there might have been puppies that did not survive the week after birth to a female who has had pups for the last two seasons. I’m putting this in here only as a possibility — the thought occurred to me.

Around mid-April there was definitely a change in behavior patterns for this coyote. This coyote had remained exceedingly calm during the previous few months, only to become “edgy” and “touchy” for a few weeks in mid-April, especially in her reacting more immediately to dog interferences from a longer distance away, but also in her need to “move on” and not loiter. A “purposefulness” seems to have returned to her which she has not had for the last few months. Then I became aware of a time stretch when this coyote did not come out into the open. Of course, maybe I just missed her, but because of other indicators, I am thinking of another possibility.

During this period of absence, on the night of April 21st, at 11:00 pm, there was a family howling session. The family howling could very well have been a “farewell” to pups who did not survive. We have not heard the “group” howling in a while. Please see my posting on “A Coyote Story”. Few people realize the extent of mourning that goes on in the animal kingdom, that animals have intense feelings. The one first-hand observation which I have of an animal mourning is that of a Mourning Dove. This dove decided to nest in a window box of ours, so I was able to see the progression. I saw when the first egg was put down on April 28th and then I saw the mother sit on it all the time. Then I noticed fluff underneath her, and then, wow, I saw that there were actually TWO chicks in there! Then, on May 20th, tragedy struck. No longer was she in the nest. We rushed down to the porch below to find remnant feathers. We didn’t connect the dots until this happened: for the previous two days there had been two ravens hanging around the area. We all mourned this loss. However, it was the mother’s behavior that was so heart wrenching. The next morning she returned to the roof edge of the house next door, looking into her nest, and morned loudly all morning. She just stayed in that one location cooing her sorrow. We awoke the next morning to find ONE new egg in the nest — she abandoned it. Was there a message in leaving this lone egg?

Then, AFTER this coyote group howling session, yet still during the period when I noticed this coyote’s “absence” I spotted a young member of her “family” carrying food off to the den area: might this have been to feed a mother — an instinctual need to help out which kicked in because this young coyote had not totally understood death? This was on April 23rd. Family members often bring food to a new mom so that she can remain in a den to feed her new pups and keep them warm. Of course, she has to emerge for water, but helping with the food allows her to stay for longer periods of time with any newborn puppies.

This female can now be seen at times ranging with her full-grown pups from last year — it now is an adult pack of coyotes, with the dominant mom who is looked up to. There is no sign of denning or pups in this particular group. Her previous regular patterns of behavior have changed: she seems more vigilant, more purposeful and more on the move.

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