A coyote often assesses a dog’s lack of threat by watching from a distance over time. It may eventually come closer to sniff and assess things a little more closely. Individual personality of the coyote counts a lot in any kind of interaction. So, for instance, I’ve seen young coyotes approach and even try to play with dogs — dogs who display total lack of interest in coyotes so they are seen as not being threatening. However, I have seen another coyote, a dominant female mother, approach some dogs — again, after having watched them from a distance over time — always with a snarly warning which means “keep away.” This last coyote is especially prone to this behavior when her yearling pups are around. This coyote seems to want to notify dogs/owners of its presence: the behavior does not occur often, but it does occur on a continual basis. Might this behavior also involve a lesson for the younger coyotes who are present? The younger coyotes are a little over a year old and are still learning.
Today I was watching a family of coyotes “forage” in a hidden area adjacent to a dog-walking path. A dog came towards the area where the coyotes were in a way that the dominant coyote must not have liked. This dominant coyote decided to follow the dog. I ran down to watch. I could see that the coyote kept well hidden behind bushes so as not to be seen initially, only coming out of hiding when the dog and walker had moved way ahead. At several hundred feet away I could see that the woman looked back and saw the coyote — this is when she leashed her dog. The coyote, knowing that it had been seen, turned around and went back to its hidden foraging area where the rest of its family was. I got the impression that the coyote didn’t want to make a huge blatant announcement of its presence, but it wanted it to be known that it was around. Again, this “excursion” may have been made as a teaching device for the younger coyotes who were present.
A little later on the coyotes were still together, foraging next to a small path when a runner appeared down the path. These coyotes could easily have stayed still, which I have seen them do before. But no. This time two of the coyotes bounded across the path 100 feet in front of the runner and stopped about 35 feet off the path: here they sat with their backs towards the runner! The runner stopped and watched. Then the alpha coyote followed the example of the first two — this one keeping an eye on the runner. The runner and I were amazed that the coyotes had “notified” him of their presence. He told me he would not have seen them if they had not leaped across the path — they are very well camouflaged. We wondered why the coyotes had announced themselves to him in this way, and it was the younger coyotes who did so first.
The coyotes then headed to yet another secluded part of the park, single file, three of them. They seemed to be “heading in” for the day. But then a walker with a small leashed dog appeared. The dog and walker were both quiet and mild. The coyotes could easily have avoided detection by continuing on their trajectory. But no. They came out into the open. One of the two younger coyotes curiously approached the dog a little but then headed off. The dominant female had been further along on the path, and she may not have liked seeing the younger coyote walk a little ways closer to the dog. She came very close, 25 feet, and did her “mouth agape, teeth barred, hunched-over, scratch-the-ground, snarly display”. I suggested to the walker that she vex with loud noises and walk on, which she did. The coyote watched them depart and then followed, but only for a few paces to make sure these walkers were “going”. This alpha coyote had wanted it to be known that she was there, but had she also “performed” this display as a teaching device for the younger coyotes?
Lastly, these three coyotes all headed up a hill and looked around and then disappeared for the day. Of interest for me was that the day before these three coyotes hung out on this same hill when a large group of dog walkers with their unleashed dogs descended on the area. At least four dogs, all at once, rushed at the coyotes who at the time were sitting quietly on the hill. The younger coyotes, ran away and then out of sight, whereas the dominant one scratched the ground antagonistically. These coyotes could easily have “removed” themselves from this area where they would be seen, knowing full well that this groups of walkers always comes by at about this time. But the coyotes seemed to have wanted to be seen. When the group of walkers first appeared in the distance, the dominant coyote actually did her “stretch and yawn” — a sign that “all is well, but I guess I’ll leave now”. But she left her departure until it was too late. She was seen by the dogs and then pursued. I think she decided to leave too late on purpose so that she would be seen: she wanted to notify the group of her presence.