PCH Male, by Charles Wood

In north Orange County near Pacific Coast Highway I’ve found a male that’s active when I visit with my leashed dog.  In contrast, my river coyotes elude me.

Today near PCH a Northern Harrier was hunting a ridge and I was working on photographing it.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a coyote descend the ridge into a cleared basin area below.  It is the third time I have seen him there.  The basin sits below a fenced walkway that provides an excellent view of a large field that ends at PCH and the beach.  The area close to the walkway contains the ridge, the basin clearing and brushy cover, cover the coyote quickly entered, knowing he had been seen.

I moved closer to the area he entered, being sure to stay away from brush.  I stood hoping to see him while my dog, close to me, lied down to groom.  In a while the coyote chose to leave the area in full view fewer than fifty feet distant.  There were many invisible points of exit he could have chosen and many visible exit points farther from me.

At first glance the photograph of him leaving may give the impression of a coyote simply walking by with a dog-like smile, unconcerned, headed to places unknown.  A closer look shows that although he isn’t bothering to look at us, his ear is telling him all he needs to know about my dog and me.  The picture with his tongue protruding also is a clue about his state of mind, as is the fact that he opted to pass close by.  My read of him is of a coyote engaged in a low intensity territorial confrontation.  Over a year ago, my river coyotes began their objections to my presence with the same behaviors, including the concluding tongue protrusion.  As I continued to encroach on my river coyotes’ space their confrontational behaviors incrementally increased in intensity.  Yet their objections began with behaviors much as displayed by the beach guy today.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos:Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peter
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:07:09

    Very interesting.

    Reply

  2. yipps
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 08:30:37

    I was not there, so I have less information to go on. But based on my own observations of this same behavior, this coyote might just as easily have been saying: “I mean no harm, I’m just going to walk on,” or “You have no need to challenge me since I’m not going to challenge you.” In other words, more solicitous than challenging. Of course, adding the thought and words “. . this time” would indeed make it into a low grade challenge, along with the fact that the coyote chose to pass close by. So, the entire context has to be considered when looking at coyotes’ communication.

    Reply

  3. Charles Wood
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 08:30:38

    Thank you for the comment. Even having been there, it is difficult to decide what that particular coyote was communicating to me. His behavior was to enter the area, to stay in the area hidden, and then to leave the area unhidden and closer to me than he was when he entered. I’m not sure why he entered the area when I had been there first. The first two times we saw each other, he withdrew. I have seen him once since, I was not in the same area, but close to it and leaving. He was on his way to that area and upon seeing me, hid. When I return to that beach place, I won’t enter that particular area. I’ll try and spot him from farther away, on higher ground, with a fence between us.

    Reply

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