Adolescence, by Charles Wood

Bold on Saturday

My Los Angeles coyotes are certainly more available to me than they were over the winter.  Yet I am only seeing Mister and Bold moving around.

A couple days ago at twilight Mister quickly trotted down their road, stopped in the brush to wait and then a few minutes later returned to where he had come.  I believe he wanted coyote companionship because his gait was unusually brisk and because in the past I have repeatedly observed family members rendezvousing around dusk at the area he briefly visited.  Twice this week I saw Bold travel from their nesting grounds to a marshy area a little north east of it.  She seemed driven by an idea of where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do.  On Saturday she found a spot suitable to urinate on and had her legs set in order to precisely aim while she stared at me.  Her ears are deliberately positioned to sense any approach from her left or her right.  She seems as a self-possessed young female who knows what she wants out of life and how to get it.  Mister seems as a coyote who for now takes his anxieties a little too seriously, too quick to bark at me, too impatient for others to be there when he wants them to be.  (Mom in contrast waits for others very patiently.)  Shy for now seems to enjoy everything in too full a measure.  Perhaps her wariness balances her and keeps her from getting into situations she isn’t yet ready to greet.

Bold on Thursday

I haven’t seen Mom or Dad for over a week.  I speculatively attribute their absence to their being preoccupied with new puppies.  I have been wondering how helpful the yearlings are with day care.  It is starting to look like they aren’t all that helpful because what I have been seeing is them either playing or walking around absorbed in themselves.  Still, the mere fact of their presence at Mom & Dad’s surely must make their home a more secure place for them all.

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.

“In Shifts”, by Charlotte Hildebrand

I don’t know why I’m afraid to talk to my neighbor Thea about the commotion next door; perhaps because I talked to her last year about feeding the feral cats and skunks and raccoons and nothing came of it. My fear comes, too, from the fact that an old woman can be sharp edged as a knife, dangerous as a steel trap and unyielding to the point of chicanery.

Don’t get me wrong; my neighbor is a wonderful woman, but the busy schedule of the comings and goings of various animals has gotten out of hand. Something has to be done:

7 a.m.: Breakfast, Coyote, table set for one
7:30-8 a.m.: breakfast, seven skunks
noon-3: brunch, six rowdy crows
5 p.m.: supper again for the coyote, although in this part of the country I think you call it dinner.
5:30 p.m.-until dark: skunks in shifts, the occasional possum and raccoon

Note to self: The point of my argument (to make her stop setting out food) must be in the interest of the wildlife she’s feeding.

Who will get to the bowl first?

I’ll start out by saying, “Thea, you’re not helping the animals; you’re making them dependent on the food you give them. What will happen when you’re not here?”

Why would I not be here? she’ll ask.

Pause. Am I to say, at your age you’re headed for the big ballpark in the sky; anything could happen? But I can’t say that; it would be too cruel.

Well, what if you get sick, I’ll say. What will the animals do? The coyote might become aggressive and attack some unsuspecting child or small pet; maybe jump over the fence and bite me for interfering with its supper.

She’ll shake her head like last time and say she doesn’t agree with my assessment.

I’ll say, Okay, you win; let the skunks fill up the afternoon air with stink, let the coyote become a stalker, let the crows caw to their hearts content. I give up, I give up.

But it didn’t go like that. When I called her at noon to talk about the problem, she was all good graces; she said she had wondered herself if she was doing the right thing. As a child during the war, she lived on the edge of a forest, and it was only natural to feed the animals during winter. I gently reminded her, that here in sunny CA, an abundant harvest is always available; there’s enough little voles and moles to fill up Dodger Stadium. So, she agreed to stop. If she couldn’t feed one, she wouldn’t feed any. She promised, no more food.

But I feel a little guilty that she won’t have the animals to feed. She’s lonely up here on this hill since her husband died five years ago; her daughter lives in Pennsylvania and comes out only a few times a year. It must give her pleasure to take care of so many small creatures. I wonder if I’ve done more harm than good.

P.S. Woke up this morning and noticed three bowls in her yard, and a possum lurking about. What the…??

This posting follows from Charlotte’s posting on June 8: HOWL. For more of her writing, please visit her website: http://charlottehildebrand.blogspot.com/

Harassment

I was first alerted that a coyote might be around by the shreaking caws of ravens close by — this was my first clue that a coyote was out and about, even though I had not seen one. It is interesting that both raven and human voices have alerted me to the presence of a coyote way before I actually saw it. In the case of humans, I have come to recognize the urgent and insistent yelling from all the way across a park  — it has always been someone unaccustomed to coyotes, with an unleashed dog, who was shooing off a coyote that had wandered in too close.

Upon hearing the caws, I looked around and sure enough, there was a lone coyote coming up a path. Aside from looking up at the ravens, the coyote pretty much ignored them. The coyote climbed up to a little knoll where it sat down — probably to enjoy a peaceful morning. Instead, the ravens who were perched in a nearby tree, began circling around and cawing insistently at the little coyote. They never got too close to the coyote, but they sure let their presence be known and their discontentment with the coyote being there. The coyote limited its activity to glancing up at them now and then.

I wondered in what way coyotes were a threat to ravens — why ravens needed to harass a coyote like this — why they felt a need to warn the coyote off.  I’ve seen Blue Jays also harass a coyote. Ravens are raptors which eat the same little voles that coyotes eat — there is competition for resources here.  As for the threat of  coyotes to Blue Jays? I’ve seen them both eat peanuts!! I’ve also seen little tiny Black-eyed Juncos harass a coyote — they just didn’t want the coyote around — the coyote was lying under their tree.  And I have seen squirrels tease, and angrily chatter and scold a coyote who lingered too long under a tree where they lived.

The Ravens tired of this activity before the coyote did — they left — and the coyote spent a little bit of peaceful time on that foggy morning atop that knoll in a park!

BUCK

We just returned from seeing the movie BUCK, a documentary about a horse trainer, Buck Brannaman. Yes, I, too, have loved horses throughout my life — and that is why I was drawn to this film, but the movie’s message can be read to include much more than just horses. It shows the sensitivity, understanding and respect that we can encompass in our dealings with all animals. There are a few individuals out there who truly understand animals and who can relate to them absolutely. With horses, that person is Buck Brannaman — he is a “horse-whisperer”.

He emerged from a violent upbringing with the ability to help people understand where a horse is coming from — and also where they themselves are coming from. He teaches that you can gain a horse’s trust with a soft lead which makes it sensitive and responsive, whereas rough handling only causes it to shut down out of fear. Under his guidance, bucking horses are transformed into trusting creatures that follow their riders’ leads at the slightest pull of the rope — or sometimes even a gesture.

He teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not abusive punishment or put-downs. He says, “I started to realize that things would come much easier for me once I learned why a horse does what he does.” The key is understanding “why” any animal does what it does. Buck learned from Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, the developers of “natural horsemanship,” which advocates mutual respect between rider and horse. His approach is as much about people as about horses. “A lot of times, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”  “It is about a communion between man and animal that runs deeper than any division”.

Buck dramatically transforms both horses and people – always with his understanding, compassion and respect. By the end of this film, the animal-human relationship becomes a euphemism for facing challenges to life and for facing yourself. “Your horse is a mirror to your soul, and sometimes you may not like what you see. Sometimes, you will.” When you can start seeing yourself through animals, you can start really relating to them, and therefore really understanding them. I feel that I’ve bridged this gap with some of the coyotes I’ve observed.

Shy Wants To Play, by Charles Wood

On Friday at dusk, Mister stood by himself staring at my dog and me as we watched him from the river bank.  He then stretched and proceeded to defecate on his road.  Done with that, he resumed glaring.  Then Shy ran up to him.  Mister had tasked himself with inviting us to leave, but Shy wanted to play.  Mister kept glaring at us despite Shy trying to distract him.  Then Mister gave Shy an “enough!” and she left him to his job.  As I was leaving, Mister came half way closer and began to bark and yip.  We stopped and he went back to the road and laid down.  Then we left.

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.

Los Angeles Area Pack, by Charles Wood

Bold

Wednesday I saw Bold as I was standing on the river bank.  She sat on the road in the field and after a few minutes began an approach.  I left for home.  Undoubtedly there are three siblings from last year with Mom and Dad this pupping season, two females (Bold and Shy) and Mister.

It is clear from the picture today that Bold is female.  She is also identifiable in that she lacks Mister’s black tipped lower lip, a trait Mister evidently got from Dad.  Sister Shy also lacks a black tipped lower lip, is slightly smaller than her siblings, and her eyes are friendlier.  Mister seems a little smaller and rangier than Bold.

Shy

Bold and Mister actively warn me while Shy has only warned me when accompanied by Dad.  Shy is less purposed around me, leaves more quickly, usually has her mouth open and/or tongue out, and has a happy-dog personality.

Mister

A year ago I would have described Mom as, though not exactly friendly, at least somewhat indifferent compared to active Dad.  Yet soon enough Mom began to warn me on sight as does Dad.  Bold’s fuse is longer than Dad’s and Mister’s while Mom stares a little longer before going to work on me.  Shy doesn’t work without encouragement and Bold is firm in her stare and willing to escalate if I linger.

Dad

It isn’t possible for me to observe my five coyotes without raising their concerns to some degree or another.  I’ve only seen the siblings hunt when they were very young.  The only one I saw eating was a pup chewing on a dead bird.  They don’t play with sticks or pine cones when I am around.  It is typical for me to spot a coyote only after one or more has spotted me.  Other than from Shy, the looks I get are of coyotes enduring my dog Holtz and me yet again, enduring the task I represent to them, the task of inviting me to leave.  Shy won’t hold my gaze for long, the others will stare at length.

Mom

Our encounters are engaging though not entirely entertaining.  Still, in the two years I have been observing Mom and Dad I’ve learned a few things.  Coyotes maintain a more or less permanent home; year old coyote offspring, both male and female, can stay with their parents despite new puppies; father coyotes do child care; and coyotes hide themselves and their puppies well, to name the most significant.  I’m not sure how I will manage to see young puppies this year when there are five observant adult coyotes united in their will to not allow it.

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.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

“Garbage in, garbage out” — well, sort of. Coyotes don’t seem to digest everything thoroughly, so you can actually tell some of the things they’ve eaten — very similar to owl pellets. Teeth, claws, fur, seeds, bone pieces and even plastic bags give away what the coyote has been ingesting. In this case here, it’s grass that went in one end and came out the other totally unchanged except in its scat shape! Coyotes, like dogs, often eat grass and regurgitate it as an intestinal cleanser when they have an upset tummy. Here, and I’ve seen other instances of this, the grass passed all the way through the digestive tract intact.

More Scatology. I passed this combination early in the morning: A stick across a path — large enough to be perceived as a low barrier that someone such as a coyote would have to step over. Right in front of it was . . . . a coyote’s scat deposit. Scat is often found on paths and at “crossroads”. It is often “performed” in plain view of a person approaching. Here, it is deposited by a new, and therefore unexpected, barrier that turned up on a coyote’s regular route. The stick could have been left by a dog who left his odors on the stick. Coyotes often poop — i.e. “mark” — on top of what “others” have left something behind, be it urine, poop or something else unusual such as a toy. There seems to be significance in pooping, but I haven’t totally caught onto what this is yet, except that it serves as a “marker” and possibly a message of “oneupmanship”.

The one other explanation for the scat next to the stick is that a coyote might have been actually carrying the stick himself — as a toy — and when he was through with it, he dropped it and then pooped on it, or close to it, as an indication of ownership. “Scatological studies”, by the way, allow one to determine a wide range of biological information about a creature. Here, it seems the scat also conveys some information about behavior.

Another combination I’ve seen frequently is scat deposited in a depression — sometimes a very small depression, so the aim is pretty good. Again, I’ve wondered about the significance — about the “why” of this.

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