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.

Mister Reprimanded?, by Charles Wood

Dad and Mister

Sunday at twilight Dad spotted me as he was coming down his Los Angeles area road.  I was on the bridge to his north about 225 feet away.  He paused and then kept coming.  He stopped again to sniff.  In a moment, he resumed his trot and Mister came from the brush to join him.  Mister is new to me though he has been with his parents and sisters all along.  Dad made Mister get down as shown in the “Dad and Mister” photograph.  Soon they were up and both trotted across my bow, Mister coming first.  I had seen Dad first, Mister came out on the road and got in trouble, then Mister led them away, apparently doing as he had been told by Dad.

Was Mister truly in trouble?  I can’t know.  Until yesterday I didn’t know that Mister was there, had confused him with his sister Bold, and had thought he therefore was female.  There is room for getting simple facts like gender incorrect, so my story of Mister and Dad’s complex behavior has plenty of room for other interpretations.  For example, Mister may not have seen Holtz and me on the bridge and Dad may have been communicating my presence and a danger assessment to Mister.  Both continued on, Mister in front. As they went camera left, both glared at me, Dad with his neck and shoulder fur flared to make him look big.

The one thing I consider clear is that Dad is in charge of his son Mister, whether reprimanding Mister’s misstep or warning Mister of what they both have come to regard as a concern:  Holtz and me on the bridge.

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.

Dad’s Son, by Charles Wood

Saturday as I arrived at the bridge I saw that I had already been spotted by one of my Los Angeles area coyotes.  It wasn’t glad to see me, sat and stared up.  It stood and began to urinate like a male.  Yet it wasn’t Dad.  It was a yearling male coyote!  I’ve named him Mister.

I had thought there were four coyotes in my field:  Mom, Dad and two female yearling coyotes, Bold and Shy.  I was wrong.  I didn’t realize that one of the survivors from last year’s litter was a male.  My previously posted video (http://coyoteyipps.com/2011/04/21/dad-and-his-daughter-bold-by-charles-wood/) was also of the male coyote I saw Saturday, though I thought then that I was observing Bold.  I wasn’t.  It was Mister.

After first recognizing a male youngster, Mister, I wondered if he and Bold were the same coyote, wondered if I had Bold’s gender wrong.  On study, Mister has, like Dad, a lower lip with a black tip and Bold lacks that marking.  Shy has unique markings under her left eye and walks around with her mouth open.  Bold may also be a male, but “she” is not Mister and neither Bold nor Mister are Shy.

Mister

One reason in favor of my accepting three survivors from last year is that in August 2010 I took a photograph that appeared to have one too many youngsters in it, a youngster standing off at the side partly hidden by a bush while two other youngsters greeted Dad.  That mystery coyote didn’t participate in the greeting and vanished quickly.  Photographs are difficult to interpret and I felt there wasn’t enough evidence to allow myself a third survivor.  Unfortunately for me, I usually see one or two coyotes, three infrequently, four very rare.  I’m now willing to accept that the August 2010 photograph indeed shows a third surviving youngster from 2010’s litter of seven.

Mister

Mister was the only coyote I saw Saturday.  Evidently none of the others thought he needed any help, though some or all of them may have been there concealed.  One of Mister’s roles in child care is to keep me away, as they all do.  I had read that young males are driven off by their parents before the next litter is born:  not absolutely true.

Last year I didn’t see any undispersed youngsters around when the puppies emerged.  Nor did I see Mom and Dad together with the puppies, just saw Dad caring for them, from June to the end of August when I did see Mom again.  By the end of August I would see two youngsters and missed that there was a third.  Still, four of the puppies had apparently not survived through August.  I suspect that life is easier for Mom and Dad with some of last year’s puppies around to help with newborns and to defend their territory.

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.

Indigestion

I don’t think very many of us give thought to wild animals getting ill or feeling ill or aging. I once watched a coyote squint as it looked into the distance. I wondered if the coyote’s vision was getting blurry — like humans when they age. I wondered if their aging vision could benefit from the things we humans have so ingeniously created for ourselves: lasik or glasses?

Anyway, coyotes do get ill and they do feel bad sometimes. Today I watched a case of indigestion exacerbated by basking in an intense hot sun. I can relate to this, because when I have eaten a heavy meal and then stayed out in the direct sun for too long, I have felt that meal become sluggish rather than being digested easily.

So after two hours of basking in the intense sun and obviously having a blast doing so, the coyote moved off to a shady spot where the look in its eyes conveyed that same intestinal discomfort that we all have felt at times.  Of course, I didn’t know what was going on and wouldn’t until this sequence of events was over.

Soon, the coyote got up slowly and sluggishly wandered down a hillside where it began yanking at the tallest strands of grass and ingesting them. After several minutes of eating grasses, the coyote began to heave, billowing its stomach in and out until it’s mouth opened wide and out came an astonishing mass of undigested food. It must have astonished the coyote, too, because it stayed there looking at the pile, and then sniffed it over carefully. Finally, it tried — unsuccessfully — to “bury” the mess by using its nose to push old grasses over the pile. Then it walked slowly away.

I was able to make out that it was an entire gopher, still intact but somewhat decomposed. Gophers in this area can get pretty close to a full pound in weight. Coyotes eat gophers, not by tearing them apart, but by crunching the bones so that the entire animal can fit down it’s throat. My theory is that this huge meal and the heat of the sun made for difficult digestion, which in turn caused a nauseating feeling and then the self-medication. I’ve seen regurgitation before, but not with all the detail I saw this time. The coyote wandered off and out of sight, but not until two more stops were made for more grasses.

Youngsters Are Emerging — Please Keep Your Distance!

Youngster -- about three months old

Few people will ever see very young coyote pups due to the coyote’s secretive nature and to the extraordinary care of the parents. But, then again, you might be lucky. Until now, they have been kept well-hidden, but now they are beginning to move around in wider areas as they learn from their parents how to hunt and take care of themselves.

IF a youngster sees you, it is likely to flee quickly. But sometimes curiosity causes them to peek out and watch what is going on. Or, you might catch a family on a twilight trek.

Parents can be particularly edgy at this time of year if you get too close.  If you know you are in a coyote area, please keep your dogs leashed and be ready for a protective mom. If you have a dog, it might be a good idea, for a while, to avoid areas where you have seen coyotes in the past. Dogs are the chief threats to coyotes and their pups.

It is best not to linger in their presence and to continue moving AWAY from any coyote you see. This allows them to feel that you are not after them — it allows them to feel safe. If a mother or father feels that their brood is endangered, they have ways of communicating this to your dog: they’ll put on ferocious displays to warn you and your dog off — this is their first line of defense — a scare tactic. Most of it is bluff, but please take heed, because mothers WILL defend themselves and their pups if they are, or feel they are, intruded upon or threatened in any way.

Yearling -- a year older

Coyotes are territorial, so they feel protective not only towards their families, but also towards their spaces, especially during this time when pups are beginning to explore the wider world. Coyotes treat “outsider” coyotes and dogs in the same manner and for the same reasons. Please let’s understand them and respect their needs!

Mom Trots Into View, by Charles Wood

Mom

Monday Mom trotted up half way to the Los Angeles area bridge where I was standing with my tethered dog, Holtz, at twilight looking south.  I haven’t seen Mom in six weeks.  Today she trotted towards me, unlike when last Saturday, an unidentified coyote didn’t tarry when we spotted each other.  A little earlier on Monday I had seen another coyote to the north of the bridge headed back to their field south.  Holtz spotted that coyote before I did.  It easily diverted and disappeared into the dense brush in the nature area to the north.  Without Holtz pointing it out I never would have seen it.  I crossed the street to look south anticipating that the vanished coyote would soon enough walk under the bridge.  Instead Mom showed on a road in her field, south of the bridge.  After her approach, Mom soon trotted away and vanished deeper into her field.

Six weeks ago her milk appeared to be fully in.  Today, my inexperienced guess is that she is fairly finished nursing, making the puppies more than five to seven weeks old?  I hope we will soon be done with these “now you see me now you don’t” games and I will see them with the puppies out.

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.

“I’m Outa Here, but ever so slowly. . .”

When to move if dogs are coming down the path? Well, it is important that they see you. After all, this is your territory and they need to know that. So you lay there watching them and they don’t see you, so you stand up. You continue to watch them, twitching your ears — they are coming slowly, so you have time for this.

Someone tries to scare you off, still at a substantial a distance, with a yell — heard on the video at about 20 seconds. This might be a good time to think about going, but not lickity-split. The time finally comes to leave as the dogs move in closer. But, first, it’s important to have a very visible stretch, and a yawn, so that all those who might be watching will know that you are not afraid and have not been pushed into leaving. You take one more back-glance, and then you trot off at a good clip, but definitely not at a run.

Conservation Run Amok

There is something terribly wrong when our conservationists get to the point of killing off one species of animal to save another. If left alone, of course, the species would work out their own balance, but recent conservationists with their aggressive and destructive policies seem to have forgotten this. What I am referring to specifically is the plan to shoot all Barred Owls in an area near Muir Wood, north of San Francisco, so that Spotted Owls may thrive. Read about it on the National Public Radio website. The audio was aired on KQED on June 12, 2011: “Killing One Owl Species to Save Another”  by Lauren Sommer [http://www.npr.org/2011/06/12/137090033/killing-one-owl-species-to-save-another?]
Memories of the Vietnam War US Army general who famously declared that it was necessary to, “destroy the village in order to save it”…

It is known that natural systems are changing forever due to climate change, urbanization and other factors. Ecosystems are emerging that never existed before which include both “natives” and “non-natives. It is impractical to try to restore ecosystems to some ‘rightful’ historical state by eradicating the newcomers or drastically reducing their abundance. Mark Davis and 18 other prominent ecologists are joining together to fight “native plant” programs which are proving to be ecologically unsound and lacking in data to support their beliefs. To read more about the current academic thinking on this issue, please read this recent “manifesto” which appeared in Nature Magazine: “Don’t judge species on their origins” Nature, June 9, 2011. The Institute for Contemporary Evolution has posted the full article on their site:  http://www.icevolution.org/_dbase_upl/NatureInvasives2011.pdf

Buddies

I saw these two coyotes about one hour apart, wandering around different parts of the same park. I lost track of them both until I noticed one curled up on a hillside several hundred feet away from where I had deposited myself. Soon, and suddenly, the other coyote appeared on the hill where I was and looked around, taking in all the surroundings.

“Ah, there you are!” — I could almost hear it say to the coyote across the way.  They had spotted each other. The one on my hill continued to look around for some time — sitting and standing and changing positions, and when it was done, it trotted off, soon to appear on the far hill with the other coyote. Within minutes, a fire engine siren started wailing, and these two joined in the chorus for a short howling session — the classical “baying at the moon” howls. When the singing was finished, they wandered to a more level part of the hillside, plopped themselves down on the grass, looked around, then sprawled out and went to sleep!

Some coyotes are absolute loners, and others tend to go about their lives in pairs. I’ve watched a family of three stick together for a couple of years until they dispersed.  Coyotes, like humans, are very individualistic and do not follow a single set of behavior patterns.

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