Ups and Downs of Hunting

Hunting has its ups and downs. This coyote slowly and carefully approached her target — a gopher hole — gingerly extending an arm in the hole’s direction. Ahhhh, the timing looked right — she obviously heard or smelled what she wanted in the hole.  So up she jumped in a beautifully executed n-curved dive, which landed exactly on target: nose into the ground and feet flying high!

But I can’t tell if the coyote hurt her nose or if the gopher bit her — notice her expression after the dive in the center photo. She then attempted to reach for the gopher, but after she stuck her nose in the hole this time, she suddenly trotted off a short distance where she stood just looking at the gopher hole. Did the gopher bite her again? She did not leave with a gopher, and she did not approach this gopher hole again. Hmmm.

No Wiggly Squiggles For Me, by Charles Wood

Mister runs

Monday my leashed dog Holtz and I went into my Los Angeles area coyotes’ field.  A man headed toward the east end of the field with his dinner.  He asked me if the coyotes were still coming in there.  I said they do and that I had seen some last night.  He walked on in and I got settled.  Mister and one of his siblings soon came north towards me.  Mister wasn’t happy and immediately ran towards me.  My friend Lynne and her dog were watching from the bridge.  It unsettles me to see one of my coyotes running towards Holtz and me.  I know they are going to stop short, yet I still feel a little like turning and running.  I wonder if an intruder coyote would turn and run upon seeing Mister’s territorial display.  Mister stopped short, as they all have in the past, and delivered a message.  He hovered over it for a long while and I had thought he was heaping on a lot more.  He wasn’t.  Although his eyes were on my friend, his ears were on Holtz and me, which I think was an interesting choice.

It is hard for me to reconcile Mister’s warning behavior with his rendezvous joy.  Is this tough guy the same coyote that wiggly squiggles with his mom and dad?  He is tough with me.  After giving us his message he ran back south some.  Then he started barking and yipping, doing so until I left.  Meanwhile his companion was hidden.

When I disturb a pair, one typically warns while the other either hides or backs off a bit.  I don’t think the one that doesn’t warn lacks courage.  I think it waits as a reserve force.  I think so because when meeting paired Mom and Dad, they trade off as to who warns and who holds back.  Whether Mom or Dad, the one who warns is probably the one who feels the most irritated by me that day.

Mister dumps

A few years ago I ran into a fellow in a wetlands area.  He told me he had once been surrounded there by eight provocative coyotes near where we were standing.  Feeling uneasy, I asked him what he did to get out of that situation.  He said he picked up some rocks.  I looked around and didn’t see any rocks handy.  I asked him where he got the rocks.  His girlfriend’s jaw dropped, her eyes bugged out and she stepped back.  The fellow’s answer was embarrassed and vague.  I didn’t believe his story.  In fact, in that same general area, I once did happen upon a number of coyotes (I didn’t count them).  One came forward to bark and yip while several waited to its rear.  It was easy to walk away with leashed Holtz and none of the coyotes followed.

I’m not sure who Mister teamed with Monday, its photograph was unclear.  Yet it seemed to have Mister’s lower lip black bubble, which I thought was a trait shared only with Dad.  Yet Mister’s Monday companion almost certainly wasn’t Dad, the size and the eyes weren’t Dad’s.  So who was it?  To confuse me further, the coyote in my April 21 video post I first identified as Bold and subsequently as Mister.  It isn’t Mister, the lower lip isn’t right.  Yet I’m not sure it is Bold either.  Bold’s conformation is superior and the April 21 coyote’s isn’t.  That its body shape was lackluster made me think it Mister, but I missed that the lower lip wasn’t Mister’s.  I wonder if there are four, perhaps five of the seven last year pups still with Mom and Dad.  If there are more than three yearlings in there, I may never really know it to a certainty, and if there are extra yearlings in there, I don’t really know if they are siblings to the others or not.  What I do know is that this group is pretty good at delivering confusion.

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.

Why Spooked?

This guy was wandering an area looking for scraps of food in a picnic area early one morning. He scratched the ground cover in a couple of places where he then picked up something and nibbled it up — I could not tell what it was that the coyote was finding and eating — it was still too dark to see.  The coyote then wandered over to a small building structure where he continued scrounging around. The structure had a small overhanging roof which the coyote found disturbing for some reason.

Did this small protrusion at the roof remind the coyote of something frightening? It wasn’t so frightening as to cause the coyote to run away, but the coyote did continually flinch, look up, withdraw, and reach in while keeping most of its body and weight as far back as possible from what he was after. He kept himself ready to take off and flee, and began doing so several times but stopped himself in mid-takeofff, returning to a position that was at the “ready”, “set”, . . . . but not quite “go”. Whatever caused this spooked behavior was totally in the coyote’s mind — maybe a thought or a fear based on some past experience. There was nothing going on in the roof.

I have seen coyotes repeatedly look up as they walk under trees. I’m wondering what kind of threats could come from “above” besides falling gum nuts and fruit, or maybe a large branch falling that might hit them? My dog used to spook at objects in this exact same manner — though never from something “above”. The funniest was when he noticed a life-size ceramic goose close by and reacted as if it might go after him. My dog weighed 92 pounds!

Pairs

Coyotes may live all alone, they may live as strongly bonded pairs, or they may live in larger groups — the groups are families which consist of a mother and a father, this years pups and some of last years and/or the previous year’s pups. I have heard that lone young males may hang out together until they find mates — but this is more of a temporary situation and I have not actually seen it.

Pairs don’t always necessarily follow the pattern of pairing up as male/female breeding couples. I have followed a mother and son for two years — they remain a seemingly bonded pair. There are also mother and daughter pairs that remain together over an extended period of time if something has happened to Dad. I’m trying to figure out where these two coyotes — Belle and Goggles —  fit in.

I have not figured out their situation totally. There is an older coyote named Goggles — named so because of the lighter colored areas around its eyes; and there is a young female, Belle, so named for her doe-like beauty. The older coyote has been in the area at least four years — the younger one was probably born here. They work as a pair, often leaving together and then splitting up to seek their luck separately as they hunt in the evening  — coming together off and on during their evening outings.

On this particular day, the younger Belle remained close to her protected area when Goggles appeared in the distance, trouping in from afar, coming in the younger one’s direction, but stopping at an obvious gopher hole to inspect and maybe catch an obvious and quick snack — gopher mounds stand out in a mowed area. The meal did not materialize, so the coyote continued in Belle’s direction and disappeared behind some brush. Belle, who had taken refuge in the bushes until this point,  then came out and began to forage on her own, remaining close to her protected area instead of venturing out to where Goggles had gone. She was still eyeing the same vole hole when I departed.

Rendezvous, by Charles Wood

Saturday at dusk Mom sat watching me when Mister, her yearling son, came towards her down their hill.  His dad approached Mom, coming from the east.  Mister burst towards them and the three had a rendezvous.  Near the end of the video, Dad works to settle Mister down.  A little after that Mom shows Mister some teeth and he drops onto his side:  almost as if Mom shot him dead!

These three, after the rendezvous, tried to cross under the bridge into the nature preserve.  However they wouldn’t go under the bridge with me standing there.  While waiting to pass, they began to yip, the upset kind.  I left so they could continue on their way.

Significantly, Mom and Dad were together without their new puppies.  Are there new puppies this year?  If so, were they at dusk Saturday unattended or being cared for by one or both of the other yearlings, Bold and Shy?  If either alone or being cared for, where?

I don’t know.  Last year Mom and Dad raised their puppies without help.  Last year when I saw puppies, Dad was with them.  At times I saw Dad alone without either Mom or puppies.  Seeing solitary Dad meant to me that Mom must have been with the puppies.  This year there are too many full grown coyotes around to allow such guesswork.  Yearlings may make life easier for Mom and Dad, but they make my life, though richer with coyotes, harder.

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

Signs of Scat, An Old Coyote, A Sick Ewe and A Dead Rabbit: More on Ginny’s Coyote Area

Hi Janet,

scat upon scat (now with mold)

Yesterday I walked the other way onto the well-used multi-purpose trail called the Springwater Trail.  The first half mile of the trail heading east has had a lot of scat at times.    This is the area I referred to as being half a mile away and possibly containing a den.  Yesterday there was only one quite recent pile while everything else had been there a week ago.  Today I walked to the pups sighting location.  No new scat anywhere.  I’m wondering if that means the pups have been moved.  I also checked another part of the trail not too far away and found no new scat.  I have seen a lot of it there before also.

We saw the lame coyote once when he trotted in front of our car.  He looked and moved like a very old dog would move and that is why I label him as old.  He is not thin but is very ragged looking.  I have only seen a coyote once on the trail (that is how I found your blog because I wanted to learn all that I could about them) and that was right at the trail entrance near our house.  Hunting for rabbits no doubt!  Bud saw an adult last fall on one of his walks. Both of these had beautiful coats and seemed very healthy.

trail where pups appeared

Last week I met a family with grandparents walking on the trail and mentioned the coyote scat to the children.  The grandparents told me they have sheep and coyotes stand at their fence and sing and whine all the time.  The grandfather told me that recently he had a sick, old ewe and THREE DAYS later when he went to check on her he only found most of her skeleton.  He is sure the coyotes picked her clean – including her gum tissue and ribs.  They said coyotes would infrequently take a newborn lamb after I asked if they thought the coyotes actually killed anything.  Any person who would knowingly leave a sick animal for three days – well I cannot relate to them.  I’m very cautious what I say to people on the trail about the coyotes.   One man we see on the trail is sure someone shot coyotes a few years back.

blackberries through which pups disappeared; there is more scat again now, indicating resumed activity in the immediate area

On Monday I noticed a dead rabbit at the beginning of the trail which is near our house.  It appeared to have died mid-crawl.  I turned it over and did not see any injuries or changes in hair.  About a week earlier Bud said “it smells like something died in the blackberries” as we walked by the same location.  Several neighbors and dog walkers who use the trail came to the same conclusion I did – that a neighbor might be poisoning rabbits.  We are all very concerned.  I really hope this is not the case.  Yes, rabbits do incredible damage to yards and gardens but rabbit fencing keeps them out.  I know, we added it to the existing deer fence around our yard.  Yesterday the rabbit was gone but I suspect a neighbor disposed of it.  I have read that coyotes are very smart about not consuming poisoned food and I hope that is the case here.  We have a family of red-tailed hawks in the greenspace that I am really enjoying and I think they prefer freshly killed prey over carrion.  Poison can travel so fast up and down the food chain.

I’ll let you know if I notice any changes.  I don’t expect to see coyotes because our dog really seems to have a history with coyotes.  He is a Bouvier rescue we have had almost a year.  He spent several years running loose on the NM mesas and he thinks deer, coyotes and rabbits are to be chased.  He also barks like crazy.  I’m sure the local coyotes know him and make sure not to reveal themselves to us!

Ginny


Encountering Someone New

I recognize all of the coyotes I see on a regular basis as individuals — and they recognize me — so when I did encounter someone absolutely new, it gave me the opportunity to observe a kind of wary curiosity towards me which I had not seen in a while. This little gal was charming in her careful-curious/ push-pull behavior towards me!  I’ve named her “Wary”.

Her individualistic characteristics would probably not be recognizable to many, but to me they stood out: her extremely fine and pointed snout, her uneven and almost human eyes, her large rounded ears with the very dark centers which she kept straight up and higher than any of the other coyotes do, her compact stance. There were coat markings, but it is the facial features and comportment which have always interested me the most. There was a delicacy about her and an alertness or readiness to flee — along with the very natural “insatiable curiosity” which is so characteristic of most coyotes.

She did not ignore me as most of the others now do, but watched me carefully and questioningly — always on her toes and ready to split.  After standing there, very still, and observing each other from a large distance on the path where we first spotted each other, she turned to hurry off, but then came back to peek at me from behind a bush, stretching her neck to make sure she could see me, and to see what I was doing. For my part, I walked away when I could tell she was having second thoughts about watching me watching her — but she decided to linger  a little longer which gained me a few more minutes to try to get a good shot of her. Then, her better instincts took over, and she trotted away.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into her again, but I’ve named her anyway, just in case I do see her again. I say “her” because of her delicate features. The coyotes whose gender I could not be sure of  I tend to label as females until and unless they prove this is not so. Females tend to have “sweeter” or “cuter” faces with narrower jaws and foreheads and delicate little noses — at least compared to the males. Young coyotes have these same features until they grow out of them — which is why two I knew as infants I called females — but they ended up revealing that they were males — not for a full year did I know this! I have a friend who laughs at the change: “they were girls for almost a year”!  The older males I have seen were obviously male: they were bulkier and hulking, husky fellows who huffed and puffed, kicking and scraping the ground in a big display of power before departing. Their message was clear and I stayed clear. I wonder if the young males I’ve known will be like this? I wonder if this one will remain a female?

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