Triangulation, A Dive, And “Darn that Log!”

To note, especially, is the way the coyote cocks its entire head back and forth, triangulating, in order to precisely locate through sound where its prey is. The dive ends with a powerful “punch” delivered by the forepaws aimed right at the prey. Also note the coyote’s extreme patience and concentration. The video originally was about six minutes long. I’ve spliced out four minutes so that you won’t need a coyote’s patience to watch it!

Mom Rushes In, by Charles Wood

Monday my Los Angeles area coyotes were less congenial than on Sunday.  Mister showed up first and started barking.  Then Mom and Dad arrived.  I didn’t see any others.  Perhaps they acted differently for the three having time on their hands while waiting for the others

In the video, Mister first solicits play from Mom.  She refuses and Mister turns to Dad who also refuses.  Mister comes toward my dog Holtz and me.  Note that Holtz, sixty pounds, stood to my immediate left wearing his harness attached to a fully retracted and locked leash.  Mom joins Mister who steels himself with a stretch and a yawn and then comes closer while Mom and Dad watch from behind.

Holtz had been sitting quietly, paying more attention to his itches than to the coyotes.  A little late seeing that Mister was now close by, Holtz rises to bark.  Mister flinches.  On Holtz’s first bark, Mom set her left rear foot.  Mom might have ignored one bark.  To one bark, Mister might have replied with dirt scrapes and yips.  As it was, Holtz barked more.  Mom’s exaggerated run towards us was intended to give Holtz pause until she arrived in position.  Holtz’s excessive ruckus decided Mom’s course.

Mister’s course was decided after his parents refused him play.  Holtz didn’t notice.  Mister had reinforcements, yet Holtz’s position was superior to the three because Holtz had me.  Holtz didn’t notice.  Holtz was reactive.  In contrast, the coyotes were acting out a plan, a plan that allowed for the contingency of Mister needing help.  The coyotes wouldn’t have acted out a plan had I left when Mister began to bark or left when later they started to warn me with stares.  They see Holtz as a serial intruder into their home range and don’t want him around because they perceive Holtz as a potential competitor.  To a coyote, showing one’s self to a lingerer is supposed to be enough to cause an intruder to leave.  In fact, Holtz had wanted to leave well before Mister showed himself, having planted his feet and refusing to go with me towards the brush out of which Mister later emerged.

After Mom joins Mister her eyes follow Holtz.  Mister moves right, perhaps too soon.  Mom waits and continues to study before deciding to approach on our left.  She made an assessment and a decision based on how we were physically positioned towards her.  I didn’t notice what tipped her to our left.

Mister draws in behind Mom and they rush in.  Holtz barks and then whines in frustration at my restraining him.  Mom and Mister stop short and withdraw.  They meet up with Dad who comes to them from within the bushes.

Still King?

In the past, Dad has been the one to message Holtz and me in the way Mom and Mister did today.  I don’t know if Dad’s health doesn’t allow it or if the parents think it good experience for Mister.  If Dad is losing it, Mom is stepping in to fill his shoes.  It isn’t my experience of Dad that he hold back or prefer greetings, scratching and play to messaging Holtz and me.  My goal is to find him alone in order to better assess his temperament and health, to see if he still is the king I’ve known him to be.

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.

Low Key Rendezvous, by Charles Wood

Sunday I videoed my Los Angeles area coyotes as they met up for the evening.  In the video, Dad and Mom stand in the back while Tom wanders and Mister sits.  About a minute into the video Mister appears to ask Mom for a kiss.  I believe there was a fifth coyote hidden in the brush.  It may be the one that ran to catch up with the other four.

It was nice to see Dad and the others practically indifferent to Holtz and me.  Their stares were low key and they were relaxed enough to instead be attentive to each other.  Mister didn’t feel he had to prove something to everybody, even stopped staring.  Only Mom felt strongly enough about us to mark.  Their tails said to me they were ready to explode in joy except for the man and dog.  Sunday the five arrived at approximately the same time, greeted and then moved along to where they go most evenings.  They had a place to be off to and each knew it as they met.

Mom Sentry

At times one or two show up ahead of the others.  Mom did a few days ago while teenage boys were spray painting under the bridge.  She sat on higher ground and watched the boys while watching for her pack to gather.  When I arrived there I pointed her out to their amazement.  You just never know who is watching you tag.

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.

Chased Into A Hollow

Being out at twilight in a park allowed me to glimpse an owl hunting — I don’t see this often. It was quiet and it seemed at first as though no one was around, but I was wrong. Soon a dog appeared, and the owl took off as it and its owner got nearer.

As I watched the owl fly away, I heard another man yell sharply at his dog. That was the tell-tale sign that alerted me to the possible presence of a coyote on a trail.  As I headed in the direction of the voice, I began to hear two coyotes bellowing out their distress at having been chased.  One coyote must have run off, because its barking receded into the distance.

However, the other coyote was very close by, in the bushes. I could not see the coyote at all — so, to begin with, I just took a photo of where the sound was coming from. It was in a hollow right next to the trail — not, as usual, up high and away. Although at first I had heard two coyotes barking together, the barking pattern changed when one ran off.  The barking began alternating between them, one after the other, taking turns, seeming to answer each other, until the far coyote stopped altogether. The nearer one continued a little longer and then also stopped.

Within a short time, the closer coyote must have sensed that the danger had passed — the dog and walker were long gone — because it came out to inspect it’s surroundings, looking around carefully before trotting off to continue what it probably had been doing before the dog arrived: hunting for voles and gophers.

I’m including the recording in which you can hear the near and the far coyotes’ barking. Unfortunately the recorder picked up the sound of my walking as I was trying to visually spot the coyotes!


More Dens

A friend let me know that she discovered a coyote den fairly close to her own home! Chert rock formations and outcroppings are common throughout the entire Bay Area. The den apparently was not used this year and is not being used now, though she told me that several years ago she heard coyote pups all the time from that area.  It appears to be a very “classical” den, with a very deep entryway protected by an overhanging rock. And, of course, it is located in a hidden and secluded area, although not far from my friend’s home.

I wanted to find out more about the den, but it would have been impractical to dig it out, and I was fearful of sticking my hand in it: who knows what might be lurking in there now!  What you see here is the opening into a large hollow area. There had been a mass of overgrown tangled blackberry brambles hiding the entryway, and it was only when these were thinned out that the den opening became visible at all. It is likely there is another opening close by, hidden like this one had been.

Not far from her home, about an eighth of a mile away, is another den which her neighbor told me about. It is completely different from this one, consisting of a flat area hidden below tall grasses close to a natural spring — not a cave at all.  I couldn’t get a photo of this one, also hidden in thick brambles. But I am sure, it being so close to the other one, and from what these folks told me, that it was used by the same coyote family.

Coyote dens are used for giving birth and nursing young pups. Most coyotes have several dens between which they move the youngsters, both for protection against possible predators and to escape from bug infestations. As the coyote pups grow up, they stop using the dens. Adult coyotes sleep out in the open or under bushes, usually during daytime hours.

A Foot Is Put Down

holding a foot down

The vole was caught, but it tried to get away, of course. As it reached the other side of the path the coyote extended a foot and put it down on top of the prey, pinning it down, trapping it and sealing its fate. The coyote stood up and kept its weight on its prey for a full ten seconds — an incredibly long period of time when life and death are concerned — standing absolutely still and looking off into the distance. I actually could not tell that this is what was happening until the coyote finally bent down to pick up in his mouth what was under his foot and run off with it before eating it.

In most instances that I have seen, a coyote will scramble quickly to get a firm hold of its prey in its mouth to prevent it from slipping away. But this time there was a calmness as the coyote stood there with his weight on the vole. Had he been squeezing it to death — preventing respiration –on purpose, the same as the hawks do? I have seen hawks hold onto and squeeze a rodent over what felt like a long time, but in fact was only about ten seconds, while looking calmly off into the distance, exactly as the coyote had done. It points to a behavior and a use of the legs which I have not seen before.

“Choose One, Ladies”, by Charles Wood

If you were a marriageable young coyote female, which brother would you pick?  Would it be Mister?  Or would it be Tom?  Does Mister’s white-tipped tail seal the deal?  Or would you forgive Tom that fault when you say “I do.”?

Mister has a yearling brother Tom.  How could I have confused Tom with Mister?  Yet confuse them I did.  Tom is one more male yearling to add to my pack, last pictured together in my post here:  Los Angeles Area Pack, by Charles Wood.

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.

Previous Older Entries