Apples, Blackberries and Pears, Oh My!

This fella found quite a smorgasbord this morning, all within the space of about 4 square feet! He must have been in coyote heaven. Right after he had picked up and eaten some voles without expending much effort, he walked just a couple of feet to a patch of fruit. There were blackberries, apples and pears either on the vines and trees which he could reach, or just lying around on the ground where they had fallen. I watched him eat one and then another and then another and . . .

He ate for a long time. He ate standing most of the time, but for a while he ate lying down in the cool ivy under the fruit trees. He crunched through the apples and pears the way we would, chomping on mouthfuls at a time, and sometimes taking bites that were too big so that part of the fruit fell to the ground. Then he got up and walked away. There was still plenty of fruit left lying on the ground by the time he departed, so I guess he had his fill!

As he ate, he kept his eyes up, high above himself, and on the lookout constantly. I wondered what was going on above him!? I never did figure it out for sure. It crossed my mind that at one time he may have been hit by falling fruit — a la Chicken Little. I have seen gum nuts fall off of Eucalyptus trees which startled coyotes enough to make them run. Or, it could have been a waving tree branch which he was wary of. Coyotes appear not to like things moving over themselves.

 

Change is Highly Unsettling

This coyote knows her territory like you know the back of your hand — she knows every inch of it — cold! So she’s going to notice all changes.

All changes are unsettling to her. Change is an indicator that something is going on which might be harmful to her. A while back I watched as she followed her usual path. She suddenly stopped, seemingly dumbfounded, and stared straight ahead. Then she turned her head, pensively, as if she were thinking about what it was which was so different. SOMETHING was very different but she couldn’t tell WHAT.

It was a “repaired” retaining wall, which, as a temporary measure, consisted of a burlap covering. It had been all green ivy before the change. She stood absolutely still as she stared at the change.  Then she looked around in back of herself, keeping her head turned as if she had to think some more about it by looking away, possibly trying to remember why she had this tremendous “uneasy” feeling. She examined it one more time before turning around and going the other way. Better not to take a chance with something that makes you this anxious.

In A Wheat Field, Excellently Camoflauged

coyote is in the center of the photo in case you have trouble finding it

coyote asleep in a wheat field

Here’s a little fella who looked up at me before plopping down onto the ground and out of sight right there in front of me as I watched. If you didn’t know he was there you would not have seen him. From most angles I could not see him, even though I knew exactly where he was!  It is only because he moved a little that I was able to relocate him again.

For a while he engaged in some scratching and grooming. Then he was down and out and unfindable again!

 

 

Searching For A Companion After Becoming Separated

These two coyotes, a father and a year-old daughter, were out walking together at dusk, in a thick fog, when a large English Setter up the path went after them. This caused the coyotes to split up, with the female running off and out of sight. The dog owners grabbed their dog and walked on. I watched the remaining coyote, the male, walk on and then head over to some grasses to wait for his walking companion. He waited and waited. Finally he stood up and walked to the crest of a hill where he strained his neck and lifted his head high looking in all directions for her. The crest of a hill is a good vantage point if you’re looking for someone. No luck. He then went down the hill a little ways, walking slowly, and did the same thing. He then turned and looked at me, and I understood.

That he wanted to be with the other coyote, that they were companions who were fond of each other, was obvious. It was joyful to know and understand this, but sad to see the little fellow distressed by her absence and searching for her, but not finding her. In the past I’ve watched coyotes spend half an hour searching for each other after an unexpected encounter on a trail caused them to split up. Coyote family members are good “friends” — not too different from the way we humans are with our family members. They, like us, like being together and doing things together, and they’ll search for one another when they unexpectedly become separated.

Horsin’ Around and Banter

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Coyotes spend a great deal of time playing, which includes horsing around, teasing and bantering. These are extremely social and family minded animals: they are constantly interacting with each other. These two are wild urban coyotes in one of the public parks right in San Francisco, one of the 10 densest urban centers in the country. They are behaving like any of the rest of us might towards a much loved parent!

Here, in the top photo, an adult yearling daughter has just “hopped on Pop”, actually draping her entire body over his like a wet rag! While on top of him, she gave little playful nibbles to his elbows and knees and then she slid off!

She ran off to wrestle energetically with her brother, but within a few minutes she returned to Dad and placed, this time, just a paw on his back, bottom photo, and again, playfully and affectionately nibbled at his elbows, teasing him a little! She’s the only one in this family of three that puts her paws — or even more of herself — on top of anyone else. She is the only female in this family pack. Hmmm. I’m wondering if she has special status due to this, or if she just happens to be the most demonstrative of the group?

2014-06-23

Goodwill Teasing!

There was almost no light, and there were tall grasses between the camera and the coyotes, so these photos are totally washed out and blurry. However, the behavior depicted in them is absolutely fabulous: I decided it was worth it to post them, so I enhanced them as best I could.

A little female yearling coyote “teases” her dad and then her brother by affectionately stretching herself on top of them, and either nuzzling their legs as in the case of her father, or nuzzling their ears, as in the case of her brother! Her behavior was good-willed fun. It was not meant to provoke any kind of reaction — it was simply a display of her affectionate teasing. It looks like this little gal has two BFFs!!

She had been out alone, whiling away the time until the daily family get-together/rendezvous time.

Then her brother appeared and he was absolutely ecstatic to see her. He seemed to “jump for joy” as she and their dad approached him: first he performed one bounce, then one squiggle sitting down, and finally a jump, squiggle and bounce all at the same time!

2014-06-17 (8)Then they all piled up together where there were the usual kisses/nose-touches and wiggly-squiggly movements which are a dead giveaway for the excitement and joy they were feeling.

 

After the general excitement of the initial encounter and greeting died down, the female youngster “hopped on Pop”. It was affectionate contact that they both soaked up. She then twisted her head down and around him and gave him little love nuzzles and bites on his legs. Wow!

The three then broke out into an intense play session: they chased each other wildly, they wrestled, they groomed each other — no photos because the movement in tall grasses with no light just shows blurs. These are all activities which regularly follow the initial rendezvous greetings after spending the day apart sleeping.

During the intensive play period, the female youngster jumped on her brother, as she had done to her dad earlier. Only this time she tugged at one of his ears and then the other, teasing him affectionately.

They played intensively some more and then ran off and out of sight. They would spend the night trekking!

 

photos 6-17pm

Mischief or Just a Diversion?

My eyes almost popped out as I watched this. Two coyotes were having a fabulous time playing in a yard — I had not seen coyotes play in a long time, so this was a real treat for me: there was joyous wrestling and chasing. Then one of the two happened upon a possible toy — a bright green garden hose — a novel find. One coyote went over and lifted it up in its mouth and began tugging on it — trying to move it. “Toys” are most often played with alone unless there is going to be a tug of war or a chase about it. But the hose was rather cumbersome and not very maneuverable so the coyote couldn’t run off with it or play tug-of-war with it. I thought it would soon be dropped. Instead, the coyote stopped tugging, and within 30 seconds the hose had been sliced in two. Well, there was one thing you could do with an unyielding hose! Afterwards the coyote looked around — it was almost as if the coyote was trying to see if anyone was watching — but the coast was clear (except for me, and I didn’t count).

The coyote proceeded to another section of the hose and tugged on it for a moment before chewing through that! “Done, again, in 30 seconds”. Maybe that was what hoses were for? After this second cut, the coyote walked on a short distance and urinated: “take that”. Hmmm.  Coyotes are very intelligent and can be very purposeful in their activities. They are known for creating diversions for themselves, but in this case, the thought occurred to me that maybe there was more going on than that — could it be that the coyote didn’t like the hose? Could it be that the coyote had been sprayed by a hose?  It was just a speculative thought. Photos of the first “slice” are in the gallery above; and those from the second “slice” are in the gallery below.


Extended Family or Strangers? Does the Coyote Community Extend Beyond the Nuclear Family? Recordings from Jo

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The coyote behaviors that I’ve watched and been writing about revolve around single coyote families — almost exclusively. The one exception has been when an intruder was driven out of a territory. We may have found another exception! Last night we heard the first concrete evidence that interactions outside the nuclear family actually do take place!

Background: I’ve been recording the howls of all the coyotes I know. Those I hear regularly I have pretty much learned to distinguish from the other members of their families. Human voices are different and we can distinguish them — each person has a signature voice which is uniquely his own. Coyotes, too, have individual voices which can be distinguished once you get to know them.

One of my coyote families regularly treks the mile from their “home base” to another open space. I’ve followed them and observed them in the distant open space, particularly during the darkest hours of the night. Fellow coyote enthusiast, Jo, lives on the edge of this distant open space.

Not only that, Jo has the extraordinary luck of having a back yard which appears to be a cross-roads for coyotes. She has been seeing coyotes which, although she cannot distinguish between, she’s been sending me recordings of their howls regularly and can distinguish some of the howls. The howls seem to confirm what I have been seeing: that it’s the same coyote family members from another open space who frequent that area.

Jo has just sent two new midnight yipping and howling recordings, taken only six minutes apart. The first sounded with the voices I am familiar with. However, the second one has a voice I don’t recognize — it’s a totally new voice to me.

It’s funny that you mentioned hearing a coyote that you didn’t recognize.  Here’s why: in recording 1, the coyotes were very clearly in one spot toward the upper left of the yard; but in recording 2 from 12:58am, it sounded like the group was joined by an additional group in the neighbors yard to the lower right beneath my window.  There were some voices I hadn’t heard before. The two groups continued communicating from opposite corners until the light went on.  It was AMAZING!”

Jo adds, “Lots of laughs, but I think our yard might be the coyote version of a nightclub where they all just let loose!”

#1

#2

I’ve often been told that one is more likely to “hear” a coyote than “see” one, and that happened to be the case here. So, although I myself have not seen a new face in the area as of yet, I have heard its howl. We don’t know if the communication with the newcomer was antagonistic or friendly. More than likely it was not friendly since newcomers are never welcome and may, in fact, be vying for that piece of territory. I have been seeing some fight wounds and limping in the resident coyotes which might indicate a territorial dispute.

However, I’ve been speculating for some time that coyote social interactions might extend beyond the nuclear family, based on my observation that the female alpha from one of my groups is absent from her home base on a regular basis for a few days at a time, as are the other family members from that family, but less frequently. My thought is that the alpha female regularly visits her dispersed grown pups from previous litters, and then returns to her own territorial home base. AND that the alpha female may even remain the “matriarch” over these particular dispersed individuals. This is pure speculation, but I wanted to toss it out there as food for thought.

Jo comments about one of the female voices: “Her voice has a beautiful silvery timbre on the high notes that I don’t recognize as any of the other coyotes in this area. I love her song!”

Togetherness, Physical Contact, Care in Yearling Siblings


As in our human families, coyotes each have unique individual personalities and they form unique relationships among themselves which are often very affectionate and caring.

Here, two yearling siblings are out exploring and hunting before meeting up with the adults of the family. I was able to watch the two for a couple of hours.

During this time, each kept visually aware of where the other was and what the other was doing. They would separate for only short periods of time and short distances as they explored and hunted, and then they would look up and run towards each other. Besides simply liking each other, they seemed oddly dependent on each other for safety and security on this particular evening.

In these grainy photos taken at twilight, the little female coyote, to the right, after yet again running towards her sibling, rubbed her head against him and then actually raised the front part of her body over his back and partially lay on him!  Togetherness and physical contact are characteristic of coyote family members. As she lay there draped over his body, she engaged in some tender grooming – looks like she was removing bugs from the back of his head — extending her contact with him and staying there for over a minute, and occasionally looking around before both slipped apart and again wandered a little ways apart from each other.

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sibling youngsters totally attuned to each other

Garbage Patrol

in a parking lot – rejected item – in the parking lot  
retained item – ten minutes of leaning up – peeing/marking
 

It was dark out, so the photos were blurry, and there was no feel for nighttime or darkness because the camera compensates for the lighting, making it look like daytime. So I experimented and came up with a lighting solution which really does give the viewer the right feeling I had when I took the photos — taken in the dark. Is this how things look in infrared? The tint seems to mask the graininess caused by low light.

Only about 2% of a coyote’s diet, as revealed by scat analysis, is composed of human produced items. Coyotes always prefer their more healthful, natural diet of rodents, berries and vegetation, but sometimes they indulge in “finds” for the change. Coyotes at times will visit picnic areas, trash cans and grocery parking lots where, if our trash is lying around, they will opportunistically pick things up for a special treat. I’ve seen them spit out stuff, so much of it is totally unpalatable to them. But some is enjoyed as you can see here.

On this particular evening, there was debris strewn in this parking lot, and the coyotes noted it as they trekked by. After briefly surveying the surroundings for safety, they did not hesitate to enter the area and went at it! Almost no one was around, and there were few cars — I guess the coyotes noted this, too, and that’s why they entered the parking lot. They wandered around, sniffing things on the ground — almost all of it was rejected and they’d turn their attention to the next piece of trash littering the ground. Finally I saw one of the coyotes pick up a plastic bag and run to the grassy edge of the lot with it. She spent a full ten minutes cleaning up whatever was in the bag. I guess that was enough for her because immediately left the lot after peeing on the spot where she had eaten. I have no idea what she had consumed, but  thought that it could have been the discarded portion of a burrito or sandwich.

leaving – walking down a street – about to cross street
something sumptuous found – keeping an eye on the moon? – rubbing her face
rubbing her back – crossing a street – body rub under some bushes
 

I followed her down several streets to a neighborhood residence where she went straight to a spot she must have known about, dug something up and nibbled on it. She stayed there eating whatever she found and looking around, and up, to make sure she was safe. She was there over ten minutes. My thought is that, since she went straight to that spot, she may have buried something there. When she finished she licked her snout, then went over to a patch of ground with grass only a few paces away and rubbed the sides of her face on it and then her chin. Hmmm — interesting! Then she got up and walked over to a bush which she used to rub her back against, back and forth: was she actually scratching her back, or was there an oder on the plant which she was trying to absorb? She then crossed the street where she found more shrubbery which she rubbed against and under, again, for a considerable period of time, as if she were wiping on, or wiping off, an odor.  Finally she trotted off, peed again, probably as a message, and was off and out of sight.

Fallen Logs and Tree Stumps

Coyotes seem to like lifting themselves on tree stumps and walking along fallen logs: often for the better view, and often for the fun of it!

12-24-2010

Coyotes Celebrate Coming Out Ahead: Intact and Uninjured, and Still In Charge of Their Territory

Here is a typical morning in an urban park where there are coyotes and where dogs run free. If you have a dog and know coyotes are out, or if you see a coyote, you need to leash up and move on. In this park, there is a particular team of dogs which chases and harasses these coyotes on an almost daily basis.

On this day, coyotes were out finishing their nighttime trekking. They picked one of their favorite knolls to hang out on. They often stay out to watch and keep an eye on the dogs which visit the park daily, but also they are there “to be seen” by these same dogs: they want these dogs to know that the territory is already claimed — their presence sends this message. It is a purposeful activity. They knew the route and the time that most dogs would walk by, and that time was coming up. They plopped themselves down high up on the incline a substantial distance from any trails and began grooming themselves.

Most dogs and their owners passed uneventfully, as usual: most folks in San Francisco are in awe of and love their urban coyotes in the parks: It makes the parks seem a little more “natural”, a little closer to the nature that humankind once knew, a little further removed from the city right next door. Both coyotes and dogs learn something about each other as they watch one another, and peace is maintained by the owners keeping their dogs away from them.

Unfortunately, there are antagonistic dogs who pursue, and owners who allow their dogs to pursue and harass coyotes. It is always the same dogs, and it is always the same owners who allow it, and it happens on a regular basis. It happened again today, as predictably as the dawn itself. Two dogs from the same family — therefore a “pack” working as a team together — came up the trail ahead of their owners and went searching for the coyotes, saw them and chased after them. The coyotes ran further up the steep incline which was difficult for the dogs. The coyotes stayed up high on the hill and watched. At one point, when the second dog appeared they came down a little, still keeping their safe distance away.

One of the dog owners, one who had no intention of ever leashing his dogs to control them, ran up the hill towards the coyotes and starting heaving rocks at them, snarling, “Darn coyotes, stop bothering my dogs!!”  The coyotes backed up a little preparing to flee, but the dog owner backed down the hill. Of course, it was the dogs and owner who were doing the harassing, not the other way around.

Eventually the recalcitrant dogs and disrespectful owners walked on. The coyotes watched them leave and then hung around to watch and just “be” for a short time, grooming themselves and probably communicating in ways we humans cannot understand: their distress, relief, joy, excitement, and fears, among other things, are communicated simply by the way they act — by their body language and facial expressions.

Then it was time to go. The coyotes ran towards each other, tails wagging, bodies bouncing and wiggling, and headed off. They were all intact, there were no injuries, the territory was still theirs. They seemed to celebrate all this as they left the area hugging next to each other as they went.

 

Squawk! A Warning Call for All Forest Dwellers Within Earshot

In a forest there is always some animal that calls out warning alarms when they sense trouble or danger lurking in the area. The cries serve to broadcast alarm to all citizens of the forest within earshot. Other species besides just their own learn how to read these cries of alarm, including me! Among others, ravens, flickers and blue-jays send out cries of alarm.

And that’s how I found coyotes today. Hearing a blue-jay squawk obsessively, I thought a coyote might be around, and sure enough, I was right. I ran towards where the sound was coming from, where I found the jay single-mindedly belting out its “beware, beware” admonition. And then I spotted a coyote close by. The coyote hurried off a little distance when it saw me and then stopped on a rock to scratch himself. Within a minute another coyote joined him. They allowed me to watch them for a moment, and then one, and then the other, hurried off into the bushes.

The fun part was being summoned to what was going on by the especially distressed squawking of the blue jay, and being right about what the commotion was about!

 

Siblings Watch Out For One Another, Starting With Bugs


Coyote siblings provide companionship, affection, rivalry and . . .  health care, as seen here by these grooming activities. It’s a bad year for bugs: ticks and fleas. The coyote is pulling off ticks. The activity is mutual — sometimes one is the groomer, and sometimes the other. Shortly after I took the video, the groomer, guy to the right in this case, snapped at a bug in the air — see photo below. The bugs are on them and around them! Must be extremely annoying for them. I’ve never seen coyotes scratch this much in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s constant. When they’re not scratching themselves, they are helping a sibling! Pretty altruistic, I would say!

By the way, coyotes are also shedding their winter coats at this time of year, which adds to the irritations they feel. Scratching, in fact, helps with the shedding process.

2014-04-22

“Didn’t Mom Tell You Not To Play With Your Food?” & Dad Steals The Meal

This was absolutely entertaining to watch today! Little female yearling wanders off to hunt from the area where her Dad had stationed himself to keep an eye on things. She works hard and is extremely patient, which pays off: she succeeds in catching some prey after about 15 minutes of intense effort, and immediately kills it.

Instead of eating the prey right away — an indication that she was not terribly hungry — she plays with her catch for a few minutes, tossing it up in the air, catching it, pouncing on it, and generally just having fun. “Didn’t Mom tell you not to play with your food?” A friend of mine suggested this might be a good descriptive title for this posting.

When I was a kid, if you could get away with it,  much more fun than eating was to see how high you could stack the peas, form a dam in the potatoes and break it so the gravy would run out, make the chicken wing work, organize the carrot sticks in geometrical patterns, spread everything around so it looked like you had eaten most of it. “Don’t play with your food” we were told, but no reason was ever given.

Today I noted that there might be something to that rule! Within a few minutes, Dad came walking over from his lookout post. “There’s Dad! I’ll show him what I can do!” The youngster tossed the prey high up in the air one last time and tumbled over in the process, with Dad watching and closing in. The prey flew up in the air and landed on the other side of Dad.

We all know that coyotes are opportunistic, and here was an opportunity! Dad grabbed the food that had been tossed and ran off with it! And he ate it up! The thief!! Might there be a moral to the story?

And the youngster watched, somewhat bewildered! Dad then scratched himself by pushing his back against the stiff branches of  a bush, and then both coyotes headed over to where the prey had been found in the ground. But there was nothing else to be had from that location. Ahh, that’s life!

The youngster turned to Dad and began grooming him. All appeared to have been forgiven, and maybe even forgotten! The female hadn’t been hungry anyway, right?! Then, they both headed off into the bushes.

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