Siblings: Diametric Opposites

“Careful and Dependent” spends her time waiting and watching

Today a coyote youngster was in an open area. This coyote can be characterized as “careful and and dependent”. She’s wary and not willing to take chances, unlike her siblings. Today she had planted herself in a safe location near some bushes — she could escape to the bushes if necessary from any harm. From here she watched her surroundings, and she waited. She seemed to be waiting for a family member — someone familiar —  to appear on the scene.

Soon a sibling did appear on a hilltop, a sibling who has a dramatically different personality type from the one just described. I’ve observed their different personality types right from the start, nothing has changed from day one: just like humans, there is a lot which is innate and unique about each coyote. This one, in contrast to the previous one, could be characterized as “adventuresome and independent”.

The adventurer saw her sibling in the field below and ran down to greet her, happily, caringly, affectionately, and the shy coyote ran to greet her: there was joy and camaraderie.  Both coyotes then wandered around for a short time, and then the adventuresome one headed off to forage, hunt and explore the area beyond view. She was more interested in her explorations than in the other coyote, whereas the shyer coyote kept her eye on the more adventuresome one until she was out of sight.

When the shy one sees the adventuresome one (left),  she runs to be with her (middle), but I’m in the way, so she turns back to her safety spot and remains there (right).

The shy coyote lay down to watch and wait again once her more adventuresome sibling was out of view. The adventuresome coyote seems to serve as a protector and role model for this shy one.

When the adventurer eventually re-appeared in the distance, the shy coyote jumped up and ran full speed to be with her. But  the adventurer had not been aware that the timid coyote was running towards her. The adventurer turned back and away again as the timid one struggled to catch up. That’s when she saw she had come too close to me and would have to pass me to get to where she was going.  She stopped. Apparently it was not worth the risk for her to follow her sibling. Instead she returned to her protected area where she waited again for awhile and then turned in for the day.

Meanwhile, the adventurer spent the entire morning not too far away, discovering new places to dig up gophers, and spreading her wings a little bit more.

Don’t Follow Me

2013-03-14 (1)It was dusk when I saw this coyote run across a path at the crest of a hill and down the other side. I hurried over the hilltop to see where it was going and what it was doing.

Don't follow me

Don’t follow me

The coyote was very aware that I was there and apparently did not like that. As you can see, it decided to give me a piece of its mind. Need more be said?

The message was clear, so I turned around and left. It was too dark to record any behavior anyway.

Rufous Runs To Mary, by Charles Wood

For several years I have been visiting a nearby field to watch two coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that a new coyote couple had replaced Mom and Dad as the field’s resident coyotes. I named them Rufous and Mary.

Mary being a timid coyote, it has taken me a couple of months to get a close up photograph of her. Rufous isn’t timid and the video begins with him.

After having repeatedly scraped dirt to territorially message my leashed dogs, the video begins with Rufous assessing his effect on us. At this point, Rufous expected us to have either run from him or chased him. Yet we hadn’t moved at all. He wants us to show him we got the message, to show him so by moving. To Rufous we seem really slow in delivering a reply via our feet.

So what’s Rufous to do? Send the message again? Wait? The pause comes from my having constrained my dogs’ ability to communicate, restricted their ability to move. Motion is communication for canines and by now my dogs would have run away except for my influence. I resolved the uncertainty and tension by lobbing a golf ball toward Rufous.

Rufous trots away. Note that a chain link fence separated us and that he was closer to us than a coyote should be allowed to approach, too close for me to just turn and walk away. I needed distance from Rufous in order to leave and he gave it to me when I asked him for it with a softly tossed golf ball.

Mary

Mary

The next two scenes show Rufous approaching his den area. Mary is waiting there in the brush near the center and if you observe carefully you will see her move slightly. The last scene shows Rufous waiting for us to leave. Mary is off camera and Rufous looks back in her direction

The video shows that to my dogs, Rufous ritualistically messaged his claim to both Mary and the den, communicated those claims in a way that any canine would understand. Deviation from canine expected motion, communication, came from my desire to spectate instead of move.

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.

Shooing Off A Coyote: Slapping a folded newspaper on your thigh

newspaper folded over once or twice

Hey!  Slapping a folded newspaper against your thigh as you walk assertively toward a coyote with your eyes fixed on him is one of the best techniques I’ve found for shooing off a coyote who may have gotten too close for your comfort. A newspaper section can easily be folded over once or twice and carried in your pocket.

In fact, it’s not just the sharp noise which serves to deter. It’s also the flailing motion of slapping that paper against your leg which is important. It’s very aggressive. The coyote actually sees you hitting something, and that this hitting is coming his way — the coyote knows he’s next. And the bigger the flailing motion, the better. Tossing a small stone in their direction — but not at them — you don’t want to cause an injury — also works well.

Coyotes will flee as a human approaches them — but slapping a newspaper or tossing a small stone will nudge them on faster, and may make you feel more confident and in control.

Territorial Messages, by Charles Wood

Dad came part way out to my dog Holtz and me to defecate. He scraped dirt unenthusiastically and walked away. His message said, in a word, “Mine.” He chose to walk towards us using an access road, that choice also showing his low interest level in us today. It wasn’t the direct route to us.

The second half of the video shows Dad a little later, a bit further away and closer to the fence bordering his field. His barks are a territorial message. I’ve rarely seen him barking out his claim to the field. Considering his lackluster performance earlier, I’m puzzled as to why he felt that he needed to vocalize. It didn’t last long and when done he walked away. No other coyote answered his barks. Perhaps his pack understood that Dad was not talking to them.

I then went to the bridge hoping for a pack reunion and giving Dad more space. Once there I didn’t see Dad or other coyotes. I packed to leave and saw a homeless man, Larry, coming towards me from the east part of the field. Arriving, he asked me if I had just seen “…that coyote run off?” I hadn’t. Dad had been watching me and I hadn’t seen him. Larry walking nearby was enough to push Dad back. Unenergetic today, but not a slacker, Dad had been on watch duty the whole time.

Puppy Watch – No Sightings, by Charles Wood

Here in Los Angeles County my coyotes see me before I see them. Once I noticed Mom in the distance observing me. Once I looked up to see a yearling watching me. Dad also kept the pressure on me, seeing me first about every other day. I received their attention despite trying a new tactic.

Typically I walk east to get to watching places. Saturday I instead went north along the eastern boundary of my coyotes’ field. Along the east is a fenced off structure that has only a couple places where I can see into their field. Unfortunately, they too can see me.

I hoped they wouldn’t see me. As I happily walked, Holtz was ahead of me. Then he turned to come back. Immediately he started adversarially stalking towards something to my rear. Holtz’s head was slung low, protruding with his tough guy gaze fixed on the other side of the fence. I grabbed him and turned around. I expected to see a dog with a walker. I saw nothing. It must have been a coyote, no doubt one of mine that had been tailing us. Compared to a few months ago, my coyotes are visible and active.

Coyotes with puppies are more active for a couple of reasons. First, they are alert for interlopers. Coyotes hide and protect their young and are vigilant for all possible dangers. Also, they hunt more for having more mouths to feed. Fortunately for coyotes, nature provides them with more to hunt during spring.

This time of year, my coyotes’ rabbits also produce offspring. Controlling rabbit populations is an important coyote job. Young rabbits are easier to catch than adult rabbits, and I imagine that in good years there are lots of them for adult and child coyote alike. The richness of vegetation from good rains provides more cover for rabbit nests. Rabbit nests would be fairly easy for a foraging a coyote puppy to find all on its own. Yet the coyotes and other predators don’t find all the nests. One reason they don’t is that adult rabbits make themselves conspicuous this time of year, acting as fast running decoys that lead predators away from their nests. Dense ground cover with a bumper rabbit crop in their field is an excellent incentive for my coyotes to remain in their field.

A balance between predators and rabbits protects the field itself from a being overgrazed by rabbits. Fifteen years ago, when I would only see foxes, rabbits were a problem down river at Leisure World which suffered from a rabbit invasion. I suspect that since the coming of coyotes, that invasion silently went away along with the foxes.

“I Like You, Bunches”

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This show of affection — almost cuddling — lasted one-and-a-half minutes. These coyotes touched noses over and over, they rubbed heads and rubbed their bodies against each other over and over, one clambored over the other, one held the other’s snout within its own — to confirm social rank, no doubt. There was communication with tip-of-the-tongue movements and display of emotion with ears down or back. There was a paw on the back and head rub along that same back. There was intense eye to eye contact. And I couldn’t  even see what their snouts were precisely doing part of the time because they were facing away from me — all I could tell was that their snouts were together in this affectionate greeting.

It began when I came upon one coyote grazing in an open field. Soon the other appeared in the distance. They became aware of each other but didn’t move towards each other at first. Then, they trotted in towards each other, and this sequence of photos is what resulted. Afterwards they continued to graze. A runner came by close enough to cause one of the coyotes to quickly bolt away several hundred feet towards some bushes. They both watched the runner go by, and then the second coyote kept its eyes on the first, as if to make sure it was okay and calm before proceeding with its grazing. These two watch out for each other. They are best friends.

Near Encounters

Here are two occurrences of near encounters in two different parks. In the top row of photos, a coyote was calmly wandering along when a man and his leashed puppy happily walk by on a nearby path. Neither of these took any notice at all of the coyote in the near distance. The coyote helped the situation by sitting absolutely still among the tall grasses in which he blended in well, while watching the duo walk by. After they had moved on, so did the coyote, ever so cautiously and silently and then keeping more to the edges of bushes and trees. Coyotes do their utmost to avoid humans.

In the bottom row of photos, is a coyote who emerged in a green area where its camouflage did not serve it well. There was a group of dog walkers and their small dogs coming its way. These walkers commented positively about seeing the coyote, happy to see wildlife in the area. Although the coyote stopped and watched them, it soon hurried on through the very unprotected open space at almost a run, stopping to sniff one spot — in clear view of all — before moving on. When it arrived at the end of the open field where there were some bushes and trees which offered some protection, the coyote turned around and sat to watch and see if anyone might be after him. No one was — all the dogs were leashed and calm  — so he continued on his trekking undisturbed. Although this coyote did not avoid detection, he did hurry through the area, minimizing the amount of time he was in anyone’s visual field.

What I have described here are coyotes trekking through an area as they hunt or head to a resting spot. They tend to be seen most often at much greater distances, perhaps as they rest and observe from hill slopes or knolls. The distance offers a kind of “buffer or safety zone” to both them and to those who observe them.

Mom’s Mistake, by Charles Wood

In Los Angeles county this week I saw Mom a few times and also a couple of the yearlings.  Thursday Mom came under the bridge headed south into her field, having come from the nature preserve.  She paused when she heard my camera’s shutter.  It took her about a minute to go hide and watch.  The nape of her neck:  looks like mange, something I haven’t seen on her before.

Tonight, Saturday, she was headed in the opposite direction, coming from the south headed north toward the nature preserve.  Alerted, she stopped to hide and watch.  My friend Lynne was with me.  When Mom hid I knew the show was over because Mom sits and watches for as long as I stay.  So I left for the car.  Lynne followed initially and then stopped as I continued toward the car.  The show wasn’t over, though it took me leaving to get Mom to move again.  Mom headed for the bridge to pass north into the nature preserve, yet she didn’t because Mom finally saw Lynne hadn’t continued to follow me.  Consequently, Mom walked towards Lynne and then stopped to stare at her, a chain link fence between them and separated by about sixty feet.  Lynne left and presumably Mom went into the nature preserve.

That was the first time I have been aware of Mom making a mistake.  Apparently she thought bothhumans had left, freeing her to resume her walk north.  Nevertheless, Mom recovered quickly from her misperception and proceeded to successfully move Lynne along.

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.

Fleeing

Here is the look of a coyote fleeing, first dogs, and then a person. The coyote seemed to have a definite idea of where it was going when I first saw it. I followed far behind. Then, suddenly, the coyote stopped because, about 200 feet ahead, in its direct path, it could see dogs playing in an open area. The coyote observed for a few seconds, and then turned to go the other way, looking back a couple of times at the dog group to make sure it had not been seen. The dogs and owners did not see the coyote. The photos from the top row depict this situation.

As the coyote headed back in the direction from which it had come, a lone walker appeared about 100 feet ahead on the path coming in the coyote’s direction. I was on this same path, so that now, the coyote was between two humans on the same path. The coyote jumped off the path and into the tall grasses and continued 100 feet further away from the path. The coyote remained on rigid alert and ready to bolt as it and the lone walker eyed each other intently  for a few seconds. The bottom row of photos shows the coyote in this situation. The coyote did not like the situation and bolted further off and out of sight.

These are the most typical and common coyote reactions when a coyote inadvertently chances upon either dogs or humans in its path. The coyote does not want to encounter dogs or people — however, this sometimes just happens by chance as the coyote makes its rounds or moves to a different part of a park.

If the dogs had seen the coyote, there very well could have been a reaction by the dogs. Unleashed dogs, of course, are freer to do as they please and don’t tend to make intelligent choices when wildlife is involved. Pupping season presents additional challenges for all concerned: a coyote feels much more territorial and protective during this time period, and we humans need to be more vigilant about keeping our and our dog’s distance and respecting a coyote’s needs.

So, There!!

Here is a sequence of events that gets you right into a coyote’s world.

I came down a path to find a coyote high on a rock, carefully watching some dogs and walkers approach. As the dogs and people reached a point where they might have spotted the coyote, the coyote hurried down the rock, waited for a moment and then hurried to behind a bush to hide and wait for the group to pass by — I was impressed with this little coyote’s intelligence and planning. Neither the people nor the dogs saw the coyote at all.

After this group had passed, the coyote scrambled back up to the lookout on the rock, watching this group until they were totally out of sight. A huge yawn and stretch was in order to celebrate the successful evasion. But it was important now for the coyote to “speak its mind”. It trotted down to the path where the group had passed, smelled for the exact location to leave its mark, and pooped. Then it walked a little further, smelled another spot where the group had been and this time urinated on that spot. And that is precisely what this coyote thought of that group.

The history behind this is that this particular group of dogs has continually chased this coyote, and one of the walkers has continually thrown stones at the coyote. So, yes, the coyote avoids them, but feels free to “speak its mind” about them — telling them off in its own way!

“River Pack Update: Some things change, some stay the same” by Charles Wood

My last post was February 22, 2011 when I photographed the mom coyote that lives in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  That post was about 9 weeks after having seen Mom, Dad and their two undispersed female children who by today would be about a year old.  In the past I called one of the children Bold and the other Shy.  I have included their earlier photographs in today’s post.

A couple weeks ago I began to enter their small field a few times to walk along its roads with my leashed dog Holtz.  Coyote tracks and droppings were on the roads, yet my coyotes, if even present during my visits, would not come out.  I remember winter 2009-10 was a time I rarely saw my coyotes.  Winter 2010-11 has been the same.  I wondered if Dad was still paired with Mom and if not, who would be with whom and would there be more pups this year.  I wondered if the two female youngsters had dispersed or worse.  Perhaps they had all moved to other areas.

Today as I walked south on their road, at their nest area, I spotted the first youngster peering from the brush.  She came out to watch us and then left to hide.  In her photograph, note she has distinct blemishes below her left eye.  Regardless, I’m not sure if this first youngster is Bold or Shy.  I seriously doubt it was neither.

I continued my walk and later left the field via the same road.  Dad peered out from the nest area.  I photographed him and he went back into the brush.  I walked on towards the exit and Dad and a youngster came out to the road and watched our progress and assessed whatever odors we had left on the road.  I say ‘a’ youngster because I am not sure which it was.  Eventually Dad and the first youngster pictured began to follow Holtz and I as we continued to leave.  They did so after returning to the brush and coming out to the road several times.  For the fact that they were not in my continuous view, I’m not sure Dad’s companion in approach is the same youngster shown marking on the road.  I am sure Dad’s companion in approach is the first youngster because the final picture of her in this series shows the same blemish pattern below the left eye.  If she is Bold, she is still so.  If she is Shy, she is less so and learned more from Dad today about how to deal with intruder dogs.  What has changed, and what is the same?

Certainly Dad is the same in his distaste for Holtz.  When following us, Dad decided to quickly close the distance between us.  Before so doing, he scraped dirt.  He and the youngster split up, where Dad came east of the rocks and the youngster came towards us to the west of the rocks.  They met up at the rocks, the youngster holding back as Dad charged Holtz.  The Dad And Youngster photograph was taken after Dad’s charge.  He had come to about 20 feet and stopped, backed off some and stood as shown.  He seemed calmer so I took his picture.  I didn’t take pictures during Dad’s charge because I was charging towards Dad to get in front of Holtz.  Here we see one function of long hair on a coyote’s nape and shoulders:  he sure looks bigger!

My exit strategy after such a confrontation is to walk on, stop, turn around and stare, walk on, turn to stare.  Dad’s exit strategy is to pace, yawn, poke his tongue out, find a nearby site to lie down, attend to his grooming needs and stay put as we leave.  The youngster wanders around, visits Dad, wanders some more, going back and forth yet not forward.

I’m happy to know Dad is still holding his field and that at least one of last year’s pups is alive and undispersed.  I suspect that Mom is present and that there may indeed be more pups this year.  I’m interested to know if last year’s pup(s) will remain and have a role in caring for newborns.  The weeds are growing back quickly in the areas cleared in fall and winter.  The coyotes make use of the additional cover as a puppy kindergarten.  Last year I began seeing the pups in late June, observing them from outside of the field.  The information gained today leaves me content to now keep out of the field.

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.

Maintaining A Safe Distance From Walkers

This little coyote watched intently as a group of walkers with their leashed dog got closer and closer. When the coyote decided they were too close, off he darted, looking back to make sure they were not on his tail. They, in fact, had turned down another path.

Coyotes Avoid People If Possible

I watched a coyote make its rounds to hunting areas in the morning. Of particular interest was the calmness and easiness with which a coyote did so, heading off in one direction, finishing there, and moving on to another one close by.  For the most part, whenever a person came along on a path, the coyote was able to “duck” out of the picture without ever being seen — even if the person had come quite close. If they can avoid it, coyotes would prefer not to be seen. They tend to go the other way if people are around.

But surprise encounters on a path do occur. Again, the coyotes have bound off when a walker has come too close, or it has meandered off slowly if the coyote first noticed the walker at a farther distance.

Yesterday I watched as a group of people saw a coyote come down a path. I’m sure both the group of people and the coyote were a bit surprised, but it was a calm, comfortable surprise. Yes, just like the rest of us, a coyote uses the trails because these are “the paths of least resistance!”  The people were all keenly interested in the coyote, but obviously they did not want to interfere with it, so they stopped and watched with their leashed dogs at the far end of the path. The coyote kept right on walking within about 100 feet of them, then stopped and turned back. But I was that same distance in back of the coyote. The coyote, all very calmly, turned and again walked towards the people for a few more paces and then veered off the path onto and down the grassy hillside . There was no skittishness or panicky activity in the coyote, just a matter-of-fact and calm dealing with what had been presented. The coyote had not acted “threatened”. Both coyote and people were very matter-of-fact about the encounter!

A Dominant Coyote’s Awareness of Everything

I zeroed in on a dominant mother coyote’s awareness and staying in control of her territory today. The day began with the coyote walking towards a dog which was trotting down the path — with one of the coyote’s year-old pups sauntering along behind the dog as if they were out on a hike together! The dominant coyote gave her bouncing warning display — thereby communicating what she wanted to communicate — and then marched off with the pup following her. It was the same display as in my posting of:  Keep Away From Me.

The walker and dog continued their walk out of the area, the coyote pup disappeared, and I stayed to watch the dominant coyote perch high on a ledge where she kept a lookout on a place way across into the distance. After only about five minutes, the coyote leaped down and was off. I lost visual contact with her, but decided to head to the spot where she had been looking. Sure enough, that is where she had gone — she had followed her pups there, probably having seen them from the distance.

From here, she appeared to lead them all to another distant spot where they all stayed for a while. She kept an eye on the others who played and hunted. She did not participate, but sat down to watch. She watched the younger coyotes, and she watched a couple of dogs and walkers in the far distance. After about 15 minutes, she got up and began trotting back. She trotted in front of the other two — it was probably a signal to them —  and they followed her to yet another area. At this point she curled up on a rock while one of the younger coyotes hunted for a few minutes and then disappeared as the other had.

Within a short time she got up, stretched, caught a couple of voles, then headed up to a bluff where she spent the next hour. She watched a few dogs on a trail below. As the morning wore on, several walkers and their dogs walked in the direct vicinity of the bluff, but on the path below it. When this happened, she sat up, or stood, to get a better view over the rocks. At a certain point, she began very soft, barely audible to me, but continuous “grunts” — as if she were preparing to bark. She was reacting to dogs, however distant they were from her; dogs which bothered her on some level.

This continued for some time, so I left to take photos of other wildlife close by. I was only about 300 feet away when she began an intense barking session, so I immediately returned. I could see a dog and walker on the path, but I had not seen what about them had provoked the coyote. The coyote barked for close to 20 minutes, then hopped down off her ledge and headed out of the picture for me. I had been watching her for almost four hours: I suppose she was “making her rounds.”

The picture I got was of a dominant mother coyote’s being very in charge of her life and very purposeful in her behaviors. She warded off a possible dog threat (not really a threat, but she was doing her job), she monitored the area from a high perch and kept her eyes on her pups who were far, far off in the distance. She ran hopped down and ran the distance to join them and then led them to an area for further hunting and playing. When she was ready to return she did so in such a way as to cause the pups to follow. She curled up in another area, always keeping vigilant of what was happening around her as the pups finished their hunting and then disappeared. Then she went up to another high ledge where she again, this time without the encumbrance of her pups, monitored dog activity, grunted when she became distressed, and then went into a full mode barking session as a statement of her presence and possibly a claim to her territoriality in that area. Then she hopped down and disappeared into the underbrush!

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