Pup at 8 Months Still Getting Food From Dad

Although I could not see the details because this occurred within a tree grove, there is enough information here to see that the full-sized, though only 8-month-old, pup approaches its father for food by sticking its snout into the father’s mouth. Apparently, the pup gets something because its attention is on the ground in the second photo, and it stays behind to “finish up” whatever Dad had given him in the third photo.

At 8 months of age a pup does not need help from its father in getting food. However, giving the pup food tightens the strong bond which already exists and may keep the family together for a longer period of time.

Trounced by a Father

Dad trounces a pup

Dad trounces a pup, 2nd youngster looks on with lowered ears

I observed another pup pommeling by its parent a few mornings ago. This time, it was a father coyote who interjected himself into the fun of his two coyote pups who were excitedly wrestling and and chasing each other. It was very dark, but I was able to capture some images, and, of course, I heard the high pitched, complaining “squeals” from the youngster being trounced. The pup took the beating lying on its back, as the second youngster just looked on with lowered ears. Then, all three coyotes — Dad and two pups — moved to a location not too far off, where the pups continued to play and Dad watched.  Dad actually seemed to be trying to lead them away, but he stopped indulgently, standing there, and watched their fun. After about 10 minutes of this, they all trotted off in a single file after Dad and into hiding.

Why had the Dad trounced the youngster? Had the pups been playing too “rough”? Had one been trying to dominate the other? Did Dad just need to establish some order, or maybe restore his hierarchy in this pack, the way the mother had in the other family pack I wrote about?

These pups here are 8 months old: full-sized, but still pups.

Punishment Again

This is the second time in the same day that I observed this behavior between this particular seven-month old female pup and her mother. Please see the previous posting.

I had two thoughts that might be related to this:  the first about Great Horned Owl dispersal, and the second about canine intuition regarding the alpha quality in another canine.

I’ve seen Great Horned Owls lovingly raise their owlets for almost a full year, from the time they are born in late March, through the fledging stage when they leave their birth nest, and through months of teaching hunting and other survival skills. Then one day, towards the end of the Fall season, both parents — these are parents who have mated for life and have raised their owlets together for the last 15 years — turn viciously against their offspring forcing them to leave the area. There is room for only one mated Great Horned Owl pair in any territory due to limited resources. As time approaches for the new reproductive cycle to begin, at the end of the calendar year, any offspring born that year are driven away by their parents. I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be so totally loved and cared for, and then have those who loved you suddenly attack you. This is what goes on. The young owls fly off to areas as close as the next park over, if there is room there, or as far away as across the US.

My second thought stems from how my 2-year-old female dog reacted when we brought home a new 4-month-old puppy — a male. We found the puppy — abandoned — and we couldn’t just leave him. She must have intuitively known that he would be growing much bigger than her, and that, based on his behavior and activity level and disregard for her, that he would assume the dominant status eventually. It’s only with hindsight that we came to know that this was going on right from the start. Over an extended period of time we noticed that the alpha status had segued to him, and she just accepted the inevitable. An alpha coyote in the wild, it seems, would do its best to prevent this from ever happening, especially from one of its own pups who began showing signs of any kind of dominance.

So, we’ll soon see how this situation pans out: if it settles down, or if it leads to something.

More Rendezvous Behavior: Fussing Over His Pups, Grooming & Intimacy

Charles Wood and I both have written a number of postings on coyote rendezvous behavior.  Coyotes are social animals who, except for transients and loners, live in nuclear families. They mate for life — coyotes are one of only 3-5% of mammalian species that do so — and the family is what centers their lives. Hey, not so different from us!

I recently wrote about a coyote mated pair — one with a den full of infant pups — who took off to rendezvous at dusk – like a couple on their way to a tryst in the dark.  Mated pairs are special buddies, and you can see it in that posting. I’ve also assembled a photo essay for Bay Nature on “Raising Kids in the City” to let people know about how social and family-minded coyotes are.

Today’s rendezvous was a family one. Mom and two kids were out lolling around on the hidden side of a hillside, waiting for dusk to get a little heavier.

Dad gets up & stretches

Dad gets up & stretches

After seeing them, I kept walking and found Dad sleeping in a little ball, about 400 feet away from where the others were. I settled down to wait for some activity. Suddenly Dad sat up, as if he knew that the others were waiting for him. What was his cue? He hadn’t seen the others — they were within his line of sight, but he had not looked in their direction. I’m sure he hadn’t heard them or smelled them. Maybe it was a cue in his circadian rhythms, much like our own, built in and influenced by daylight hours, or possibly by the movement of the moon?

He allowed himself a long stretch, and then scouted the length of a path before walking slowly into a clump of bushes which were in the direction of the place where the other family members were hanging out.

rendezvous begins

Rendezvous begins with Dad’s arrival

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Mom relaxes a few feet away

Since I could no longer see Dad after he disappeared into the bushes, I headed back to the hillside where I had first spotted the 3 other coyote family members. By the time I got to the spot where I could see them again, Dad was there. His arrival had sparked great excitement. Tails were wagging furiously. All coyotes, except Mom, were falling all over each other and doing their little wiggle-squiggle thing that they do when they greet one another.  Mom hadn’t moved from her sphynx-like pose, arms extended and crossed,  a few feet away. Now three pups were visible, but the shyest scurried behind a bush when she saw me.

Dad fusses over the first pup, stopping only to watch an owl pass overhead

As the excitement of the greeting calmed down, Dad approached the two remaining pups, one at a time. The first one he nudged in the snout, and then he poked his own snout into its fur, over and over again, twisting his head this way and that, in a grooming sort of way. The young pup closed its eyes and let itself enjoy the affectionate massage which went along with the grooming.  After about four minutes Dad moved over to the second pup. The first pup got up to follow and stuck its snout under Dad to smell his private parts. Dad did not like this and must have given a sign, because the pup turned away quickly and moved off.

Then Dad groomed the second pup: repeatedly nudging the pup’s head, licking and cleaning it. He then moved to the pup’s rear area and seemed to do the same, though I was on the other side so I could not see exactly where the licking was occurring.

Dad fusses over the second pup, spending lots of time licking and grooming the head and end of this 6-month old pup

Then my Canadian friend walked up, and I explained to her what was going on. We heard a siren in the distance. All coyote activity ceased and there was silence. I suggested to my friend that we might be in for a great family howling session, and I set my camera into “record” mode in preparation. Sure enough, the howling and squealing began, with the entire family joining in, AND was there another pup in the far distance adding its voice to the fabulous chorus!? Then all sounds ceased, after about 2 minutes. All the coyotes ran off, with happy flailing tails, in a single file, into the darkness and out of sight. There was no longer enough light for my camera to focus. My friend and I departed, too, delighted by how magical this had been. Here is the recording:

Bay Nature: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

#68 BN6

Continue reading by pressing this link: http://baynature.org/articles/photo-gallery-coyotes-raising-kids-san-francisco/

Fatherhood

Two youngsters dart in for food from Dad — the two very active coyotes in the video are pups who are approaching, but not quite yet, 6 months of age.  Dad regurgitates the food — it looks like whole voles — and the two pups feed in a frenzy. They continue to insert their snouts in his mouth in an attempt to get more food — it’s like an assault!  He gently and repeatedly clasps their snouts in his mouth: Is he indicating that there’s no more food to be had, and/or is he confirming his dominance?  Note at 42 seconds that a pup crosses Dad’s path by going under him!

It appears that Dad is the one to approach for food like this these days. I have not seen this set of pups approach their mother recently in this fashion. Rather, she sits in the distance and watches all the activity — safe from the onslaught!

Mother Daughter Greeting

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking "hello"

A joyous wiggly-squiggly muzzle-licking “hello”

Exuberance, kisses, wiggly-sguiggles, and unbounded joy: that’s the description of a parent/pup greeting, in this case it is a mother-daughter greeting. The greeting lasted only about ten seconds, but it was intense.

The child coyote crouches low, belly right on the dirt, and extends her snout up to reach Mom’s. Ears are laid way back in total submission. At one point, the little girl is ready to turn belly up. This little coyote is ecstatic and overflowing with affection and happiness. Although it is the child that displays most of the affection — note that Mom’s eyes are squeezed shut most of the time, probably for protection from the onslaught — it was Mom who actually joyously ran down the hill to greet this little one, so Mom initiated this greeting! When Mom decided to go, the youngster followed.

This display of affection occurs even if the separation has been less than 1/2 hour. Coyote family members show this kind of affection for each other whenever they’ve been separated for even a short period of time.

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.

Why Isn’t Mom Around?

Hi Janet:

Last evening my husband, Bud, and our dog were walking on the nearby trails and saw a coyote pup about 150 feet ahead zigzagging back and forth on the trail.  He stopped, remembering that I had told him that coyotes are very protective of pups.  Our dog has a bad sense of smell so didn’t notice the pup.  Then another pup comes out of the blackberries and then a third.  They were very curious and moved about 50 feet down the trail toward Bud and still our dog did not see or smell them.

Bud was delighted but also concerned and was ready to turn around when the little yapper dog who lives much further up the hill but next to the trail saw our dog and came down the trail full throttle and barking loudly.  He was not at all interested in the pups but he did scare them and they dashed into the blackberry bushes.  Bud continued up the trail and only when he got to the spot they disappeared into did our dog smell them.  He then went nuts of course.

Is this normal for pups to be exploring without an adult near?  We knew that there was a den closeby that area because of the amount of scat on the trail.  We have noticed pup scat lately also. We also suspect there is another den about half a mile from this one.  How much area does a group of coyotes claim?  Or do they claim it at all?

We have many black-tailed deer in the area and many fawns each spring.  I have been curious about the possibility of coyotes killing very young fawns that are left in hiding while their mothers graze elsewhere.  I have never seen any evidence of this happening.  Does it?

Thanks for all you do for coyotes!  Ginny

~~~~~~~

Hi Ginny –

Thanks for sharing your concerns — it’s a very interesting situation. From my own experience and from what I have read, coyote pups are keenly watched by their parents — either by one or by both parents. Even if a parent is not apparently around, the parent/s are always close by and ready to defend the pups if necessary. I should add that I have seen a mother coyote keep an eye on her brood from a huge distance away — she kept an eye on them as she relaxed in the sunshine. And then I saw her dash off in their direction, but I do not know why. Mothers do leave their pups when they go off to hunt, but she tucks them away in a safe spot where they normally stay. 

Other possible explanations for pups without a parent close by, include an overtaxed single parent who happens to be in hot pursuit of prey nearby, or a parent holding off another dog which had chased it in hopes that that dog wouldn’t find the pups. Worse would be if the parents have been injured or are ill and unable to defend their brood, or if they’ve met an untimely death.

More than likely, the pups just strayed from where they were supposed to stay put. But it wouldn’t hurt to check on them.

Maybe you could take walks in that area of the woods for the next few days until you can figure out the situation? Whatever you do, don’t get too close to the pups and don’t try picking them up — a parent coyote may come out of hiding to ferociously defend its young. If you continue to see the pups without a parent, you have a dilemma: I’m not sure the pups can survive without their parents, however anything you do to interfere is going to alter their natural lives forever.

If you see the pups alone again, you could call the humane society. If they are progressive, they would help raise the pups in such a way so that they won’t become habituated and so that they can be released again into the wild. Most humane societies are not equipped to do this.

You could also leave the pups to see if they make it on their own — maybe the humane society could suggest a way for you to help these pups without actually intruding on them or overtly interfering so as not to habituate them or alter their wildness?

As for the fawns, coyotes tend to look for the easiest prey to catch. Voles and gophers work fine in my area, but they also eat skunks, raccoons and squirrels here. Yes, coyotes are known to prey on newborn deer. I’ve read where newborn deer are protected by their lack of odor — I don’t know how much protection this offers against coyotes. But also, coyotes are known to be very individualistic in their behaviors and just because coyotes in one area eat certain prey doesn’t mean they do so in other areas. So to find out what yours specifically are up to and what their eating and preying habits are, you would need to explore for such activity.

You said there was another den only half a mile away from this one. A coyote family normally has more than one den which it moves the pups between. Moving the pups diminishes flea infestations and also it  serves as protection against predators.

Also, it is not unusual for coyotes — including very young ones — to be curious about walkers and dogs, and follow them.  However, a parent — if he is around — may decide that this kind of behavior calls for disciplinary action: see Charles Wood’s posting  More Dominant Male/Father Coyote Behavior .

I hope this helps a little. Please let me know, and please keep me posted on what you find out!  Sincerely, Janet

~~~~~~~

Thanks for your reply Janet.  Bud went to the same spot tonight and didn’t see the pups.  There is a lot of underbrush and blackberries everywhere along the trail except where it has been removed as invasive species.  Coyotes are not seen often because of this.  Lots of people let their dogs run loose on the trail but Bud did not see anyone else yesterday although it is a fairly large, heavily wooded area with several trails.

Regulars on the trail only see coyotes a few times a year.  Most of the trees are deciduous so I really tried to spot them during the winter but no such luck.  I think they are very used to the dogs and walkers and so know where to locate so they are not within view.  We will keep an eye on the situation as best we can.  The city only removes invasive species by hand so they do not have funding for much work.  They primarily remove the holly trees hoping to attract songbirds.  There are some songbirds there but also in residence is a Cooper’s Hawk(s) who dines on those same songbirds.  Ginny

Dad In Charge, by Charles Wood

Dad stops

Tuesday I saw Dad at the east end of their east west dirt road, as was Mom Saturday.  Both Mom and Dad, Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, appeared east and headed west.  Last Thursday, Bold instead moved from west to east on that road to arrive at the eastern spot where I had seen Mom (and Dad Tuesday) start out.  Mister frequently heads from west to east on that road, as did Bold last Thursday.  Dad and Mister recently headed together from west to east, which I read as Mom having the puppies somewhere else.  (All this activity usually takes place in the hour before and then during dusk.)  Last Friday, Mom and the three yearlings were together a bit west of that area.  They appeared to be waiting for Dad to come west to them.  I reasoned that he must have had the new puppies with him, though I couldn’t confirm it because he didn’t show up while I was there.

Nor could I confirm on Tuesday that Dad had the new puppies in tow.  Interestingly, once he spotted me, he turned around and trotted back to the cement ditch, exasperatingly out of my view, from which he had just come.  Then he trotted out again to stare and to sit.  He had a view of both me and the ditch.  My thinking is that he had run back to another adult coyote and messaged it to not bring the puppies out.  I guessed there was another adult coyote there because last year, Dad was not by himself able to stop an avalanche of marauding puppies in tow.  The puppies were always slow to recognize his danger messages, mostly glares and grimaces, placed on the puppies once he would spot me.  Last year it would take him time and effort to corral them and move them away from me and into safe brush.  The puppies were slow to glean his meaning, mostly taking an inordinate amount of time to respond appropriately, even at six months of age.  Tuesday, if indeed he had gone back to warn, his orders were followed instantly, something I only conceive of an adult coyote being able to do.  Once he sat, he was in control of both me and his presumed followers.

Dad down

Once I’m spotted, the only activity I generally see are waiting, watching, leaving and/or warning me.  Consequently, Tuesday I moved west to wait for Dad to proceed.  A few minutes later, Dad came along, defecated and then sat staring at me where I was on the bridge.  A rabbit cavorted in front of him just a bit away.  Then Dad bolted to the east, scaring the bejesus out of the rabbit who ran into the brush!  It needn’t have worried at that point.  Things to the east had evidently gotten out of hand and undistractible Dad went back presumably to reassert control of his pack for their own good.  Just after Dad headed back east, another coyote came from the north and went south under the bridge where, once in the field, it headed east to where Dad had bolted.

It is starting to look like a part of my coyote pack takes the new puppies into the nature preserve for at least the afternoons, leaving it for their field around twilight, rendezvous time.  Fortunately for my coyotes, the nature preserve’s boundary road, a major Los Angeles/Orange County east west running street, has two large drainage culverts under it as well as a utility road running under the bridge I stand on.  My coyotes make good use of those safe passages under a heavily trafficked street to go back and forth between the nature preserve and their field.  If I am able to confirm that the puppies are being schooled in the nature preserve in the afternoons, then that is a break with last year’s afternoon use of their field as a puppy school.

Dad ignores rabbit

I hope I am able to convey in the foregoing some of the competence I see displayed by Dad.  The “Dad Stops” photograph reminds me of many of his good qualities.  Among them, total information awareness, his eyes on his present object of interest, his ears perked to assess where he has been and where he is going;  decisiveness in action, where he acts with confidence and competence, Tuesday to make his space safe for himself and his progeny;  he commits entirely to a course of action and doesn’t quit until he has achieved his aims, seeming to know from start to finish what is required of him;  and he digs in and he takes the initiative, sometimes making a stand, sometimes instead taking to the brush.  All of which qualities in the same degree I have also observed in his mate, Mom.  I’m fairly certain that the yearlings are learning some of their final lessons before dispersing, lessons about guarding and secreting puppies, the tactics of how to fully inherit their “ghost species” legacy.

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.

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!

Daughter(s) Still Here, by Charles Wood

Before twilight today I saw two of the coyotes in the group living in a small field bordering one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  I saw Mom and Dad on May 25 and May 3 where Mom was clearly lactating.  On April 21 I saw Dad with one of his year old daughters.  Each of the coyotes today had two good ears.  Since Mom has one cauliflower ear, the two coyotes today had to be either both of the year old daughters or one of the daughters accompanied by Dad.

It has been more than a month since I last saw one of the daughters and I had wondered if they were still around and helping with Mom and Dad’s new puppies.  It is clear from today’s sighting that at least one daughter is still here.  I hope to be seeing the puppies in the next few weeks and am looking forward to learn how the daughters will share in childcare.

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.

Purposeful With Pups Around, by Charles Wood

Before twilight today I saw both of the parent coyotes who live in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  The last time I saw them was May 3.  I’ve yet to see their puppies this year.

Dad is still looking a bit thin.  I came across them both as I was leaving their field.  Mom was partially in cover.  I moved about twenty feet away from my leashed dog to get a less obscured picture of her.  Seeing an opportunity, Dad quickly approached my dog Holtz.  Dad disregarded Holtz’s barking and then charged.  I snapped a quick picture and then moved to stand between him and Holtz.  His opportunity blocked, Dad broke off his charge, moved back, calmed down and did some investigatory sniffing.  Throughout the event, Mom stood at the ready.  My read of Dad is that he would have stopped short of contact with Holtz regardless of my having blocked him.  There is an element of bluff in Dad’s displays and he was aware that Holtz, for being constrained by leash, could not engage him and hence, a close approach was safe.

The photographs included in this post illustrate how purposeful my coyotes can be when they have pups around.  Note that upon seeing my coyotes in their field, I head for the exit at once.  On the way out, I’ll stop in a clearing and take some photographs.  At times they merely hide, other times they do as they did today.

As mentioned in my post of May 3, Mom apparently has had her puppies this year.  It isn’t clear to me if today Mom and Dad, upon seeing me from a distance, messaged their accompanying pups to stay hidden while they took action against the intruders.  Instead, perhaps the two daughters from last year were babysitting so Mom and Dad could have some time off.

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.

REMINDER: It’s Pupping Season: If Needed, Flash An Umbrella!

It is coyote pupping season. We all need to remember to stay away from coyotes and their dens. Coyotes are feeling particularly edgy and protective of their space right now. When the pups are brought out of the dens, and when they begin to explore further afield, the coyote parents will defend a much wider area around the pups and they will do so more fiercely than usual. We need to give them plenty of girth so that they feel safe. After all, we are the ones who are intruding on their homes.

Coyotes will inevitably flee from human beings when there is a chance encounter on a trail. They may stop for a moment to look — they are curious — but they don’t care to tangle with humans and will move off — unless you get too close to a den area, in which case they may stand their ground. With dogs, there is always the potential for conflict. Coyotes always see dogs as potential threats — this increases many times over for a coyote when there are pups to look after. Leashing dogs in coyote areas, which both keeps the dog calmer and closer to you, is the single most effective way to avoid problems. But even a leashed dog, if he is active and displays antagonism towards a coyote it sees up ahead, can occasionally incite a negative coyote reaction.

If you have a dog, keep walking on, away from the coyote. Try not to stop and stare because this sets up an opportunity for the dog and coyote to communicate through body language and eye contact — it almost always involves mutual dislike. If the coyote feels threatened, he/she may stand his/her ground with a warning display which includes what I call the “Halloween Cat” display: arched back, hackles up, snarly face with teeth bared, head down, pacing or bouncing: this is a message — it is the only way a coyote can make you understand what its needs are. This, sometimes, can then erupt into a long distressed barking session. And ultimately, the coyote may try to herd the dog away by actually nipping at its butt. You need to move on — away from the coyote, but you may need to shoo the coyote off if it comes in too close.

As you retreat from an upset coyote, make sure that you walk away, don’t run. Running might incite the coyote to chase — it’s an instinctual reaction. An angry and loud voice, along with sharp noises or flailing one’s arms might hurry them on their way. Clapping ones’s hands, or shaking a small 4-ounce juice-size can with coins in it works. The newest idea that has been suggested is carrying a small fold-up umbrella with you if you walk in a coyote area and feel a need for added protection. Just flashing the umbrella open and closed a few times will startle a coyote off! I’ve never used this method, nor seen it used, but I can see how it would work.

NOTE: I’ve never had a negative encounter with a coyote. But I have watched other people have them. Every incident I have seen has been caused by a human with their dog who inadvertently or purposefully refused to respect a coyote’s space. I’m writing this to let everyone know that you can control a situation by becoming aware of known coyote behaviors which I’m hoping to show in this blog.

Coyotes Use Dens Only For Pupping

It may come as a surprise that coyotes do not use dens year round. They use the dens to give birth to their pups and as a place to nurse their young — whelping. The pups move out soon after these beginnings, however, they retain use of the well hidden areas around the dens — these become their secret resting places. Most coyote families retain several of these areas for their use. The pups are moved regularly to escape flea buildup and as a safety measure. I think of  a coyote den as being similar in usage to a bird’s nest: it is a temporary “nursery”. However, the nest, if it is still somewhat intact, may be fixed up the next year to be used again. This is how the coyote dens I’ve seen work. People are constantly asking me where the dens are, and I have to respond that, unless they are having pups, there are no dens: coyotes sleep out in the open and can sometimes be seen doing so. See my posting of July 15, 2010: Sleeping and Resting Right In The Open.

The den is dug by both parents-to-be on sandy hillsides and steep creek banks, under logs or rocks, within underbrush and in open areas where the digging is easy. These are always areas chosen for protective concealment, but also, they are places that can be watched by a coyote parent from some distance, again for protective purposes. Not all coyote dens are made by coyotes themselves: coyotes sometimes dig out and enlarge holes dug by smaller burrowing animals, such as badger or fox dens. In suburban and urban areas coyotes may dig dens in golf courses or in other vacant lots, under sheds and under culverts and storm drains.

Dens are usually three to six feet below the surface and can run from only a few feet to 50 feet into a hillside.  The dug out tunnel leads to a large chamber, which often has a second or even more entrances that are better hidden than the digging entrance.  Active dens are hard to find because of the various entrances — and because coyotes are very careful not to lead anyone there. Coyotes have not one, but several dens which they move between, not only to protect the pups from predators, but also to protect the pups from the fleas and other parasites which build up.

A coyote will fiercely defend its den if it believes the pups are in danger, even charging full-grown grizzlies who came too close. This is why dog owners are warned to keep their dogs far away from coyotes during pupping season. Pups are born from March thru mid-May, and then are nursed for 4-6 weeks. But the end of nursing is not the end of “pupping”. I’ve seen mothers fiercely defend pups who are approaching two years of age when dogs go after them. It is best to respect coyotes and allow them the space they need to feel safe.

Here is a wonderful link to a video of pups emerging from their den for the first time, produced by BBC Worldwide. It is called Coyote Cub Singing, and shows a very young coyote pup producing his first high-pitched howl!! Also, see more coyote pups emerging from their den.

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