Intimate Coyote Sounds, by Jo


After 30 seconds of coyote family “greeting” squeals, this coyote family’s vocalizations settled down into new additional softer sounds that many may not have heard before: little peeps, a playful lower growl, and it’s more like they’re having a conversation toward the end, rather than just the usual merriment.  It was a warm, intimate “conversation”.  “Intimate” is the perfect word for it. . . I would just love to know what they’re talking about!

This recording occurred at night. There was nothing to see, but lots to hear!

Up Against A Wall and Walloped

A father and a daughter coyote had been lolling on a hillside when the daughter’s attention became riveted on something in the distance. She stared at it for a minute and then darted off, at a full run. Dad was surprised at her suddenly bolting away, but he followed not too far behind. And I, too, ran, but at a relatively slow follow.

When I caught up with them, they were sitting next to a house and their attention was focused on something I could not see. One of the coyotes then ran forwards and I could see flailing tails and lowered bodies, and rolling around. There was a third coyote there. It was because of this third coyote that the others had made their mad dash over to this area.

I soon recognized the third coyote as a male sibling to the female, son to the father — a family member! I had not seen him in months. This is a coyote whom I had characterized as timid and careful. He preferred “watching” his siblings roughhouse rather than entering into rough play. The last time I saw him, he had hurried off quickly — he avoided being seen by people and pets. I imagined that he had either moved into the bushes for good, where he would live his life hidden from view, or dispersed.

Could this be a joyful greeting of the kind I have seen so often? As I got closer, the sad truth revealed itself: teeth were bared. I realized that this male youngster had probably been driven off, banned, from the territory at some point. Today there was a confrontation because of the male youngster’s return to “forbidden” territory. This would explain his absence.

The fray moved to the open lawn at first but soon the yearling male coyote backed up against the wall of a house — and he remained there, possibly for protection. At first both father and daughter coyote charged him. But then the female youngster went off in the distance, focusing her attention elsewhere, but intermittently updating herself on the battle between father and son, with a glance in that direction.

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

11-month old male coyote, up against a wall

Dad coyote would stalk, then strike. The strike consisted of punching, nipping, and knocking the youngster over with a shove from Dad’s hindquarters, maybe in an attempt to sit on him, or throw him on his back. The son yelped and fought back in self-defense, all the while standing his ground and not succumbing to lying on his back submissively. I wondered why he didn’t just run off. Did he know he might be chased, and, out in the open, there would be no protection at all? Or was he himself making a “comeback” claim?

The assaults were not aimed to maim, they’re intended as a firm messaging device: “Leave! You are not welcome here anymore!” The father’s strikes were short but intense. After a few seconds of contact, Dad would withdraw about 30 feet and watch, either lying down or standing, probably giving the youngster “the evil eye” — communicating through facial expressions and body language. After a few minutes, there would be another round of this activity.

At one point a dog and walker appeared. I suggested to the owner that he leash his dog and keep moving. The man waited there for a few minutes. At that point the young female jumped IN FRONT of the dog and walker and lured/led them away from the battling coyotes! Fascinating!  The young female returned to her spot in the near distance after the dog and owner were far enough away.

Eventually Dad decided to walk away from the “interloper” coyote, but not before giving several backward glances over his shoulder at the young male — shooting him the “evil eye” again, and peeing a dislike message. He then slowly walked off, with the female close behind, stopping every now and then to look back at the young male who remained with his back up against the wall. When they were out of sight, the young male lay down for a minute, but only for a minute, and then he, himself, darted off quickly in the other direction, and into the bushes.

I caught up with the Dad and young female as they, too headed into bushes. I suppose that the young female is being guarded and protected, and that the territorial domain will be hers. I’m wondering if she has alpha characteristics which might have driven the mother away. Just a thought.

Interestingly, I’ve seen moms beat up female youngsters in this same manner, and now a dad doing the same to a male youngster. It’s as if each parent is jealous of it’s unique position and wants to keep it that way. It’s same-sex youngsters who present the biggest threat to any adult. Is it dispersal time, or some other rule which is being imposed? Pupping season is beginning, which means territories have to be secure for any pups which might be born this year.

Courting and New Bonds

It is again breeding season, when unattached coyotes look for partners who will become their lifelong mates. These two coyotes appear to be a new “couple” or “pair”, or at least they are headed in that direction. The male has been following around after the female, at a comfortable distance, without crowding her, and even looking disinterested at times, but always only a few paces away!

The male is totally solicitous of the female, and ever so careful not to annoy or upset her. He watches for, and is alert to, any sign of displeasure from her. She is the queen. She, on the other hand, is much less interested in him, it seems. But she is his “chosen one”, and if she consents to his advances, they will become partners for life.

Bug Off!!

This is a father coyote who absolutely indulges his offspring. He grooms them, shows them affection, cuddles with them, brings them food, plays with them, keeps a watchful eye out for their safety. You name it, and he’s there for them. His attention and care appear limitless.

Well, almost limitless. Dad here has wandered from the group and appears to have found something to nibble on. Overwhelming curiosity, and maybe the hope that Dad might share, draw a youngster towards Dad. The youngster approaches slowly, carefully and ever so non-threateningly — as though, maybe, all he really wants is a “peek” at what Dad has there.

Ahh! Enough is enough. Dad knows this trick and tells the youngster to “bug off!”  Maybe the message wasn’t as clear as it could have been. The youngster actually tries one more time to stick its nose into Dad’s business, but this time, Dad charges the youngster with teeth bared and snaps. The message this time is clear: the youngster responds by laying down far enough away so as not to be a bother. Even though the youngster didn’t go far, he did remain lying down — it was obviously a position of acquiescence.

Ahh! Space is established

Ahh! An acceptable distance is established

The Day The Pummeled Pup Didn’t Appear

The female pup, to the left, keeps away from Mom who surveys the area from up on a hill

I continue to observe this family during their time of family strife — I guess that’s what it is. The next day Mom again appeared on the scene, briefly, midway up a steep incline. The female pup, at the foot of the hill, looked up at her but just kept walking away from her mother and then watched her from behind a bush. Mom soon walked out of view.

The next day I saw the walloped coyote pup alone in a field for a portion of the afternoon. She was out much earlier than usual. Had she removed herself from the company of the others on purpose? Where was the rest of the family?

keeping to herself

keeping to herself

And the next day, she still kept to herself. I saw her walk away even from Dad, a coyote who has lots of affection for his pups and still indulges them with food at 7 months of age. Mom was the only one in the family who was not around. All the other pups watched intently, standing still, and moving their gazes between Dad and the battered one. Had something happened to that relationship, too, or was she just being careful about everyone? She kept to herself, and soon all of them retreated into the bushes.

Then came the day when the pummeled pup didn’t appear at all, and for the next few days I saw neither Mom nor this pup. My initial thought was that, indeed, the pup had been forced out. On this day, two of her siblings were foraging in an open area when Dad appeared on the crest of a distant hill. Both pups dashed towards him, and he came down to meet them. There was an intense greeting, as usual — Dad had brought food for them. He still brings them presents and is loved for this. They ate whatever he had provided for them. Dad has been around less frequently lately, probably because of his injury several weeks ago, so it was a surprise to see him. He was still limping, and his face still bore scars, but I suppose he knew he was needed to check up on his pups and give them some food. I noticed on this day that, not only was his left back leg injured, but he was holding up a front leg, too, at times.

Dad feeds two other pups

After supplying the food to his pups, Dad went up the hill he had come from, and the pups went down the same hill — they had met midway — keeping an eye on each other for about half an hour. Then, first one pup, then the other one, went into the bushes for the day. Dad stayed out just a few more minutes, and then got up and wandered off to his private getaway. Coyote pups and their parents do not necessarily rest in the same locations. In this case, it was obvious that all concerned knew where “their” specific resting places were.

The clobbered pup was nowhere in sight — this was the first day she has been absent, and her absence was blatant to me. And, of course, because she was gone, she did not participate this time in the wiggly-squiggly greeting with Dad, nor did she partake of the treat he had brought.

For the next few days I only ever saw one of the other pups in the field — never the punished one — and it was always alone and didn’t stay out for too long.

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/

Greeting Sounds, from Jo


This recording was definitely a special one from last night, very full of love and excitement.  Reminds me of when my dad used to come home from business trips and my brother and I would be shrieking with glee!

At 42 seconds there is a muffled growl, and then it goes silent.  I remember reading “How to Speak Dog” many years go, and the author said that in the wild, the mother dog will silence her pups by placing her mouth over their muzzles and making a low growl, as if to say ‘ssshhh.”  Is that possibly what happens at that 42 second mark?  That would be fascinating!   … Jo

[Hi Jo -- It is very possible that what you describe was going on! Yes, very exciting! Janet]

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.

Hey, Mom, Wanna Play?

How could anyone not want to be with such adorable pups, you might ask. But mothers need a break from their kids sometimes. Just look at the video, Meet The New Kids On The Block, to see what a coyote mom has to put up with! It looks like an incessant onslaught!

Kids of all species LOVE to play with their parents and want their attention! In the sequence of photos above, the kid comes up to Mom  for fun and games — he doesn’t seem to realize that she’s resting. But she does not want to be pestered here. “Beat it” is what she is saying.

1) Mom resting
2) Hey Mom, wanna play?
3) Please? NO!
4) In this slide he has withdrawn his hand as though it’s been slapped
5) Okay, BE that way! [The "kid" does a funny little twisty dance here!]
6) I’m outta here! Maybe Dad will play.
 

Moms often need free time away from the family.  Below she’s gone off some distance for a break, but she’s keeping an eye on them from her high vantage point, and will rush down to protect them if that is needed.

Mom rests on a knoll in the distance

Mom rests on a knoll in the distance

Breeding Season: Smells and Walking on Eggshells

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is all about powerful enticing odors — exuding and absorbing them. Attendant behaviors include edginess and short tempers. Odors are left anywhere, but especially on existing odors, such as where a dog has urinated. Odors are absorbed by wallowing in them and sniffing them.

Behaviorally, there is a decisive tentativeness during this time of year as a male and female approach each other. When HE comes over to sniff her, his movements are slow and as inoffensive to her as possible. The minute she shows any signs of flinching, he stops dead-still and waits for her to finish her reaction. He reads every detail of her movements. He is totally accommodating and ever so careful not to annoy.

For her part, she likes his presence — after all, she is walking with him. But she has let him know that he better watch himself — she appears ready to react to any misstep on his part. She rolls in his urine and allows his closeness — if he is careful. They read each other well. She’s been testy recently and he is absolutely walking on eggshells because of it.

I’ve numbered and annotated the 32 slides to explain what is going on in each one.

Breeding Season: Wandering, Sniffing, Marking and Scraping

Not only has wandering increased recently, but so has sniffing, marking and scraping or kicking. The increase is probably due to it’s being the breeding season.

Urinating leaves all sorts of scents and messages which other coyotes, or even other animals, can pick up on. The urine, as we’ve seen from human dope testing, contains traces of all sorts of hormones and pheromones excreted by the individual animal. These hormones and pheromones can indicate  gender, age, stature, and maybe even mating availability. Urine is used by animals for marking their territorial boundaries, but also for leaving these other messages about their status.

Scraping or kicking the same spot they urinated on is a common behavior of dominant individuals. The act of scraping or kicking often signals leading status — it, too, is a messaging behavior. Paws apparently also secrete scents. Scraping, besides leaving traces of scent from the paws, also helps spread the scent of the urine. I’m wondering if this scraping or kicking of the urine actually allows them to carry the urine smell — now on their paws — further with them as they walk?

In the sequence of photos above, an individual male coyote was wandering around on a far hillside. I sat down to observe him. He wandered all over the place, sniffing intently, urinating and then scraping. No one was there to see him. He may have seen me — though I was hundreds of yards away. He urinated in many spots, and he scraped viciously. I’ve never seen other coyotes or dogs on that hillside, so I’m wondering who he was doing this for. Maybe another lone coyote had passed through and did the same thing, and this one was simply responding? Most of the scraping I’ve seen in the past has been in the presence of a disliked domestic dog.

Request for Grooming & Tick Removal Denied

He stands in front of her waiting for the routine grooming and tick removal which has become an everyday occurrence between these two. But she is busy grooming herself this time. He stands patiently, but she does not respond — she continues grooming herself. Finally, he lets her know more forcefully by engaging her muzzle — “can’t you see what I want?” Whether she sees it or not, she does not respond. He then plops himself right in front of her — maybe this might get a response? But no, she concentrates on her own grooming. Finally she heads off. He watches, a bit defeated, and then follows her.

I’ve seen this “request” a number of times now in several coyote pairs. More often than not, one ends up grooming the next one. Maybe it involves a request to relieve a particularly bad skin itch or pain. I always wonder why the service is not a mutual one.

Mom and Dad Scraping, by Charles Wood

I don’t know why at times Mom and Dad decide that the type of messaging behavior shown in this clip is necessary. My visits during a week can seem to be going so well. Then Mom, Dad or both materialize in front of my dogs and me and scrape the ground. I’m looking at them from high ground and a chain-link fence separates my team from theirs.

Dad, at about nine seconds into the clip, asks Mom to move back. There is a particular spot he wants to urinate on and she is in the way. Not shown in the video, that spot is exactly where Mom urinated twenty seconds before. And sixteen seconds before Mom did, Dad urinated there first.

In their messaging to my dogs, Mom and Dad are a team. Yet while engaged in messaging intruder dogs, Dad had something to say to Mom, namely, “move.” Why did Dad have Mom move with the result that he could then pee where she had? Were Mom and Dad competing for last pee rights during a tense encounter? If so, what does that say about how well they cooperate as a team?

A possible interpretation of Dad moving Mom away is that Dad was being competitive with Mom. If we take that view, then Dad bested Mom when he moved her away in order to pee on her spot. Competition, in that view, compelled Dad to best Mom because Mom had tried to best Dad when she urinated where he had already peed.

My problem with competition as an explanation is that it requires us to believe that Mom and Dad were bickering at the very time that a conflict between them would be imprudent. It is hard for me to believe that Mom and Dad would bicker when engaged in a dispute with intruder dogs. After all, Mom and Dad were cooperating in a territorial display. It makes more sense to me to see Mom and Dad as cooperatively peeing, not competitively peeing. I see cooperative peeing as a key element of their territorial display.

In my view, Dad started this particular scent pile and Mom, thinking that a scent pile was a grand idea, added her two cents to it. Dad then expressed a desire of his to Mom. Dad expressed it when he moved her off. Dad’s desire was that he be the one to put the finishing touches on their extremely well-made scent pile. Mom, thinking that they both had been doing such a lovely job building the scent pile together, was pleased to assent to Dad’s desire. I think Dad in moving Mom, was telling her “Okay, we’re done. I’m going to finish this great job off.” That’s just what Dad does, and Mom is fine with it. Walking away Mom glares at my dogs, not at Dad for supposedly having bested her with his final blast of pee. She couldn’t care less about that. I see Mom and Dad first and foremost as a team, intimates who always inform each and the other of their intentions when confronting obstacles together. The communication between them is a key element of their success as a couple.

In the final section of the clip, Mom glares at my dogs, looks away, and glares some more. Dad is occupied with grooming himself. They sat like that until after the sun set and I went home.

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.

Dad and Pup, by Charles Wood

Here in LA county my dad coyote showed up alone. He sat for twelve minutes at the rendezvous area. Then this year’s puppy found Dad. The video shows their reunion.

I had to wonder. Why did the puppy also show up alone? Clearly it is too young to be alone. If it had been with a different pack member, that pack member would also have greeted Dad. I suspect Dad had been with the puppy and that Dad wandered off and left it. It took the puppy about twelve minutes to figure out that Dad had wandered off and to then find Dad. Dad could well have wandered off to teach the puppy to keep a better eye on him.

The puppy had another lesson to learn, that it had better pay attention to what Dad is paying attention to. Dad gave the puppy some little bites to calm it down. Dad was keeping an eye on my two dogs and me. The puppy didn’t figure that out until one of my dogs barked at a pedestrian. The last two segments of the video, taken after my dog barked, show the puppy’s ears at low camera left close to the edge of the frame. By now the puppy knew to be cautious.

Previous Older Entries