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.

Seasonal Fur, by Charles Wood

These pictures show my mom and dad coyotes in Summer and Winter fur. I’ve also included a picture of Dad after he went for a July 2011 swim. He looked surprisingly skinny. Both Mom and Dad in 2011 were underweight. I agree with Janet who had surmised around summer of 2011 that their 2010 large litter and two new pups in 2011 left Mom and Dad with less food, three or four of seven 2010 pups surviving and staying with them through late 2011. When too many coyotes are around, fewer coyote pups are produced, again as Janet reminded me this year when we saw just one pup. Again, Mom and Dad had two pups in 2011 and in 2012 they had one.

For me, my July 2011 encounter with Mom was significant and I want to describe it. The July 2011 picture of Mom was taken from a bridge and shows her looking up and at a time when her milk was drying up, a time when she was a particularly busy coyote.

Coming into view from under the bridge, Mom at first hadn’t sensed that I was there. The sound of my camera alerted her to my presence, interrupted her travel and she stopped. She hadn’t wanted to stop, but I again had bothered her and that disliked dog, my dog, was there too. She had to stop and “deal”, it’s the rule.

Stopped, Mom seemed only slightly disturbed. Then she slowly scratched herself, trying to rid herself of us like two dastardly fleas. Done scratching, she still did not look up at me. Instead, closed mouthed, she turned her head to the right and stared motionlessly off into the distance at nothing, focusing. Mom composed herself for several more moments, preparing to speak while exuding patient exasperation. She knew it was me there, above her on the bridge looking at her for the hundredth time, that horrid dog at my side. We were too close, but not unforgivably so because the proximity was entirely impassable height. Mom contemplated a safe yet unwelcome circumstance. Self-possessed, she sorted through the implications. Mom’s pregnant pause was longer than I expected. My mind cleared of all except anticipation. Mom looked deep within herself, carefully considering her next words.

What do you say to an errant grown man who, though knowing the rules, repeatedly insists upon transgressing beyond endurance despite having been told over and over again not to do so? “You, man, and me, coyote: here we are, too close now, inconsequentially albeit. I am unpleasantly surprised and actually sir, we don’t know each other all that well, now do we?”, she could have thought to herself. When Mom was ready she looked up at me, was composed, calm, stern and seemed to say: “Do we three have to do this again?” Mom asked me: “Must we?” That question was also her statement about who she must be. Before she had spoken thus, I didn’t know her.

Having interjected myself into Mom’s intimate space, from taking her away from her more important tasks, and from having been spoken to about that by Mom, I felt sheepish, humbled if not shamed. Yet I took her picture as she looked at me. Then, as she trotted away, she seemed wise and I like a child. She talked to me alright, and it was a significant encounter to me because that is when I recognized her. From that recognition, I began to love her. For my having taken Mom’s picture then, I would say to her, “Mom, you are a coyote, and I am human, we each are what we must be.”

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

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!