When the Cats Are Away….

In each of the parks I frequent, I always see the same coyotes. These coyotes claim their territories, keeping other coyotes, for the most part, out. But the coyotes also engage in excursions to other areas, and I’m not sure what their claim is to these other areas — are they just interlopers?  When they make these excursions — and who knows what they go checking out or why — they are not at home to oversee their own territory. Hmmm….

So, today, the resident coyotes in one of the parks were gone. And…. the “intruder” took it upon herself to roam and explore their home territory in their absence. This is the most I’ve ever seen of her. She did a lot of sniffing and roaming, and she fled quickly from a couple of walkers who saw her. But, interestingly, although I found one small piece of scat on a trail before I became aware of her — and I have no idea if it was hers, I did not see this intruder coyote “mark” at all as she explored. Was she avoiding leaving her scent? Exploring coyote behavior is a voyage of discovery for me, too, and very fascinating!

Leaps n’ Bounds

I guess something exciting caught this fellow’s eye as I followed his movements from across a street. Whatever it was, it got away! The coyote ambled on, as he had been doing before the leaping began. Better luck next time.

Coyotes Like To Check Things Out Thoroughly

Here a coyote is stretching up high to check out a tree stump — coyotes are very curious and inquisitive, and they can be very purposeful. They normally trek along, sniffing at ground level or at eye level, but I also have seen coyotes climb the lower branches of trees when they’ve seen a squirrel there, and I’ve seen them jump high onto an unlikely rock ledge to check out a sound, smell or something they saw. Here, the coyote headed for the tree as if it knew what might be there, and scrutinized it intensely — he seemed to know exactly what he was looking for at that particular spot. He spent over a minute engaged in this activity. However, he left as empty-mouthed as when he arrived. I later checked out the tree stump for myself. There were two large hollows where the coyote had been exploring. One was about a foot deep and the other was about two feet deep. Each was about 8 inches across. Nothing was in those hollows — and they were too close to the ground to serve as wise critter nests.

My thought is that the coyote had found something very interesting there before, or maybe another critter had recently visited this spot leaving its scent there? Seeing this coyote check out the tree reminded me of how keen the memory is for canines. My own dog remembered the exact tree, way off the beaten path, in a heavily wooded area that we had visited only once a year or two earlier. At that time, a raccoon had run to that tree for protection. My dog had followed and watched the fellow watch him from the crook of the tree. Memory of the raccoon incident, and its exact remote location in the middle of nowhere, from a single incident long ago, astonished me because I had totally forgotten about it until my dog ran up to that tree again.

What To Do With A Long Strip Of Tree Bark?

If something like this were to appear in your path, you might be inclined to look at it, grab it, move it and then, after some thought, abandon it as not being too interesting after all. A good long bored yawn might cap off the “encounter.”

Into The ‘Hood

Sometimes coyotes venture out of the parks and into surrounding neighborhoods. They don’t stay long. If you see them, they seem to know exactly what they are doing and where they are going — there is purpose in their movements. Interestingly, most humans don’t even see them. This one returned quickly to the unpaved park area.

Play: Another Possible Toy?

After an intense play session, this coyote found this shredded stick and carried it a few feet before dropping it and leaving it. Maybe the coyote changed its mind about it. I’ve seen coyotes pick up a piece of bark or twig which they will carry a short distance, sit down with, and begin tearing or chewing. This did not happen when I took these photos above: the stick was dropped and left.

What Coyotes Do: Wandering About on a Hill Slope

I don’t know when or where this young coyote’s wanderings began, nor when or where they ended. I was able to observe a 15 minute snippet of it as it wandered in an area of about 300 feet. The area was an overgrown grassy hill slope near a road and near some houses on the edge of a park. The coyote was probably trying to get one last bite of food — possibly a gopher — before heading in for the day. I saw it “pounce” on something once, but it walked away without a prize. The coyote’s activities included: meandering at a walk, a romp down the hill, hunting by standing very still and watching movement on the ground, pawing the ground in one spot which produced no results, sitting very still to observe roadway activity, monitoring for noise and activity around a house before continuing — possibly it was listening for dogs which are a coyote’s main threat in an urban setting, peering carefully into bushes, and standing still at alert to watch for danger on a regular basis. The coyote did not venture close to the road or houses, but always remained within the “wilder” overgrown park. This coyote was unaware of me — otherwise it would have “checked” on me now and then. I was far in the distance and obscured by some tall vegetation.

Mom and Yearling Still Together

I observed a mother coyote relaxing as she watched her yearling run up to her and then go off to explore a very high rock — maybe an 8 foot tall “needle” rock. The pair was out in the same spot for over half an hour. The youngster on the rock must have felt like “king of the mountain”: it remained there for twelve full minutes, standing tall and turning to look in various directions. It undoubtedly had a wonderful vantage point. After the twelve minutes, it lithely climbed down the sheer, almost 90º wall of the rock — how it was able to get a foothold I have no idea. It then slithered into the bushes and I did not see it again. The mother remained out for a little longer before “going in” herself.

A Young Coyote Casually Observing the Rain

It has been raining lately, and it was raining heavily when I saw this coyote.  No one was around. The lone young coyote appeared bored. It sat in an open field in the rain and looked around — that way, this way, down, up: if you follow its gaze you can see that it is focusing on the movements created as raindrops landed on individual blades of grass and leaves. It also yawned and it stretched. Finally, as the rain got even heavier, the coyote ambled a short distance before it shook itself out and went into a thicket area. The yearling had been absorbed this way for about ten minutes.

Coyotes are very attuned to small grass and plant movements right at ground level. This is because one of  their primary nourishments comes from the voles and gophers whose burrows are under the ground. These small rodents often “work” on their tunnels, creating small movements in the foliage that grows right around their “doorways”.  Coyotes are always on the lookout for these movements which alert them that a meal is close at hand if they go about their hunting undetected.

What’s This? – Coyote behavior

Exploration and discovery are  fun to see in all animals. I have photos of my own puppy barking ferociously at a low-floating helium balloon. And I remember him barking at a ceramic goose — doing so ferociously, and then retreating lickity-split, “just in case”. An office chair on the sidewalk caused my other dog to make a wide circle around it, way out into the street — an infraction she knew was severe; but to her this was safer than getting too near the alien object.

So, all within about half an hour, I watched a coyote find things and react: sounds and sightings. The coyote’s reaction to the blue stool cushion reminded me of my own dogs.  I record everything with my camera and did so this time. I’ve put captions on the photos rather than write any more. The coyote’s nap was very short because a person appeared — coyotes are not comfortable with humans in the immediate vicinity. If a coyote senses that it has not been seen, it might stand perfectly still as a person passes. Otherwise it will walk briskly away from the person to keep the distance a comfortable one.