He Keeps Tabs On Her, While She Remains More Aloof

She was on her way out on a trek when I, and she, heard the distant signature call of her mate. She stopped and looked back into the distance from where the call came from for some time, but she did not answer him and she did not go in his direction. When the calling stopped, she proceeded on her merry way, out of the park, through the neighborhood, and on to her destination, wherever that was.

I opted not to follow her, but rather to return to the area where the male had called from. He had called from within some dense bushes, but I thought he might appear out in the open, and indeed he did. I found him heading towards a high lookout point. He was looking for her, even though he must have known that by this time she was long out of sight and out of hearing range. He settled down in the sun to watch and wait for her. He waited and waited.

After a time, he became focused on a dog playing and wandering erratically in the distance. Watching the dog was a good distraction — coyotes do get distracted by what is occurring around them which often causes them to change what they are doing. The dog was claiming way too much liberty in the coyote’s eyes: the dog dug furiously and explored off the beaten path — all within the coyote’s favorite hang-out area, and then, ultimate of insults, he marked the area by peeing on a bush.

The coyote sat up and moved closer during this activity, but he did not descend the hill to “say” or “message” his disapproving feelings. He just put up with it. After all, the owner was right there. The erratically-behaving dog, though bothersome to the coyote, seemed to be minding its own business — it wasn’t searching to flush out coyotes, and it kept within a short distance of its owner.

As he put up with it, another new dog, sticking to the side of its owner and therefore less intrusive, entered the scene. The coyote decided to follow them for a short distance — “where were they going and what were they doing?” This now became a distraction from the distraction. Following from behind offered the coyote a degree of protection since neither owner nor dog were likely to look in back of themselves. But the duo kept moving on and away and were not presenting any issues of interest to the coyote, so the coyote then veered off the path and then headed into the bushes for the day.

By the time the coyote went into the bushes, he had either forgotten about keeping tabs on his mate, or he had decided he no longer wanted to wait for her.  She would return within the next couple of hours and he knew this.

female spends lots of time grooming the father of her pups

female spends lots of time grooming her mate, the father of her pups

As for her, the female of the pair and mother of his pups, why hadn’t she answered his call or run to join him? She acted as though she didn’t want him to keep tabs on her.  I wondered if she had just gone off to hunt, or if she actually needed to get away from her mate and pups, or if she had gone off searching for her best friend. Her mate had had to fight off this other male who was the preferred suitor. Her mate had won the battle, but had he won the war — or her heart? It’s generally true in this pair that the female is rather independent in her actions, though she spends a lot of time grooming and snuggling up to her mate. The male, on the other hand, shadows her when he can and he often searches for her when she’s gone off on her own. Is he afraid her preferred suitor might reclaim her?

I’m simply speculating about the motivations of the male and female based on the behavior I’m seeing. Most coyotes mate for life, but this pair began as a triangle and I wonder if it wasn’t fully resolved?

A One Hour Peek Through An Opening In The Bushes At A Coyote Family’s Interactions At Dusk

I peeked through an opening in the bushes into coyote family life during the hour before their active life begins in the evening at dusk. This entire family was together: mother, father, uncle and one pup. There is only one pup in the family. The pup is super-well protected and superbly indulged by the three adults in the family: the third adult is a male from a previous litter who I will call Uncle, even though that’s not exactly what he really is.

The hour was spent in constant interpersonal interactions — there was not a moment when something was not going on or when some interaction was not taking place. Coyotes are some of the most social of animals, and their social life takes place via their intense family life.

The activities during this hour included Mom grooming Dad and vice-versa, Mom grooming Pup and vice-versa, affectionate play between Mother and Pup, all four coyotes aware of me and glancing at me in the far distance, Dad dominating Uncle — this happened continuously, Pup dominating Uncle who is low man on the totem pole, Uncle standing off to the side alone with ears airplaned out submissively, Pup hopping and jumping around trying to get others to play — as any only child might. And, most interesting, a sequence where Pup jumped on Dad (oops) with unexpected consequences and confusion.

Grooming, playing, cuddling and general interacting were constant activities (below).

This sequence (below) was pretty interesting because Dad ended up disciplining Mom instead of the Pup who caused the disturbance! Pup had jumped over — or onto — his parents who were lying next to each other. Dad either got confused and disciplined Mom — she’s the one lying on her back as he stands over her — OR, Mom’s growl at the Pup may be what Dad was reacting to. Dad coyote does not tolerate any aggression in his family, even from Mom. At the first sign of any antagonism or dissent, he squelches it. Dad is the oldest and wisest in this family, and the ultimate authority. In another family I know, Mom is the ultimate authority: every family is different.

Rigid status preserves order, but sometimes it’s hard to watch. Uncle is low man on the totem pole, and he’s made aware of this constantly: what is Dad’s “order” is Uncle’s strife and oppression.  There seemed not to be a minute that went by when Uncle was not reminded of it. It happened with physical put-downs three times in this hour, and in a more subtle manner, with glances, many more times.

Dad stretched, which meant it was time to go.

Dad stretched, which meant it was time to go.

As it got darker, the time came for the family to trek on. The move was signaled by Dad’s signature stretching. Dusk had settled in and their day was beginning. And my viewing time had come to an end because as they slithered away into the night, I could no longer see them.

Young Pups Left Alone Hide From All Perceived Dangers

Coyote youngsters are often left alone as their parents go off hunting or trekking. What do they do when they are left alone? They like to explore, sticking to the areas immediately around where their parents have left them — a healthy wariness and fear keeps them put.

From a substantial distance, I’ve seen them pounce on things, pull on sticks, wander around and mostly WATCH what is going on in the distance while sitting very still. If they catch you eyeing them, they’ll hurry away and hide, but first they’ll sit still for a few moments to confirm for themselves that you are actually looking at them. They may move to behind some minimal covering from where they’ll watch for another few minutes, and then, they’ll bound out of sight altogether where they know they will be safer.

pup plays with Mom by pulling on her ear

pup plays with Mom by pulling on her ear

It’s always an exciting event when parents return. After all, parents are not just providers and protectors, they are also playmates. When a parent returns, some of the pups’ shy wariness is tossed aside, but not all of it. For instance, seeing a dog in the distance is a red flag which causes youngsters to run for cover, even if a parent is right there.

With a parent at their side, they are willing to banter and play in little patches of exposed areas between the bushes, even if someone is watching — and they are always aware of all eyes on them — as long as the parent is comfortable with this. Pups take their cues from their parents: one whisper or “look” from a parent indicating that things might not be safe sends youngsters lickety-split into hiding.

Vittles For the Family: Over River and Dale With Grub In His Mouth

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He caught this vole, killed it, and headed home. At one point, his grasp wasn’t right, so he put down his prey in order to carry it more securely, or, perhaps, more comfortably.

Then the long trek home began — it would be about 1/2 mile over stream & dale, field & forest, meadow and sports field. When he saw a runner, he hurried off the path until the runner had gone by. When he saw a dog pack and their owners — all dogs were unleashed, he ducked behind some bushes and was not detected. He waited there for what seemed like an interminable amount of time, though it actually was probably only a few minutes. Finally he re-emerged to continue on his way, trotting, climbing, hurrying to where he wanted to go.

He went fast — I couldn’t keep up, but I could watch him in the distance using the zoom lens of my camera, still carrying his prey in his mouth as he trotted homeward.

He had to get by one last walker, but this was close to a secret passageway where he knew he couldn’t be followed. So he made a dash for it, right across the pathway of the walker who, I’m not surprised to say, didn’t even see him! People are often preoccupied with their own lives and forget to look around.

The coyote continued up a cliff and down again into his secret alcove, where he would deposit the vole in front of a hungry little pup, or in front of the pup’s mom, who then herself would offer the prey to one of her pups. The coyote’s outing had lasted an hour, and his trek back with food in his mouth had lasted almost 20 minutes minutes. This is what coyote family life is about.

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hunting

trekking along with grub in his mouth

Enough Is Enough!

An exasperated coyote determinedly puts an end to the howling of another coyote: “Cool It!” They were responding to a siren. Notice that the victim actually has the last word, though it’s not very loud, before they both settle down to groom themselves!

Elephant Helicopter Tails, by Charles Wood

whale-songs-and-elephant-loves-katy-payne

Janet and I have written about coyote family daily meet ups, rendezvous, and in a past post I included a short video of one: http://coyoteyipps.com/2011/07/24/rendezvous-by-charles-wood-2/ . The coyotes act like they haven’t seen each other in days when it has only been a few hours. It’s so joyful!

The other evening I was listening to Krista Tippett interview Katy Payne, an acoustic biologist and founder of The Elephant Listening Project. Here’s a link to that interview:http://www.onbeing.org/program/whale-songs-and-elephant-loves/24 from Krista’s On Being web site.  About 22 minutes into the interview Katy describes elephants family rendezvous greeting sessions that  are very similar to those of coyotes, including the tail twirling. As with coyotes, elephants show the same joyfulness after having been apart for a mere few hours. Incredible!

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Click image to read Rendezvous posting and see Rendezvous video by Charles Wood

Feisty & Berserk Reaction to Dad and his Putdowns

Usually one doesn’t mess with Dad. When Dad comes at you with his tail out, hackles up and belligerent, you go belly up fast and stay there until he releases you. It’s a many-times-a-day occurrence for this young male coyote. The behavior serves to reconfirm the strict hierarchy of dominance and submission between a father and a son coyote. Peace is maintained in the family with this order of things: there’s never any question about who is the boss.

On this day, Son has a feisty and berserk reaction to Dad’s dominating put downs. This reaction occurred after the third such put down within only a few minutes — “enough is enough, man”. First while on his back, Son snaps (teasingly), full of fun and good-naturedly at Dad. He sticks his paws in Dad’s face and then, full of himself, and “possessed by the devil”, runs off, not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, but running and jumping in circles and in fits and starts, and occasionally looking at Dad. Dad sat & watched until it was over, and then went over and put him down one more time!


 Putdown #1 and #2


Son Reacts Playfully


Son Goes Into Full Berserk Mode


Dad’s Reaction and Final Putdown In This Series

My dog would do this — go berserk — after a bath, or, in her eyes, after restraining her in the tub against her will. After the bath, she’d run around the house wildly, jumping on the furniture and wiping herself on whatever was available, as though she were trying to “wipe off” or undo the bath.It was as though she had been bitten and was running from something. She would stop every few seconds to look at us with a grin on her face, rump up, forelegs extended out in front, and ears back. Maybe she was thinking: “Okay, you made me submit, but I’ll show you that I don’t like it and that I have a free spirit.”

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