These pictures are of Dad escorting his puppies in June 2010. He saw me, perceived me as a threat, and stopped. Although not all are pictured, he had at least three puppies with him.
One of the puppies didn’t stop when Dad stopped. Instead it got ahead of him and paused briefly. “One Pup Gets Forward” has the wayward puppy partially concealed in the lower left. Then the wayward puppy went forward, kept going, and got well out of Dad’s reach many yards away.
Dad did not follow the wayward puppy. “Dad Can’t Follow It” pictures Dad angry because one of his puppies got away. A different puppy clings to Dad.
Dad retreated with the rest of the puppies. Way too late for my comfort, the wayward puppy galloped back and caught up with Dad. I’ve never since seen a cute little coyote puppy run that fast. It was galloping as fast as a rocket, so earnestly wanting to be with Dad. I was ecstatic. I had again been able to take pictures of a coyote father with his puppies.
When I returned home I studied the photographs and also studied photographs taken on previous days. My study led me to some conclusions.
Generally Dad is cautious and expects danger when walking around. When Dad perceives a threat he makes an assessment and then takes action. With puppies in tow, Dad has fewer choices of action. Puppies are rambunctious and take effort to control. With puppies and perceiving a threat, there isn’t much Dad can effectively do other than to collect them and retreat.
Usually when they all came across me, the puppies noticed when Dad stopped and became cautious too. Cautious, the puppies held still, went to Dad, to each other, hid, or went back in the direction they all came from. The puppies were also curious and looked in my direction to see what Dad’s fuss was all about. When all were somewhat settled, Dad led a retreat. Note that with puppies, when Dad perceives a threat he expects good behavior from his children and usually gets it.
Unfortunately, this time one of the puppies didn’t get the “caution” message. One puppy kept going forward alone, getting somewhat far away. Initially it stopped, but it wanted to keep going and it did! This time Dad’s circumstances weren’t usual because he had a very poorly behaving puppy!
Yet Dad has situational intelligence and so do I. As I studied the photographs, I thought Dad had to understand that he couldn’t be in two places at the same time. Indeed, he looked toward the wayward puppy and appeared to be stymied, exasperated, resigned, composed, in charge, and as if saying: “I told you to stop.” Then Dad, still looking in charge, lifted his head toward me, the cause of his dilemma.
After studying the pictures, I realized just how angry Dad was. Why? It hit me and I was stunned by the thought. Dad was angry with me for separating out a puppy and he was angry because he couldn’t protect them all. In his mind, I had intended to cull one of his young. In my mind, I was but only watching a show. In Dad’s mind, I had won and he had lost a lot. He carried that look of frustrated hatred, a look that comes with a defeat.
In Dad’s mind, one puppy was beyond his protection, liable to be taken by a predator. I think he knew the situation required him to sacrifice one puppy for the safety of the others. Dad couldn’t protect the rest of his flock if he went to help one vulnerable puppy. He loves all his puppies and that day Dad knew he had to let one go. I caused it and Dad was livid. Yet he accepted the situation and acted prudently. Dad offered one of his children up so he could protect the rest. Until I arrived home to excitedly review my pictures, I thought I had been watching a show complete with cute puppies. At home with the photographs, I felt remorse. It wasn’t a show. To Dad, it was as real as life gets, life for which he strives to prepare his young.
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.