Male Yearling Accepts Submissive Role In Order To Stay With Family Pack

Father to the left, daughter in the middle facing us, submitting son to the right, down.

Father to the left, daughter in the middle facing us, submitting son to the right, down.

In a previous posting I described an observation involving a father coyote and his daughter running to an area where another of the pups from the same litter was being messaged to “leave”. This seems logical since any male would be competition for the father in this territory. However, another male youngster from the same litter has been allowed to remain. The explanations I can think of are, 1) this male and the female pup have always been best friends, and 2) this male submits readily, always, when asked to. He is not a threat and won’t be unless and until he rebels against always having to submit.

Here are two incidents I observed recently. In the sequence above the male youngsters moves away from a possible “disagreement”, but he is made to buckle under anyway. Below three coyotes consisting of a dad, a daughter and a son, are interested in the same thing on the ground. Daughter considers the son, her brother, in the way and grabs his snout. Dad supports her with a growl and signs to the son to hit the ground. Son hits the ground obediently.

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.

Paws on Pop: More Vying for Dad’s Affection, for Possessing Dad, or Just Family Closeness?

What I see going on here is continued vying for preferential affection and attention from Dad. And Dad sure seems to be indulging these youngsters. He’s letting them climb all over him. I’ve divided up the photos into four groups to make this posting as clear as possible.

This behavior follows directly after the behavior I posted on February 4th: Vying for Dad’s Affection. The female youngster here, above, seems to have become insistent in her possessiveness of Dad: she puts her “paws on pop”. It reminds me of “Hop on Pop”. Notice her affectionate pull on Dad’s ear in the 3rd slide above. Almost all instances of “paws on another coyote” that I have seen have been a demonstration of dominance by a parent or dominant mate, or by one sibling towards another. But here it’s a youngster with paws on a father! Dad is indulging her — it’s probably simply “play dominance”, if even that!

The female falls off of Dad for a moment, but then gets up there again, as the male sibling looks on with interest. The male sibling, off to the side, doesn’t look too comfortable about what’s going on, as indicated by the position of his ears which are low and airplaned out to the sides.

And the female youngster doesn’t just put her paws on Dad, she actually hangs in there for some time! After a few minutes, as seen in the last slide of the three slides above, Dad slithers away from under her. Maybe enough is enough?

Oh, but now it’s the male youngsters turn! He actually “mounts” Dad in the traditional sense: “Hey, I can do this, too, in my own way.” Is he doing this competitively with his sister? Note that Dad puts up with it. He seems totally unphased. After all, these are just kids and.

The female youngster persists, getting on Dad again and pushing off her sibling! Back and forth between the two youngsters. Are they vying for Dad’s attention and vying for “possessing” him, does dominance in any form play into this, or is this just simple family closeness?

Vying for Dad’s Affection Again: Who Gets Dad?

A female pup, again, runs so as to insert herself between Dad and her male sibling, and then turns towards Dad with an affectionate little mouth nip, and then grabs his snout in her mouth! Hmmm. Normally, as far as I’ve seen, this gesture is reserved for dominant members of the family, or between siblings. I’m wondering, possibly, if, being the only female in the family pack now, she has acquired special status? Or, is this simply family bantering with the understanding that, “Oh, I’m just playing”? The male sibling on the far side, walks on with his head lowered and with his ears low and airplaned out to the sides — he may be wary of what’s going on.

Although less than a year old, the female youngster is recognized in the family for her “difference” from the others, if not actually for her “female” status. She’s the only one I’ve seen in this family regularly lying on her back with her reproductive parts being sniffed with interest by the others.

We’ve learned that female reproductive hormones kick-in when there is no other reproducing female around, and that only one female — the “alpha” — in any coyote family pack reproduces. The alpha-mother of this particular family has disappeared from the pack, leaving a void. When alpha-females are killed or removed by human “management”, or if they die or become unable to reproduce, the other females in the pack fill in the void by becoming reproductively viable. As far as I know, it does not happen under a year of age, so maybe none of this is relevant. But, then again, maybe it is? I’m speculatively throwing this out as food for thought at this point.

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

Pup at 8 Months Still Getting Food From Dad

Although I could not see the details because this occurred within a tree grove, there is enough information here to see that the full-sized, though only 8-month-old, pup approaches its father for food by sticking its snout into the father’s mouth. Apparently, the pup gets something because its attention is on the ground in the second photo, and it stays behind to “finish up” whatever Dad had given him in the third photo.

At 8 months of age a pup does not need help from its father in getting food. However, giving the pup food tightens the strong bond which already exists and may keep the family together for a longer period of time.

Trounced by a Father

Dad trounces a pup

Dad trounces a pup, 2nd youngster looks on with lowered ears

I observed another pup pommeling by its parent a few mornings ago. This time, it was a father coyote who interjected himself into the fun of his two coyote pups who were excitedly wrestling and and chasing each other. It was very dark, but I was able to capture some images, and, of course, I heard the high pitched, complaining “squeals” from the youngster being trounced. The pup took the beating lying on its back, as the second youngster just looked on with lowered ears. Then, all three coyotes — Dad and two pups — moved to a location not too far off, where the pups continued to play and Dad watched.  Dad actually seemed to be trying to lead them away, but he stopped indulgently, standing there, and watched their fun. After about 10 minutes of this, they all trotted off in a single file after Dad and into hiding.

Why had the Dad trounced the youngster? Had the pups been playing too “rough”? Had one been trying to dominate the other? Did Dad just need to establish some order, or maybe restore his hierarchy in this pack, the way the mother had in the other family pack I wrote about?

These pups here are 8 months old: full-sized, but still pups.

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