Youngster Makes a Quick Dashaway

The youngster in the middle here is a seven-month old male pup. He’s on good terms with both his parents. He greets both parents, and then Dad, to the left, “puts the youngster down.”

Dad has been out of commission for several days, at least during my observations, due to an injury he sustained either from an aggressive dog or possibly from a fight with a raccoon: his face and head have lacerations, and he limps on both his left legs. I’ve noticed that injured coyotes lay low for a while. Because of his recent absence, he may have a need to re-establish his position in the family hierarchy, which may be why he puts this pup down. The youngster submits easily.

Mom is to the right. She has just finished a pretty amazing harsh attack on this youngster’s female sibling.  Is this youngster fearful of the same punishment which has just been dished out to his sister?

Hide N’Go Seek

I became aware of a group of dogs and their walkers only when this coyote kept looking up in their direction. As the group approached, the coyote moved several times to better and better vantage points, but did not head off. As they got closer, the coyote moved over to patch of grass.  He nibbled the grass, almost as a distraction to himself, as he continued to watch the approach of the dog walking group. Was he getting nervous? One might have thought that the coyote would have hurried off rather than stick around. But no — curiosity can be powerful! Finally, when the group was about at the point where they would have been able to see him, the coyote bounded out of sight and out of harms way to a hiding place, where he remained until they passed.

Having avoided detection, and still wanting to watch them, he now ascended to another lookout, one from which he could make an easy getaway should that need arise. He still kept watching them! Was he testing his luck, or testing his ability to not be seen? They continued their walk, descending a path that circled around, and the coyote ran to the other side of the rocks to watch them as they went. The coyote remained undetected until the very end — almost. When the walkers entered a wooded area they could no longer be seen — all except an unruly dog who was lagging far behind. This dog had her eyes and nose out for the coyote — there have been plenty of previous chases by this one. Having caught whiff of the coyote, the dog went after it, and that is when the coyote finally split for good. The chase occurred  unbeknownst to the owner who had walked on ahead. I later told her about it.

Unleashed Dog Ahead

This coyote was hoping to slither quietly along without being detected when, directly ahead, there appeared an unleashed dog. You can read what the coyote is thinking through its posture, eyes and ear positions. The dog does not see the coyote at first, and continues to play with its owner. By standing or sitting very still, coyotes often can evade detection by those who are occupied doing other things. But the dog does finally glimpse the coyote, and when he does, he goes after it.

Coyotes don’t always just flee. Sometimes they will stand up for themselves when they are chased by engaging in a long, distressed barking session, or by chasing back. In this case, the coyote just wanted to escape the dog, and it did so by speedily dashing away and then ducking into a thicket of underbrush. The dog could not follow, so he returned to its owner.

Push-Pull of Wind-Buffeted Palms

The wind was pretty strong when this coyote stopped at a palm tree where the fronds were whipping around strongly. The coyote was startled and scared, jumping several feet, and then fleeing, but only a few feet. Curiosity was stronger than the fear, because the coyote returned again and again with the same response. Slowly the coyote calmed down, and just watched for a few minutes, and then trotted off on its merry way. This is a young coyote, still learning about the world. It was fun to watch and reminded me of an incident with my own dog.

My dog, a large 96 pound lab-mix was not by any means a fearful dog. However, on one of our normal everyday walks, on the planted space adjacent to a sidewalk, someone had placed two life-sized ceramic geese. They must have looked pretty real and been somewhat scary, because my dog went up very carefully, stalking and walking low, and absolutely ready to flee. These geese were not even moving. But my dog approached, growling and ran back. Then he did it again, and then again. There was a NEED to approach, yet a fear. This was the exact same behavior as the coyote when it reacted to the palm fronds whipping around in the wind.

Curiosity vs. Fleeing

Coyotes generally prefer not to be seen. However, they also can be quite curious which at times overrides their shyness. I think both of these tendencies, curiosity and shyness, are always present in a coyote, but sometimes one is stronger than the other. If you happen to see a coyote, you can be sure that it saw you. It might stop to examine you or your dog, especially if you have stopped to look at it. It is probably best, if you have a dog, to always keep moving on — all interactions between coyotes and dogs should be avoided in order to avert future problem interactions. Here are three examples of coyote encounters I have had:

I was alone when one coyote came in my direction. It stopped when it saw me and placed its front paws on a rock to lift itself so that it could see me better. I stopped to watch it and I was very still — it was probably curious because of my own stillness. This stillness often increases a coyote’s curiosity: it wants to know what you are doing and where you are going, and it can’t figure these out when you are still! The coyote did not hang around long, just long enough to get a good look.

In a second example, the set of two coyotes, pictured above, had been fleeing from a group of dog walkers when they happened in my direction. Again, I was alone and very still as I watched them — they approached a short distance to look at me. At the same time, they kept their attention mainly on the dog group which was coming in their direction.  Dogs have often chased coyotes, so the coyotes often are wary and defensive against dogs, especially the more active dogs. As the dog walkers approached, the coyotes fled.

In my third example, I saw a coyote which was very shy. It saw me walking on a path. Without stopping, it hopped up on a rock to get a better view of me. I continued walking. I could see that this coyote was uncomfortable that it had been seen. It did not stay to examine me, but fled very quickly and I did not see it again.

Please keep your dogs leashed in a coyote area. Please see the posting at the head of this blog: safety measures for keeping a coyote from coming too close. Coyotes in our parks have never come up to humans, though they have approached some of the dogs. Please keep a safe distance for your own, your dog’s and the coyote’s safety.

Experts at Eluding Detection: Coyote behavior

I keep my eyes open for wildlife — this is where my focus is, so I have become pretty good at catching what someone else might miss. Today I spotted a coyote on a path — pretty visible right in the open — but it was gone in the blink of an eye. The minute it knew it had been seen, it immediately was absolutely and totally GONE. It had bounced, like a rabbit, into some underbrush, and although I thought I might be able to see it again, I did not. The day before I was able to make out two ears way up ahead on the horizon with the sun coming from that direction — visibility was bad. When I got there, no critter was to be seen anywhere until with much effort I was able to detect a slight movement off to the side. It was the coyote, well camouflaged behind some thorny underbrush. I had only an instant to look, before it was off and gone.

Coyotes are often not seen by walkers: they easily elude detection, even if you are looking for one. I have seen many walkers not see one that crossed very close in front of them! Of course, at other times you might see one wandering boldly on an open path, totally unconcerned, and it might turn around and examine you out of curiosity. Or you might see one surveying the area from a lookout. There are no generalities with coyotes.

Fleeing from a Mountain Biker

I came across a young coyote sitting in a field, facing a small path. I sat down to watch for a few moments. Suddenly, and quietly, a biker on his large, very bright yellow mountain bike came up the winding dirt path. The bright colors of the biker and bike were in complete contrast to all the other outdoor colors that one would find in a natural setting: the bike clashed with the environment. The coyote immediately took off at a high speed run — really flying with both feet off the ground — into the distance, about 120 feet away. Here it stayed and watched until the biker had passed through. Interestingly, once the coyote was far enough away, it did not slither into the underbrush, but turned around to watch the biker. This may be because the coyote was aware that the biker was not pursuing it and probably had not even seen it. People very often do not notice a coyote, even one that is only a short distance in front of them — I think we humans have our minds on other things. When I spoke to the biker, he told me that he had not seen the coyote.

Another interesting thing about this particular incident is that shortly after the biker passed, who should appear on the scene but mom coyote. Had she been watching the entire time? When the young coyote saw her, it bounded up to her, and they both proceeded slowly across the field, looking for gophers until they disappeared from my view into a thicket area.

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