Not To Be Seen

watching someone pass from behind a tree

This coyote very deliberately and skillfully kept itself from being seen by anyone. It’s methods included moving slowly, waiting until the coast was clear, staying behind trees or bushes, and moving next to shrubbery.

Following Mom, by Charles Wood

Pup1

Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.

PupMom

After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

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.

An Only Child?, by Charles Wood

Pup

Here in LA County, it looks like Mom and Dad only had one puppy this year. The two times I’ve been able to spot them with a puppy this year they have only been with one.

MomPup

In the MomPup photo, Mom is watching out just to the right of the puppy. Dad is to the left of the puppy, completely hidden by the bushes. This is one well protected puppy and it looks healthy and strong.

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.

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.

Not Seen

For three full hours this coyote was able to avoid being seen by anyone at all except one man who said he thought he might have seen it, but wasn’t sure!  The coyote picked times to move around when there was little activity. When it heard or saw someone, it slipped casually into the bushes — there was no quick movement which might have drawn one’s attention to it, so people simply did not notice. When there were not enough bushes around to “slip into”, ducking casually behind one, so as to be partially hidden, worked. At one point, on parallel paths separated by greenery, the coyote simply stood absolutely still and watched, until the “danger” on the other parallel path had passed, and then continued on its slow trek. When it stopped to relax, it did so in tall grasses or against shrubbery or far enough away from the beaten path so as not to draw attention to itself. Most importantly, it moved slowly or stood absolutely still — walkers and runners would go by without noticing the coyote at all.

Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes a coyote gets unlucky and is seen — and people like to tell others what they have seen so word spreads.  But also I have seen coyotes who allow themselves to be very conspicuous at times — seemingly on purpose. They do so most often by picking a dog-walking time for an excursion or to check things out. And then there is always the surprise encounter when someone suddenly appears on the path ahead. If there is a dog involved, a coyote will stop its activity and look at the dog until it passes, and then continue with whatever it had been doing and wherever it had been going.

Loud Noises Startle

Coyotes are sensitive to sound. They listen carefully when dogs bark to figure out “who” it is and “what it is about”. We people can sometimes figure out the meaning of dog barks if we apply ourselves. Coyotes will stop what they are doing, and may look in the direction from which the barking came from: they are trying to figure out the danger to themselves.

Several times I have heard much, much louder noises than dogs barking, and I’ve seen a coyote react. Once a huge truck in the area backfired, making an incredibly loud noise. The other instances include a fire engine siren which was close by and a helicopter that came close and low. These elicited a more intense reaction from the coyotes. In these instances, the coyotes initially became startled, and then fearful. The coyote became skittish and looked around intently, not knowing at all what to look for. The coyote then stood up tall, and walked in different directions, as if it could not make up its mind as to where to go. Ultimately, and fairly quickly, it ran off.

All In An Hour: Snippets of Coyote Behavior

I was able to see some interesting behavior today — all within about an hour! Each of these observations coincides with one row of three photos above.

I saw a shy, yearling coyote join its mother on a lookout rock above a trail. But the young one didn’t stay long: its self-protective instincts are strong. A dog walker and his leashed dog came in their direction. The walkers did not see the coyotes, and even if they had, they were 50 feet below the ledge where the coyotes were and could not have reached the coyotes. The minute the young coyote saw them, it took off, lickity-split, and I did not see it again. I’ve seen this coyote flee quickly when it thinks it has been seen!

The other coyote stayed relaxed and calm, watching the occasional walker go by below. This coyote was actually on the edge of another, higher, less used path. Today, someone came walking along this path. The coyote bolted into the shadows only 5 feet away, but it did not run off. The walker walked on without ever seeing the coyote. The coyote watched the walker leave, and then it went back to its previous resting spot.

I noticed tongues today — tongues sticking out. I have noticed this before in conjunction with both dogs and coyotes who were concentrating intently on each other as they tested each other face to face. I wonder if there is a correlation with concentration and possibly even making a split-second decision? The coyote in the 3rd photo appears to be just “licking its chops”, I think.

Coyotes are extremely attuned to the dogs and walkers that have confronted them. Coyotes have the same anger and fears that humans have. Few humans are willing to recognize this, but one only has to observe to see it. So when a woman and her unruly, unleashed dog walked by on the path below, this coyote became very agitated. This dog has chased the coyote, and the woman throws stones at it. First the coyote stood up to watch the two approach. When they were directly below, the coyote began grunting its displeasure and almost began a barking session. The coyote was preparing itself for the habitual antagonistic behavior from the dog and walker. The woman and dog walked on without going after the coyote, so the coyote calmed down and remained in this spot a little bit longer before moving on.

I then followed this coyote a short distance as it poked its nose into the ground now and then. While it was doing so, I noticed two squirrels playing at the base of a tree. Just as I was wondering why the coyote had not seen them, the coyote did notice them and ran to the trunk of the tree. It sat there a few minutes, but obviously could not climb straight up a trunk, as the squirrels had.

Maybe this had inspired this coyote, because then I watched it climb a tree! This was not a totally vertical tree. Rather, it had grown at an angle such that a coyote could walk up it and search for squirrels. There were none. The coyote in the tree was about ten feet off the ground.

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.

Hunting and Hiding: Coyote behavior

This coyote was on to something, so I sat and watched. In fact, as I came upon the scene, there were two coyotes out, but one slithered off right away. This one must have been hungry. The “flying leap-nose-dive” is always the most exciting part of the hunt and I was able to see three of these fabulous springy leaps in a row. This coyote is a young one — under a year old. That may be why it took three leaps to disable its prey. I only caught the last and least of the jumps with my camera. The hunt and meal together lasted only four minutes. By the manner in which the coyote kept licking its chops when all was done, I could tell that it must have been a good catch.

After eating, the coyote more or less kept itself hidden from view. From its hiding places it kept an eye on me. If I had not seen the hunting beforehand, the coyote would have been difficult to spot — it stood so very  still “behind” cover. Within a short time it trotted off to the underbrush.

Evading by hiding & waiting in the brush

This lone coyote was out next to some willow growth when I spotted it early in the morning. It hung out while I took a few photos and then, as walkers appeared over the ridge in the distance, it opted for the safety within the willows — I had seen it out in the open for only about four minutes. I thought it was gone for the day, so I walked through the park, but I kept my eyes open for if this coyote might re-emerge in the same area — I was hoping.

Forty minutes later, there it was, out in the open again, right where it had been before. I could tell it was uneasy. After only a minute, it re-entered the same spot into the willows. Of interest to me is that this coyote had waited in one spot for 40 minutes — waiting to continue whatever it had been doing before, but waiting until it felt safe to do so. When it did re-emerge, the coyote still felt uncomfortable so retreated again.