Siblings: Diametric Opposites

“Careful and Dependent” spends her time waiting and watching

Today a coyote youngster was in an open area. This coyote can be characterized as “careful and and dependent”. She’s wary and not willing to take chances, unlike her siblings. Today she had planted herself in a safe location near some bushes — she could escape to the bushes if necessary from any harm. From here she watched her surroundings, and she waited. She seemed to be waiting for a family member — someone familiar —  to appear on the scene.

Soon a sibling did appear on a hilltop, a sibling who has a dramatically different personality type from the one just described. I’ve observed their different personality types right from the start, nothing has changed from day one: just like humans, there is a lot which is innate and unique about each coyote. This one, in contrast to the previous one, could be characterized as “adventuresome and independent”.

The adventurer saw her sibling in the field below and ran down to greet her, happily, caringly, affectionately, and the shy coyote ran to greet her: there was joy and camaraderie.  Both coyotes then wandered around for a short time, and then the adventuresome one headed off to forage, hunt and explore the area beyond view. She was more interested in her explorations than in the other coyote, whereas the shyer coyote kept her eye on the more adventuresome one until she was out of sight.

When the shy one sees the adventuresome one (left),  she runs to be with her (middle), but I’m in the way, so she turns back to her safety spot and remains there (right).

The shy coyote lay down to watch and wait again once her more adventuresome sibling was out of view. The adventuresome coyote seems to serve as a protector and role model for this shy one.

When the adventurer eventually re-appeared in the distance, the shy coyote jumped up and ran full speed to be with her. But  the adventurer had not been aware that the timid coyote was running towards her. The adventurer turned back and away again as the timid one struggled to catch up. That’s when she saw she had come too close to me and would have to pass me to get to where she was going.  She stopped. Apparently it was not worth the risk for her to follow her sibling. Instead she returned to her protected area where she waited again for awhile and then turned in for the day.

Meanwhile, the adventurer spent the entire morning not too far away, discovering new places to dig up gophers, and spreading her wings a little bit more.

Personalities Emerge Early

rough and tumble and playful

rough and tumble — they’re playful

There’s an array of trait possibilities which form our personalities and make each of us unique. This is as true for animals as it is for humans. Pet owners will tell you that dogs from the same litter can differ tremendously: each pup brings its own unique combination of characteristics into the world.

And coyotes, too, are unique individuals.  I’ve seen this particular litter three times now and I’m seeing behavioral differences which distinguish each pup.

The top photo shows pups who are rough and tumble and full of play. They like to run pell mell after each other — tumbling over each other and getting all tangled up is part of the fun.

reserved and careful and even a little bit dainty

Diametrically opposed is a very little reserved and careful pup. This one sat back and watched as the others roughhouse and play fearlessly. When she noticed me, she hid behind a tree. She? Of course I don’t know, but that would be my guess based on her comparative smallness and daintiness. I wonder if she is a runt.

the adventurer

the adventurer

And then, there’s the adventurer who is curious and explores far-off distances alone — probably unbeknownst to his parents who are still trying to keep the pups’ existence a secret.

I’ve caught him — he stands out as being larger and stronger than the others — on my field camera not anywhere near where I’ve seen the others: exploring and examining the territory, totally on his own.

I’ve also spotted this one sleeping on his own out in the open, which is something his parents do, but not his siblings. This one seems to be exceptionally bright, inquisitive, and self-sufficient — at least comparatively. Just hope he doesn’t get himself into trouble early on by wandering so far off from the rest of them in this litter.

Mystery Foxes, by Charles Wood

Dad 2010

I took the 2010 picture of Dad in early June. He walked out of his hiding place in the brush and boldly strutted by Holtz and me. Dad stopped not far away and seemed pleased with himself as I photographed him.

Thursday Dad ran at my two dogs and me, stopped, and watched as I made them stop their barking and lie down. Dad was in his field on the other side of a fence and my dogs and I were up on the river bank. Instead of walking my usual southbound route I had come up to their field from the south. My plan was to catch my coyotes unawares. I didn’t.

Both photographs show the prominent scar on Dad’s nose. Mom’s droopy ear and Dad’s nose uniquely identify them. Mom and Dad are a solid core for their pack, their children. I know Mom and Dad when I see them and I can count on seeing them. The children seem as a furry blur in comparison and are harder to distinguish and monitor.

Dad 2012

Two days ago a jogger spoke to me as he went by on the river bank. He yelled out that he had just seen a fox. I was surprised to hear that since I haven’t seen a fox on the river in at least ten years. I walked to where he had pointed and I didn’t see anything. I can’t imagine that someone would confuse Dad or Mom with a fox. I can imagine that someone would confuse a coyote puppy with a fox. In the first week of June last year a park ranger said he had seen two foxes in the field. It is a bit of a mystery that fox sightings occur at about the time I expect coyote puppies to be out and about.

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.

Spectacular Ordinary Sand!

Wow, this post is totally off topic, but I thought everyone might want to see the beauty which photography can reveal. Who would have known??

“Viewed at a magnification of over 250 times real life, tiny grains of sand are shown to be delicate, colorful structures as unique as snowflakes. When seen well beyond the limits of human eyesight, the miniature particles are exposed as fragments of crystals, spiral fragments of shells and crumbs of volcanic rock.”

Note that they are as individualistic and as interesting as people or coyotes if you’re willing to look hard enough!!

Please see the full article in the Daily Mail, or Dr. Gary Greenberg’s Microphotography site: sandgrains.com 

(posted with Dr. Gary Greenberg’s permission)

“Choose One, Ladies”, by Charles Wood

If you were a marriageable young coyote female, which brother would you pick?  Would it be Mister?  Or would it be Tom?  Does Mister’s white-tipped tail seal the deal?  Or would you forgive Tom that fault when you say “I do.”?

Mister has a yearling brother Tom.  How could I have confused Tom with Mister?  Yet confuse them I did.  Tom is one more male yearling to add to my pack, last pictured together in my post here:  Los Angeles Area Pack, by Charles Wood.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Encountering Someone New

I recognize all of the coyotes I see on a regular basis as individuals — and they recognize me — so when I did encounter someone absolutely new, it gave me the opportunity to observe a kind of wary curiosity towards me which I had not seen in a while. This little gal was charming in her careful-curious/ push-pull behavior towards me!  I’ve named her “Wary”.

Her individualistic characteristics would probably not be recognizable to many, but to me they stood out: her extremely fine and pointed snout, her uneven and almost human eyes, her large rounded ears with the very dark centers which she kept straight up and higher than any of the other coyotes do, her compact stance. There were coat markings, but it is the facial features and comportment which have always interested me the most. There was a delicacy about her and an alertness or readiness to flee — along with the very natural “insatiable curiosity” which is so characteristic of most coyotes.

She did not ignore me as most of the others now do, but watched me carefully and questioningly — always on her toes and ready to split.  After standing there, very still, and observing each other from a large distance on the path where we first spotted each other, she turned to hurry off, but then came back to peek at me from behind a bush, stretching her neck to make sure she could see me, and to see what I was doing. For my part, I walked away when I could tell she was having second thoughts about watching me watching her — but she decided to linger  a little longer which gained me a few more minutes to try to get a good shot of her. Then, her better instincts took over, and she trotted away.

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into her again, but I’ve named her anyway, just in case I do see her again. I say “her” because of her delicate features. The coyotes whose gender I could not be sure of  I tend to label as females until and unless they prove this is not so. Females tend to have “sweeter” or “cuter” faces with narrower jaws and foreheads and delicate little noses — at least compared to the males. Young coyotes have these same features until they grow out of them — which is why two I knew as infants I called females — but they ended up revealing that they were males — not for a full year did I know this! I have a friend who laughs at the change: “they were girls for almost a year”!  The older males I have seen were obviously male: they were bulkier and hulking, husky fellows who huffed and puffed, kicking and scraping the ground in a big display of power before departing. Their message was clear and I stayed clear. I wonder if the young males I’ve known will be like this? I wonder if this one will remain a female?

Why Isn’t Mom Around?

Hi Janet:

Last evening my husband, Bud, and our dog were walking on the nearby trails and saw a coyote pup about 150 feet ahead zigzagging back and forth on the trail.  He stopped, remembering that I had told him that coyotes are very protective of pups.  Our dog has a bad sense of smell so didn’t notice the pup.  Then another pup comes out of the blackberries and then a third.  They were very curious and moved about 50 feet down the trail toward Bud and still our dog did not see or smell them.

Bud was delighted but also concerned and was ready to turn around when the little yapper dog who lives much further up the hill but next to the trail saw our dog and came down the trail full throttle and barking loudly.  He was not at all interested in the pups but he did scare them and they dashed into the blackberry bushes.  Bud continued up the trail and only when he got to the spot they disappeared into did our dog smell them.  He then went nuts of course.

Is this normal for pups to be exploring without an adult near?  We knew that there was a den closeby that area because of the amount of scat on the trail.  We have noticed pup scat lately also. We also suspect there is another den about half a mile from this one.  How much area does a group of coyotes claim?  Or do they claim it at all?

We have many black-tailed deer in the area and many fawns each spring.  I have been curious about the possibility of coyotes killing very young fawns that are left in hiding while their mothers graze elsewhere.  I have never seen any evidence of this happening.  Does it?

Thanks for all you do for coyotes!  Ginny

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Hi Ginny –

Thanks for sharing your concerns — it’s a very interesting situation. From my own experience and from what I have read, coyote pups are keenly watched by their parents — either by one or by both parents. Even if a parent is not apparently around, the parent/s are always close by and ready to defend the pups if necessary. I should add that I have seen a mother coyote keep an eye on her brood from a huge distance away — she kept an eye on them as she relaxed in the sunshine. And then I saw her dash off in their direction, but I do not know why. Mothers do leave their pups when they go off to hunt, but she tucks them away in a safe spot where they normally stay. 

Other possible explanations for pups without a parent close by, include an overtaxed single parent who happens to be in hot pursuit of prey nearby, or a parent holding off another dog which had chased it in hopes that that dog wouldn’t find the pups. Worse would be if the parents have been injured or are ill and unable to defend their brood, or if they’ve met an untimely death.

More than likely, the pups just strayed from where they were supposed to stay put. But it wouldn’t hurt to check on them.

Maybe you could take walks in that area of the woods for the next few days until you can figure out the situation? Whatever you do, don’t get too close to the pups and don’t try picking them up — a parent coyote may come out of hiding to ferociously defend its young. If you continue to see the pups without a parent, you have a dilemma: I’m not sure the pups can survive without their parents, however anything you do to interfere is going to alter their natural lives forever.

If you see the pups alone again, you could call the humane society. If they are progressive, they would help raise the pups in such a way so that they won’t become habituated and so that they can be released again into the wild. Most humane societies are not equipped to do this.

You could also leave the pups to see if they make it on their own — maybe the humane society could suggest a way for you to help these pups without actually intruding on them or overtly interfering so as not to habituate them or alter their wildness?

As for the fawns, coyotes tend to look for the easiest prey to catch. Voles and gophers work fine in my area, but they also eat skunks, raccoons and squirrels here. Yes, coyotes are known to prey on newborn deer. I’ve read where newborn deer are protected by their lack of odor — I don’t know how much protection this offers against coyotes. But also, coyotes are known to be very individualistic in their behaviors and just because coyotes in one area eat certain prey doesn’t mean they do so in other areas. So to find out what yours specifically are up to and what their eating and preying habits are, you would need to explore for such activity.

You said there was another den only half a mile away from this one. A coyote family normally has more than one den which it moves the pups between. Moving the pups diminishes flea infestations and also it  serves as protection against predators.

Also, it is not unusual for coyotes — including very young ones — to be curious about walkers and dogs, and follow them.  However, a parent — if he is around — may decide that this kind of behavior calls for disciplinary action: see Charles Wood’s posting  More Dominant Male/Father Coyote Behavior .

I hope this helps a little. Please let me know, and please keep me posted on what you find out!  Sincerely, Janet

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Thanks for your reply Janet.  Bud went to the same spot tonight and didn’t see the pups.  There is a lot of underbrush and blackberries everywhere along the trail except where it has been removed as invasive species.  Coyotes are not seen often because of this.  Lots of people let their dogs run loose on the trail but Bud did not see anyone else yesterday although it is a fairly large, heavily wooded area with several trails.

Regulars on the trail only see coyotes a few times a year.  Most of the trees are deciduous so I really tried to spot them during the winter but no such luck.  I think they are very used to the dogs and walkers and so know where to locate so they are not within view.  We will keep an eye on the situation as best we can.  The city only removes invasive species by hand so they do not have funding for much work.  They primarily remove the holly trees hoping to attract songbirds.  There are some songbirds there but also in residence is a Cooper’s Hawk(s) who dines on those same songbirds.  Ginny

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