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.

Intruder, by Charles Wood

Intruder

I got a surprise Tuesday when a coyote I’ve never seen before showed up in my pack’s territory. The adult female intruder was checking out some of the places where I often see my pack. Though not entirely clear from the photograph above, she has the eyes of a Husky. She looked well fed, self-satisfied, and slightly wet.

My pack’s territory has pooled irrigation water as much as six inches deep. My dog has used those pools to cool off on hot days, walking in and sitting down. The intruder’s chest was mottled by dampness and her pasterns were marked by mud. She too may have used those pools to cool off. Then again, when she went out she went down into the riverbed and may have been damp from having swam in.

I didn’t see any of my coyotes around. They either weren’t there or were non-confrontationally laying low and waiting for the intruder to leave. Certainly the intruding female knew she was in an area claimed by other coyotes. When she did leave she left quickly. Maybe she was able to see a bit of my coyotes that the dusk didn’t allow me to see.

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.

When the Cats Are Away….

In each of the parks I frequent, I always see the same coyotes. These coyotes claim their territories, keeping other coyotes, for the most part, out. But the coyotes also engage in excursions to other areas, and I’m not sure what their claim is to these other areas — are they just interlopers?  When they make these excursions — and who knows what they go checking out or why — they are not at home to oversee their own territory. Hmmm….

So, today, the resident coyotes in one of the parks were gone. And…. the “intruder” took it upon herself to roam and explore their home territory in their absence. This is the most I’ve ever seen of her. She did a lot of sniffing and roaming, and she fled quickly from a couple of walkers who saw her. But, interestingly, although I found one small piece of scat on a trail before I became aware of her — and I have no idea if it was hers, I did not see this intruder coyote “mark” at all as she explored. Was she avoiding leaving her scent? Exploring coyote behavior is a voyage of discovery for me, too, and very fascinating!