Fur Markings Change as Winter Coats Come In


These two photos above are of the same coyote taken one month apart. During the Summer, photo on the right, coyotes retain a lighter-colored short undercoat which remains in place throughout the summer until it becomes buried by the longer winter, protective and weather-resistant coat with the markings, which comes in during the Fall.

Coyotes have a signature winter coat (photo above left and below left) usually has a crescent of black and white hairs — looking a little like a shawl — which can be seen over the upper back right below the shoulders. Each coyote sports a variation of this marking which can vary slightly in size, intensity of colors and color combination. Look at the variations of winter coats in the first photo to the left below.

The entire winter coat is amazingly thick and long — over 4″ — and and includes a very bushy tail, as seen in the full coat below. The same coyote urinating in the photo below, has a summer coat for the most part, but she hasn’t totally shed the winter coat which is still on her lower back where she hasn’t been able to reach with her claws: coyotes help the shedding process by scratching.

Long Legged

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Siblings Watch Out For One Another, Starting With Bugs


Coyote siblings provide companionship, affection, rivalry and . . .  health care, as seen here by these grooming activities. It’s a bad year for bugs: ticks and fleas. The coyote is pulling off ticks. The activity is mutual — sometimes one is the groomer, and sometimes the other. Shortly after I took the video, the groomer, guy to the right in this case, snapped at a bug in the air — see photo below. The bugs are on them and around them! Must be extremely annoying for them. I’ve never seen coyotes scratch this much in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s constant. When they’re not scratching themselves, they are helping a sibling! Pretty altruistic, I would say!

By the way, coyotes are also shedding their winter coats at this time of year, which adds to the irritations they feel. Scratching, in fact, helps with the shedding process.

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More Nicks and Dents

More wounds

More wounds

Oh, no!! More gashes and lesions are appearing on the wounded yearling male I posted about earlier. He’s looking totally pockmarked. What is going on? Is he being attacked? These are the kinds of wounds which are inflicted by another coyote. Is another family member, or several family members, attempting to drive this fellow out of the family pack? And is he refusing to go? Or is something else going on?

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Coyote youngster sits in a downpour

Coyote youngster sits in a downpour

We finally have been getting rain in San Francisco and the Bay Area! After the driest year in recorded history, it’s been raining hard and almost non-stop, adding around 9 inches to our parched landscape! Hooray!

The younger coyotes here are new to rain, having experienced only one previous short rainfall in their entire lives! Youngsters born last year are stepping high through the mud, and holding their ears down, gloomily, showing that this is not the happiest of situations for them — we’re all wary of what is unfamiliar. This heavy rain will change all that!

Older coyotes who grew up with rain are taking the downpour in stride: they enjoy sitting in the rain and watching the few walkers who are willing to venture out in this weather. Hunting is often better during and after a rain, and, most importantly, rain provides an opportunity for a nice “shower”: the rain soaks in and the coyotes shake it out, which loosens the dirt and sends it flying.

Sopping wet

Sopping wet

Four-Month-Old Pups May Look Like Full-Grown Adults And Vice-Versa

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I seldom see coyote pups because the coyote parents I follow are pretty good about sequestering them and keeping their hideouts totally secret.  Although I know generally where pups are hidden due to the trekking patterns of the parents, I stay away from these areas out of respect for them. So when I did see one the other day, out in the open, it was a real treat for me!

At first, when I came upon this pup in the distance, I had to look hard. My initial impression was that it might be an adult newcomer to the area — it was a new face to me and its behavior was also new: coyotes are as unique as humans in how they look and behave, and this is how I tell them apart. But interlopers don’t just wander into an established territory and act “at home”, especially during the pupping season. It was only slowly, as I focused carefully on the face, that I became aware of the similarity between this one and a pup I had seen over a month ago  — so a full month younger — within a half a mile of this location. Might this be that pup?

A four-month-old coyote pup could easily be mistaken for a full-grown adult at first glance, especially when seen at a distance — see the above photo. It turns out that this was the case. Young pups have fairly full coats and bushy tails — not having been through a seasonal shed yet — so at a distance they can look larger and even adult-like! However, up close, and, of course when next to an adult, you can see that they still are youngsters, smaller than the parents, and they definitely still act like “children”, clumsy and inept, who lack the knowledge or skills to survive effectively without the help of their parents.

And, just as often as a pup might be mistaken by most folks as an adult, I have discovered that the opposite is also true. Many people have asked me if one or another of the adults I’ve been observing is a pup. It’s true that adult coyotes at this time of year, appear smaller and with slightly different body contours due to fur changes, making them look puppyish in many ways. At this time of year, all adults have shed their long winter coats, so they, in fact, do look much smaller and lankier, and lighter in color, which makes them look quite a bit more like one might think a puppy would look.

Please keep your dogs away from coyotes, both to protect your dogs and to protect the coyotes. Adult coyotes are more protective of their territories when there are pups around. Because of this, it’s good idea to review a little about coyote behavior, especially towards pets.  Visit the one-stop informational video which I’ve posted before: http://youtu.be/euG7R11aXq0

This four-year old looks like he did before he turned one -- he has fooled me a couple of times into thinking he was pups

This four-year old looks like he did before he turned one — and is mistaken for being a pup frequently

Rufous and Mary’s Place, by Charles Wood

For several years I visited a nearby field to watch two wonderful coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that their daughter Mary had paired with Rufous and displaced Mom and Dad from the field. Mary was born about April 2011 and has lived in the field her entire life. (I  don’t know Rufous’ origins or history other than that he is the type to weasel his way into a territory and turn a nice young coyote female against her own parents.)

In the video I included scenes of goings on in the field other than those of coyotes. Rabbits are plentiful, I’ve never seen so many there. The first scene shows two in contention about something. The second scene shows rabbit contentiousness isn’t uncommon and that rabbits take dust baths (the rabbit in the rear flops down to roll in the dust.) Next is Mary investigating and running away, though I could not determine what she ran from.

On a subsequent day both Rufous and Mary went toward the den area. Note the rabbits that jump around in the brush easily getting clear of her. Also, Mary seems to have scratched a marking onto her neck, and at that time appeared to still be nursing (June 7.) Following is a scene of a dancing rabbit. Next, a red-tailed hawk appears to have caught a rabbit. That hawk is a real work horse and is there every day. Over about two months I’ve only seen Rufous and Mary four times.

The final three scenes are from June 28, 2013 and begin with a rabbit once again getting clear of the oncoming coyotes. Rufous goes ahead while Mary hangs back, both having spotted my two dogs and me. Rufous veers camera left and then appears to break into an unsuccessful chase of rabbit. The last scene show Rufous catching up to Mary near the entrance to their den area. Mary doesn’t appear to be nursing any longer, my first having noticed her lactating May 1. If you watch closely you’ll see another rabbit bounding away from Rufous and Mary, neither appearing to have expected to encounter yet another running rabbit. Both appear to look around for where the rabbit might have come from rather than to look for where the rabbit may have gone. As I said, the hawk is a real work horse, but he is an army of one against the rabbits and Rufous and Mary don’t seem to be taking up much slack. Not pictured are two skunks that seem to go wherever they want around Rufous and Mary’s place. Mom and Dad ran a tighter ship, that’s for sure.

Becoming serious now: once Rufous and Mary went into the den area I didn’t hear the sounds of a coyote family reunion. However one clue, perhaps, that there were pups there is that Rufous and Mary were more interested in getting into the den area than in challenging my dogs and me. That was perhaps the first time that they didn’t message us to leave. Once they were concealed in the den area, they didn’t later come back out as in the past to check on my dogs and me, hopefully because they were being secretive and were busy with the pups.

Another observation: when Rufous and Mary were coming straight at my dogs and me, Mary held back and Rufous went first, providing cover for her. When they traveled with their flank towards us, Mary went first where Rufous was placed to cover her rear and flank where he could easily cut off an approach. In neither case were they bunched up. Instead they were positioned for maneuver.

As to the rabbits: in past years there weren’t as many in the field while at the same time more coyotes were living in the field, as many as seven in some years. Rufous and Mary remind me of my dogs where, upon having a rabbit run off, look around for where it came from after a short and unsuccessful chase. In the video it is interesting for me to see that to a coyote as to the camera, a rabbit is just a flashing tail that’s easy to lose sight of, an effective defense for the rabbit.

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