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.

2014-04-22

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

2013-08-10 (6)

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

Old Fur Is Itchy and Bothersome

This coyote has used her hind feet to scrape fur off her upper body. But what about the lower body where the feet can't reach?

Scratching upper back

This coyote has used its hind feet to scrape fur off its upper back. But what about the lower body where the hind feet can’t reach? The shedding there, it turns out, is helped along by other means which I saw today.

These two photos show the coyote innovatively sticking its snout under some stiff straw and walking under it so that the stiff straw scrapes its entire back.

The coyote’s next step was to lie on its back and squirm back and forth, using the stiff stubble coming up from the ground to scrape and scratch fur on the entire back. I’m sure the coyote was after the itch caused by the dead fur, but the effect is actually to help along the shedding process.

Fur, Bugs

I’m seeing big fat ticks these days, and I’ve suspected that fleas also are rampant because of all the scratching and the resulting loss of fur. But, it turns out that all the scratching may have less to do with bugs than I thought!

constant scratching causes hair loss

constant scratching causes hair loss

The veterinarian suspects the loss of fur may be due not only to the pesky bugs which cause a lot of itching and therefore scratching, but also may be due to the coyote’s helping with the seasonal shed — it appears that coyotes have been using their hind paws — scratching often — in order to get all that itchy dead fur out.

it's not mange; note pattern of hair loss where hind leg can reach

it’s not mange; note pattern of hair loss where hind leg can reach

Coyotes are approaching the time of year when their coats are at their thinnest. But the fur is exceptionally sparse just where those hind legs can reach on the back at the shoulder blades and behind the ears. That is where almost all the scratching is occurring! The rest of the fur is coming off more naturally and at its own pace.

hair loss behind ears

hair loss behind ears

The scratched spots looks mangy, but I’m told that mange is systemic and would not appear just where they can reach with their hind legs. So it’s other things: ticks, fleas and seasonal shed, but no mange. That was a relief to find out!

“River Pack Update: Some things change, some stay the same” by Charles Wood

My last post was February 22, 2011 when I photographed the mom coyote that lives in a small field that borders one of Los Angeles County’s concrete ‘rivers’.  That post was about 9 weeks after having seen Mom, Dad and their two undispersed female children who by today would be about a year old.  In the past I called one of the children Bold and the other Shy.  I have included their earlier photographs in today’s post.

A couple weeks ago I began to enter their small field a few times to walk along its roads with my leashed dog Holtz.  Coyote tracks and droppings were on the roads, yet my coyotes, if even present during my visits, would not come out.  I remember winter 2009-10 was a time I rarely saw my coyotes.  Winter 2010-11 has been the same.  I wondered if Dad was still paired with Mom and if not, who would be with whom and would there be more pups this year.  I wondered if the two female youngsters had dispersed or worse.  Perhaps they had all moved to other areas.

Today as I walked south on their road, at their nest area, I spotted the first youngster peering from the brush.  She came out to watch us and then left to hide.  In her photograph, note she has distinct blemishes below her left eye.  Regardless, I’m not sure if this first youngster is Bold or Shy.  I seriously doubt it was neither.

I continued my walk and later left the field via the same road.  Dad peered out from the nest area.  I photographed him and he went back into the brush.  I walked on towards the exit and Dad and a youngster came out to the road and watched our progress and assessed whatever odors we had left on the road.  I say ‘a’ youngster because I am not sure which it was.  Eventually Dad and the first youngster pictured began to follow Holtz and I as we continued to leave.  They did so after returning to the brush and coming out to the road several times.  For the fact that they were not in my continuous view, I’m not sure Dad’s companion in approach is the same youngster shown marking on the road.  I am sure Dad’s companion in approach is the first youngster because the final picture of her in this series shows the same blemish pattern below the left eye.  If she is Bold, she is still so.  If she is Shy, she is less so and learned more from Dad today about how to deal with intruder dogs.  What has changed, and what is the same?

Certainly Dad is the same in his distaste for Holtz.  When following us, Dad decided to quickly close the distance between us.  Before so doing, he scraped dirt.  He and the youngster split up, where Dad came east of the rocks and the youngster came towards us to the west of the rocks.  They met up at the rocks, the youngster holding back as Dad charged Holtz.  The Dad And Youngster photograph was taken after Dad’s charge.  He had come to about 20 feet and stopped, backed off some and stood as shown.  He seemed calmer so I took his picture.  I didn’t take pictures during Dad’s charge because I was charging towards Dad to get in front of Holtz.  Here we see one function of long hair on a coyote’s nape and shoulders:  he sure looks bigger!

My exit strategy after such a confrontation is to walk on, stop, turn around and stare, walk on, turn to stare.  Dad’s exit strategy is to pace, yawn, poke his tongue out, find a nearby site to lie down, attend to his grooming needs and stay put as we leave.  The youngster wanders around, visits Dad, wanders some more, going back and forth yet not forward.

I’m happy to know Dad is still holding his field and that at least one of last year’s pups is alive and undispersed.  I suspect that Mom is present and that there may indeed be more pups this year.  I’m interested to know if last year’s pup(s) will remain and have a role in caring for newborns.  The weeds are growing back quickly in the areas cleared in fall and winter.  The coyotes make use of the additional cover as a puppy kindergarten.  Last year I began seeing the pups in late June, observing them from outside of the field.  The information gained today leaves me content to now keep out of the field.

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.

Shafts of Fur


The rain isn’t necessarily good for taking photos, but in some instances it actually serves to make things clearer. Because the coyote was very wet, the fur clumped together, so the camera was better able to focus on these clumped shafts of fur. From the photo you can actually see what these shafts look like from end to end.

This fur here is part of the crescent shaped pattern located just below the shoulders crossing the coyote’s back. Each hair has three stripes: dark at the skin line — this is the longest section, then white, and then dark at the tip. The fur in this location across the upper back is the longest found on a coyote except for the tail. It gets to be over two inches in length.

Raincoat

By raincoat, in this instance, I mean a coat that has been impacted by the heavy rains. This coat isn’t wet, but the top appears to be much darker in color than usual, and it is matted down in a way that makes it look like one of those doggie raincoats that many owners buy for their pets!

Lush Winter Coat Revealed In The Wind

Here are photos of coyotes in their full winter coats. The wind blowing through the coat of one of the coyotes reveals for us not only how long and thick the winter coat is, but also how the coloring works throughout the length of the fur shaft.

Tail Spots

Very often, the spot which is about one-third of the way down a coyote’s tail, can be used to distinguish one coyote from another, at least from the back! Here are three different coyote tail markings. Notice especially the middle fellow: his marking is almost lightning shaped — the same as Harry Potter’s scar! During the summer, because the fur is shed, the marking are less distinguishing than when the coyotes have their full winter coats.

“More Waiting: A Southern California Update” by Charles Wood

It has been over a year since I entered my coyotes’ field to take pictures of birds.  At that time I believe there were three or four coyotes regularly in that field.  Two I have come to know as Mom and Dad.  The other one or two I haven’t seen this year and presume them to have been their offspring.  Last summer I didn’t come across the coyotes very often.  A couple times I noticed one coyote sneaking up on my foraging dog.  I shouted the coyote off and leashed my dog.  Another time my dog and I ambled out of the brush onto a dirt road.  My dog alerted and I looked up and saw three or four coyotes resting quietly by a large puddle on the dirt road.  They looked as we would have looked at strangers who had abruptly stumbled upon us while ensconced in a relaxing, private conversation.  Each coyote’s head was turned and frozen for a moment, looking at us with surprised concern.  Before they all darted off into the brush, one slowly stood up first and then paused as if to say “Well then, we’ll be leaving now.”  Dad’s muzzle wasn’t scarred last year when at the end of summer when he finally chased me and my dog out of his field.  In late spring 2010 I returned with the birds.

2010’s most memorable moment was viewing puppies in early June.  Soon thereafter I saw seven puppies together though now I seem to be seeing only two youngsters with Mom and Dad.  They meet around dusk at the same place in their field and if I’m lucky I see them before dark.  That particular place is, as I now think back over the last year, the place where I was most likely to come across coyotes.  It is not far from, and on the way to the place I go in and out of their field.  I would pass that area in leaving about the time that light became too dim for photography, their time.

Mom now has her winter coat, the coat that will keep her warm until January or so when she again comes into season.  Monday Mom was with a youngster, pictured together and separately.  They stayed within easy reach of each other.  They saw me before I saw them, that is, at least Mom did.  Mom was sitting and watching when the youngster’s movements caught my eye.  Mom wasn’t moving so I didn’t see her, though the camera did.  At times I don’t see Mom even when she is moving.  Twice this month she has surprised me, once at the bridge and once along the river.  Each time she seemed to be instantly there.  She marked, scratched dirt, mock charged and withdrew.  There was a time when only Dad so messaged me.  Since they now both do, I leave their area before it gets too dark.  Earlier this summer, sun still out, three times Dad sneaked up behind me and got way too close before I saw him.  Neither Mom nor Dad is getting used to or comfortable around me.

I did return to an area to the immediate north-west of their field.  There, on September 3, I was surprised when a young coyote poked out from the brush into the clearing in which I was standing.  It turned and fled, my dog having barked and charged.  A couple days later, at the spot I had been standing, lay coyote scat, small coyote scat that appeared to be a couple days old.  Good job!

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.

Coyote Coats Are Beginning To Fill Out Again

I have noticed that coyote coats are beginning to fill out and lengthen already by August: note the tail, especially.  During the coyote’s shedding period, fur loss moved up the shoulders from the legs. The last place to be shed was the neck area: in June some of the coyotes even appeared to have lions’ manes before this last bit of thick winter fur was shed!  The shedding was completed in June, leaving a coat darker in color as compared to what had been shed.

In June and July coyotes appeared at their scrawniest due to the minimal amount of fur: bones and ribs could be easily seen. Because of the sparse and short fur, the very distinctive markings of each coyote almost disappeared during the end of the shedding period. Bushy tails became thin and wispy. But now I’m seeing the same original, distinctive markings re-appear that I had noted from wintertime. These includes distinctive colors as well as distinctive patterns, especially on a coyote’s back. The coats seem to be at their fullest and most colorful in the fall, and last until January when the fur will start, again, to be shed slowly, leaving grayer/silver and blacker tones which cause a lot of the coyotes to look alike. The change is amazing and particularly noticeable in very young coyotes! What remains the same, of course, throughout the year, is a coyote’s facial features.

Looking Very Scrawny, and Might There Be A Vestigial Mane?

Heavy coyote winter coats have been shed, and what remains are much sparser and shorter summer coats. With this reduced coat, you can actually see how scrawny a coyote really is: ribs, spine and hip bones all poke out very visibly. This is normal. You’ll notice that coyotes are not lacking in energy that might result from malnutrition. The “skin and bones” aspect is just the way they are. My son changed the diet of his dog to a macrobiotic raw meat one, and for a while the dog looked like a starvation victim, no matter how much he ate. Raw meat just doesn’t put a lot of fat on animals. Coyotes need to be thin to retain their quick and sprightly movements.

Am I seeing a very small and sparse vestigial mane on some of the coyotes?  I only see it sometimes, but I’ve noticed it several times now. It consists of longer hairs on a sparse thin ridge right down the center of the neck, beginning at the base of the skull and running to the top of the back.

I’ve seen coyote coats in May – June – July which appear as though they included a full lion-type mane around the entire neck. However, this is only how it appears. This appearance is due to the way the winter coat is shed — it seems that the thick winter fur of the neck area is shed last and therefore looks like a heavy mane sometimes during these months.

Change of Appearance Due to Shedding

Coyote winter coats, thick and fluffy gray with strong black markings, are now being shed as the weather changes. Note the heavy winter coat above left, and the coyote to the right who is in the process of shedding this coat. The coyote’s new coat is shorter and darker, and the markings are not as intense. Also, as more winter fur is shed, the same coyote will appear much thinner. The change is so different that it makes it very possible to mistake it for being a different coyote, but in fact it is one and the same. I’ll try to add a third photo when the shedding is complete in mid-June.

The first two photos show the heavier winter coat. The third shows that coat thinning out, leaving a darker, more uniform colored coat. The last section of the coat to shed will be the neck area: a coyote in June often looks like it has a mane!

A Coyote’s Appearance Changes Over Time

I’ve become aware that over time, a coyote’s appearance can change considerably. One of the coyotes which I have been following over time would have been absolutely unrecognizable to me from when I first encountered her, were it not for the fact that I’ve kept up with her — her behavior remains the same. I thought it might be interesting to post some photos to show the change.

This coyote went through a change of color from browner to more silver, her markings became more prominent, facial look filled out so that the ears and eyes don’t appear as prominent as before, she grew a winter coat in the fall which she will shed in the springtime — this makes her appear larger, she gained weight in the fall — could this be due to aging or is it cyclical?

Note that in photo #1, taken in June, she is very thin, and she actually had a “mane” on her neck from her shoulders up to her head. Over the next few months this was shed — it may be that she sheds this part of her coat last. The first three photos were taken in the summer. She had been cooped up in her den with newborn pups prior to these summer months — we know this because she was obviously lactating when she emerged, and her body fat had obviously been depleted. The last three photos were taken the following fall and winter — she gained weight and she had a winter coat. I think all the changes I have noted here are due to aging, the seasonal changes and to being a mother.

Previous Older Entries