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25 Mar 2013 Leave a comment
When I first began watching my coyotes in 2009 I thought that I would frequently get to see them hunt and eat. I was wrong, I never witnessed them eating. Finally this week, after almost four years, a coyote caught and ate something while I was watching.
The video begins just after Mary pounced on a rodent burrow. I’m impressed by how quickly she moves. Once Mary has it she looks toward the camera, rodent hanging limply from her mouth. Then she looks back over her left shoulder at my two dogs and me. Mary turns her head back and then looks back again at us over her right shoulder. She takes a good long look. Then Mary puts the dead rodent down in order to peer into the burrow. The second clip shows her eating the rodent while a rabbit moves around in the background.
Mary’s concern, upon catching a meal, was with my dogs. I think she looked back at us to make sure we wouldn’t run to her to take her meal away. She looked at us twice to be sure her catch was safe from theft, in my opinion. Convinced her meal was safe, she put it down on the ground. However Mary didn’t look for Rufous. In my opinion, her failure to look for Rufous was a clue to his whereabouts. Either he isn’t a thief, unlikely, or she knows he wasn’t in the vicinity.
26 Nov 2012 2 Comments
This post is an afterward to my post on November 23, 2012 about a new female coyote I saw on Thanksgiving. Included in that post is a segment of video where a female coyote looked like she was stalking. Here I offer additional video from that day. I hope it will better contextualize her behavior. When viewing the video, please remember my dogs are tied off and separated from the coyotes by a chain link fence.
The additional video picks up where the earlier one left off. I am back at camera after tossing a golf ball and the new female is shown going away.
After that we see where she came from. Still there, her coyote companion continued to survey the scene. (The new female is sitting down in the lower right.) Having tired of waiting for me to leave with my dogs, she apparently decided to message us again.
She walked in our direction. At that point I could easily have stomped and yelled. Had I done so, I’m sure she would have stopped and turned around. She was approaching this time with comparatively less energy, even stopping to groom. Each time she slowed down or stopped was another opportunity for me to message her. Note that as she got closer she yawned. I see coyote yawns in these circumstances as involuntarily betraying anxiety. Continuing, the new female was distracted and stopped to sniff. Again, she was not overly interested in having to message us again and her pause was another opportunity for me to move her back with a stomp or a yell. She came forward and yawned, another opportunity to move her back. Since I made no objection, she moved forward a bit. Then she stopped to appraise, and came forward more. One of my dogs began to bark. I reassuringly went to my dogs and made myself big. She responded at once and moved back to where she started.
The last segment shows the new female and her companion, now to our left. Her companion chose to be visible. She instead used a small rise to partially conceal herself from my dogs and me. Soon I could no longer see her. Her companion also didn’t seem to know where she went, my losing track of it as it looked around for her. My dogs seemed to suspect her location, but appeared to be barking aimlessly. It was dusk, getting cold, and I decided to leave.
The two coyotes were almost exclusively focused on my dogs. I think the new female wanted them to run away. Until I acted, I was just a placeholder, a possible complication. Even so, when I softly tossed a golf ball during the first approach, she immediately went away. I think she understands that she isn’t able to deal with a human. I think her second approach was consequently less vigorous than her first. From her first try, I think she learned that in this situation she indeed had to deal with a human, not just with dogs. In her second approach, I think she acted deflated. However she was able to find a dignified way to leave after the second try.
I am struck by how dependent the companion was on the new female. At first I suspected they were mates. However, their actual behavior was more parent-child than mates. For example, my Dad coyote, when Mom takes action, doesn’t stand around all flighty and looking like a gulping coward confused about what’s going to happen next. Mom, when Dad acts, is alert and in tune. The companion appeared as in training, not as a mate. It acted like her baby. She arguably acted parentally to be rid of unwelcome dogs. Just maybe the companion isn’t a yearling yet, is instead only about seven months old. If so, that would help explain a behavior that otherwise approached aberrance. The only time my Mom and Dad coyote act similarly is when they have small ones around. It is starting to look like both these coyotes are new to me, are mother and child, and were probably just passing through Mom and Dad’s territory.
27 May 2012 2 Comments
Here in Los Angeles County my coyotes see me before I see them. Once I noticed Mom in the distance observing me. Once I looked up to see a yearling watching me. Dad also kept the pressure on me, seeing me first about every other day. I received their attention despite trying a new tactic.
Typically I walk east to get to watching places. Saturday I instead went north along the eastern boundary of my coyotes’ field. Along the east is a fenced off structure that has only a couple places where I can see into their field. Unfortunately, they too can see me.
I hoped they wouldn’t see me. As I happily walked, Holtz was ahead of me. Then he turned to come back. Immediately he started adversarially stalking towards something to my rear. Holtz’s head was slung low, protruding with his tough guy gaze fixed on the other side of the fence. I grabbed him and turned around. I expected to see a dog with a walker. I saw nothing. It must have been a coyote, no doubt one of mine that had been tailing us. Compared to a few months ago, my coyotes are visible and active.
Coyotes with puppies are more active for a couple of reasons. First, they are alert for interlopers. Coyotes hide and protect their young and are vigilant for all possible dangers. Also, they hunt more for having more mouths to feed. Fortunately for coyotes, nature provides them with more to hunt during spring.
This time of year, my coyotes’ rabbits also produce offspring. Controlling rabbit populations is an important coyote job. Young rabbits are easier to catch than adult rabbits, and I imagine that in good years there are lots of them for adult and child coyote alike. The richness of vegetation from good rains provides more cover for rabbit nests. Rabbit nests would be fairly easy for a foraging a coyote puppy to find all on its own. Yet the coyotes and other predators don’t find all the nests. One reason they don’t is that adult rabbits make themselves conspicuous this time of year, acting as fast running decoys that lead predators away from their nests. Dense ground cover with a bumper rabbit crop in their field is an excellent incentive for my coyotes to remain in their field.
A balance between predators and rabbits protects the field itself from a being overgrazed by rabbits. Fifteen years ago, when I would only see foxes, rabbits were a problem down river at Leisure World which suffered from a rabbit invasion. I suspect that since the coming of coyotes, that invasion silently went away along with the foxes.
13 May 2012 1 Comment
Saturday in LA County I took one dog, Holtz, out with my camera to look for my coyotes. Dad came close to us and then left. I photographed him leaving, after sunset and several hundred feet away. Despite the distance, Dad’s ears were pointed back in my direction. He disappeared after re-entering his field through a break in the fence.
In 2005 I let Holtz use the same break in the fence. Holtz wanted to cavort in the field and I let him. As he played in the field I noticed a coyote approaching him from behind. I yelled at the coyote, made Holtz come, leashed him, and left. I didn’t return to the field until 2009 when I took up bird photography.
Dad and Holtz have a history since 2009, and perhaps as far back as 2005. I have no way of knowing if it was or wasn’t Dad who had approached Holtz in 2005. I do know it was Dad who approached us Saturday at dusk.
I waited about half an hour and watched. Then Holtz stood, stared past the fence into the field, and began crying. Holtz cries when he sees rabbits or coyotes close by. He cries because he wants off leash to chase. I hushed Holtz, but didn’t see anything. He still stood on alert staring out into the field. I packed up slowly, hoping to see something. I even lobbed a couple golf balls. If a coyote was close, I wanted it to back off. Nothing stirred. Then we headed north to my coyotes’ rendezvous area.
Leashed and energetic, I let Holtz run wide half circles near me and down along the fence. With my back to him, I felt him return to my side and hold still. It dawned on me that although Holtz wasn’t running, the sound of running hadn’t stopped. I turned to see Dad running the fence on the other side. He wasn’t happy. When I looked at Dad, he moved away into brush. From Dad’s point of view I am a feared incompetent, slow to catch on, slow to see him, a sometime thrower of golf balls with bad aim, yet a sturdy barrier between Holtz and him.
For a month or so Dad has been satisfied to just show himself at a distance and stare to make us leave. Saturday, he spoke louder by getting close. One of Dad’s messaging techniques is to hide himself in brush about fifty or so feet away. He watches and waits. While I’m not looking, Dad shows himself to Holtz and gives him an evil eye. Holtz cries and I look to see at what. Once in a while I catch Dad sidestepping back into cover. Saturday Dad was quicker than I. After unnerving Holtz, Dad must have followed us to the rendezvous area. Holtz’s running around further raised Dad’s ire and so Dad came closer to run the fence. It was a strong message.
After Dad ran the fence he disappeared into the brush. I took a few steps in that direction. Holtz let the leash tighten up and planted his feet, looking at me like I was crazy. Holtz knew that Dad seriously wanted distance. Holtz wanted serious distance between Dad and us too. As we left I kept an eye on our heels for Dad. Far away, in dim light with the naked eye, a distant plant on the river bank looked possibly like a coyote. I put the camera on it and saw that it was just a plant. Only through the lens did I notice some motion down there and photographed Dad.
Dad is troublesome to Holtz and me because we are troublesome to Dad. Over the years I’ve seen and talked to several people who use my coyotes’ field. Some haven’t seen the coyotes at all, some see them play and hunt, and none have told me of being messaged in the way Holtz and I are. My coyotes watch people pass by on the river bank walking, jogging, or bicycling. Few stop to ask what I’m watching for. Those who do are surprised to hear coyotes live in the field. As far as I know, my coyotes are only troublesome to me. Going on four years, Mom and Dad have known me for about half of their lives. Other people to my coyotes are mostly background noise. One man spends the night in their field and the coyotes just avoid him. To have a chance of seeing puppies this year I will have to back off now and try and return later incognito.
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.
01 Feb 2012 Leave a comment
This resting coyote — hidden from view — perked up when a dog and walker went by. A number of dogs had passed, so I don’t know why this one was of particular interest, but the coyote felt that an investigation was called for. As I’ve noted before, the interest is often about “what are you doing and where are you going.” The coyote followed, ever so carefully, at a fairly long distance, keeping an eye on the dog and owner who walked in the vicinity of hedges where the coyote had been resting. At several points, the coyote stopped to wait for the walkers to move way ahead, and then followed at a distance that just allowed it to keep the wakers in sight, yet not be seen. When the coyote stopped and stood still, it was almost undetectable. Then, when the dog and owner finally headed off for good, the coyote just sat down and watched them leave. The activity, from start to finish, lasted thirteen minutes, and the dog and walker never noticed the coyote.
I don’t know how this dog might have reacted had it seen the coyote. Some dogs can smell coyotes from afar and know they are around, even if the coyote can’t be seen. Some dogs are either oblivious or don’t care, even when a coyote can be seen. And there are some dogs that show real respect for the needs of wildlife, leaving them alone and giving them their space on purpose. But most dogs have no such comprehension and think coyotes are to be chased. The chasing sets up a precedent which the coyotes then come to expect. Most often, the coyote will just flee. But it could stand up for itself by messaging its needs to be left alone or to leave its territory. This could entail charge-and-retreat sequences, or sometimes even nipping at a dog’s behind, cattle-dog fashion, to get it to leave. Keeping your dog close to you and leashed can prevent such incidents.
11 Nov 2011 Leave a comment
This bush is actually called Coyote Brush! The coyote stopped when he got there, sniffed it, then got up on its two hind legs to reach higher. But that did not help accomplish anything. So finally the coyote leaped up to get even higher, and repeated this several times, falling to the ground rather clumsily after each leap! There must have been something pretty exciting in that bush. However, the coyote’s efforts ended there because a dog from a distant path spotted the coyote and came bounding up in pursuit. The coyote fled the scene. The dog, too, then became interested in the bush and sniffed it intensely for a minute, but the dog was not as resourceful as the coyote had been in his attempts to reach whatever was there. When the dog’s owner called, the dog returned to the path. I later returned to the bush to try to figure out what had been there — whatever it was, it was long gone, so it will always be a mystery.
18 May 2011 2 Comments
Here is a sequence of events that gets you right into a coyote’s world.
I came down a path to find a coyote high on a rock, carefully watching some dogs and walkers approach. As the dogs and people reached a point where they might have spotted the coyote, the coyote hurried down the rock, waited for a moment and then hurried to behind a bush to hide and wait for the group to pass by — I was impressed with this little coyote’s intelligence and planning. Neither the people nor the dogs saw the coyote at all.
After this group had passed, the coyote scrambled back up to the lookout on the rock, watching this group until they were totally out of sight. A huge yawn and stretch was in order to celebrate the successful evasion. But it was important now for the coyote to “speak its mind”. It trotted down to the path where the group had passed, smelled for the exact location to leave its mark, and pooped. Then it walked a little further, smelled another spot where the group had been and this time urinated on that spot. And that is precisely what this coyote thought of that group.
The history behind this is that this particular group of dogs has continually chased this coyote, and one of the walkers has continually thrown stones at the coyote. So, yes, the coyote avoids them, but feels free to “speak its mind” about them — telling them off in its own way!
03 May 2011 Leave a comment
Audio File –> GRUNTS & BARKING
Relaxing comes easy to this coyote. Still, there are nuisances which have to be dealt with — the main one being intrusions from dogs, even if they are in the distance. If a dog has chased a coyote in the past, he’ll do it again. The dog communicates his intentions and attitude through his gaze and stance to the coyote. The coyote remembers all dogs that have threatened him.
So, the walkers and dogs came into view; they never got excessively close. The coyote first stood up and watched intently. And then, as the dogs eyed the coyote and got excited, the coyote’s grunting began. The grunting is almost inaudible — visually one can see the coyote’s slight huffing and puffing. My dog used to do this when he wanted to have the last word after I scolded him: huffing with a little grunt. The grunting in coyotes often precedes a long barking session, as it did here — it’s almost as if the grunting served to wind up the coyote!
The audio I’ve included here has 1:20 minutes of grunting — you have to listen very carefully to hear it through the singing birds and sounds of traffic — the grunts are very soft and there are pauses. Then, at 1:20 minutes, the barking begins. I’ve included a full five minutes which all sounds the same, so there is no reason to listen to the entire recording. The barking actually went on longer than the recording — until dog and walker were out of sight and far gone. At that point, the coyote curled up on a rock, as he had been before. Soon a runner approached up the path the coyote was on, and the coyote fled.
25 Apr 2011 Leave a comment
I was watching this coyote when a man and his leashed dog appeared on the trail. The only way home was on this path. The man told his dog “off”, and they proceeded down the path very calmly. But notice the coyote. He at first just watches. Then he gives a snarly warning — “just in case” the dog might have mean intentions in mind, though this is not a very intense warning. The coyote then watches again before giving an even milder warning — probably when the dog looked at him. These warnings did not involve any “barking” — they were all visual and totally silent.
I could not see the dog because I was focused on the coyote. But a dog’s “look” is easily read by coyotes and vice-versa. If these animals zero in on each other, you can be sure they are communicating. Leashing dogs keeps them calmer, usually. I say usually, because if an owner is tense or apprehensive upon seeing a coyotes, this mood will be communicated right through that leash to the dog. But generally, the leashing keeps the “look” these animals give each other calmer. In the end, the coyote just watched as the two proceeded down the path — there was no incident except the eyeing each other, and that must have been “respectful”!
The coyote’s message is always the same: “leave me alone”, or “don’t invade my personal space”. When a dog and walker do get too close, the coyote will flee out of the way, usually to some underbrush. The message sent by the dog is also important. This dog, although curious about the coyote, has never gone after the coyote antagonistically. The warning would have been much more intense if there had been antagonistic communication or a past history of chasing.
Coyotes are threatened not only by unleashed dogs chasing them, but also by antagonistic dogs who pull on their leashes and communicate a threat or desire to chase. Since few people really know what the communication between these animals is, it is always best to move on and away from a coyote you have encountered. On April 21st Charles Wood posted a video which shows a coyote giving a message involving a warning bark — this is a stronger message. Charles and his dog respectfully kept their distance, but the coyote ended up fleeing to a safer place.
22 Mar 2011 Leave a comment
All coyote barking that I have ever heard stems from incidents with dogs — an intrusion of some kind. This distressed barking should not be confused with the joyful howls that coyotes are prone to. Here I’m referring to distressed barking caused by the intrusion. But the intrusion doesn’t necessarily always involve an intentional intrusion. Today, for instance, this coyote, who obviously was caught off his guard, became surprised or spooked when two dogs and their owner appeared within the coyote’s safety range suddenly and without warning. The dogs had not chased the coyote at all, though there may have been canine communication of some sort — by eye contact and body language. Dog owners are seldom aware of this communication. The spooked coyote ran off to a high perch where he began a long, distressed, and drawn out barking session. He was “bitching” and “screaming” to let everyone know he was upset, and this continued for a good long time — until the “perpetrators” had walked on, far out of sight.
In this instance, when the coast had become clear, the coyote trotted off to another part of the path where he knew the dogs and walker would be returning, and waited vigilantly. I observed him watch them coming. He continued in this same spot until the dogs and owner were within about 150 feet, and then he stealthily slithered from view. There had been no barking the second time around — that part of the incident was over — this time the coyote just observed, to assure himself that the dogs and owner would be leaving in the same direction from which they had come, and maybe to let them know that he was still there!
04 Mar 2011 2 Comments
Coyotes want to be left alone. They do not want to be approached and they do not want to be rushed or chased. Everyone knows how their particular dog will react to a coyote right after their very first encounter with one.
In this instance, a coyote was up on a hill relaxing and minding its own business — watching everything from the distance. It was off the beaten path and therefore out of the way. But as this unleashed dog came over the crest of a hill, he immediately spotted the coyote and rushed it. This is not a new activity for this dog, he has done it before. What is a game for a dog, is not so for a wild coyote. Without coming after the dog, the coyote made a few short feint rushes, bounced up and down, scratched the ground and had its hackles up. The coyote was doing all it could to communicate its needs: “don’t come after me, leave me alone.”
The dog understood, because it didn’t get any closer than what you see in the photo — the dog is actually turning to run to the safety of its master as I clicked this shot. The owner grabbed the dog and leashed it, and they walked on. This incident could have been easily prevented. If your dog has ever gone after a coyote, you need to keep your dog leashed — this is the only way to be responsible and fair to all involved: your dog, the coyote, yourself, other dogs and other walkers.
01 Mar 2011 3 Comments
In north Orange County near Pacific Coast Highway I’ve found a male that’s active when I visit with my leashed dog. In contrast, my river coyotes elude me.
Today near PCH a Northern Harrier was hunting a ridge and I was working on photographing it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a coyote descend the ridge into a cleared basin area below. It is the third time I have seen him there. The basin sits below a fenced walkway that provides an excellent view of a large field that ends at PCH and the beach. The area close to the walkway contains the ridge, the basin clearing and brushy cover, cover the coyote quickly entered, knowing he had been seen.
I moved closer to the area he entered, being sure to stay away from brush. I stood hoping to see him while my dog, close to me, lied down to groom. In a while the coyote chose to leave the area in full view fewer than fifty feet distant. There were many invisible points of exit he could have chosen and many visible exit points farther from me.
At first glance the photograph of him leaving may give the impression of a coyote simply walking by with a dog-like smile, unconcerned, headed to places unknown. A closer look shows that although he isn’t bothering to look at us, his ear is telling him all he needs to know about my dog and me. The picture with his tongue protruding also is a clue about his state of mind, as is the fact that he opted to pass close by. My read of him is of a coyote engaged in a low intensity territorial confrontation. Over a year ago, my river coyotes began their objections to my presence with the same behaviors, including the concluding tongue protrusion. As I continued to encroach on my river coyotes’ space their confrontational behaviors incrementally increased in intensity. Yet their objections began with behaviors much as displayed by the beach guy today.
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.
08 Jan 2011 Leave a comment
An alpha coyote was out doing her job: keeping an eye on the territory, casually watching dogs and walkers from in the far distance. Coyotes become particularly aware of dogs whose energy and awareness might indicate that they could be a threat to themselves. This coyote is especially aware of dogs which have been antagonistic. She has become acutely aware of the barks, paths and even owner voices associated with these dogs. She watches to assure herself that these dogs remain just “visitors” who will leave the park.
Today, when most of the “regular” dogs and walkers had already come and gone, the little coyote stretched big and yawned wide before trotting off to leave the area. And then we heard the loud braying voice of one of the regular walkers yelling at her dog in her usual manner. It was a woman who has shown lots of antagonism towards the coyotes, and whose dog chases the coyotes regularly.The minute we heard that voice from far in the distance, we saw this coyote stop dead in its tracks, turn around and dash right back to its previous lookout where it stood with its eyes glued to this woman and her dog. The coyote watched them until they left for good for the day — about 20 minutes. When they were finally gone, the coyote stretched and yawned again before slowly wandering off.