“Didn’t Mom Tell You Not To Play With Your Food?” & Dad Steals The Meal

This was absolutely entertaining to watch today! Little female yearling wanders off to hunt from the area where her Dad had stationed himself to keep an eye on things. She works hard and is extremely patient, which pays off: she succeeds in catching some prey after about 15 minutes of intense effort, and immediately kills it.

Instead of eating the prey right away — an indication that she was not terribly hungry — she plays with her catch for a few minutes, tossing it up in the air, catching it, pouncing on it, and generally just having fun. “Didn’t Mom tell you not to play with your food?” A friend of mine suggested this might be a good descriptive title for this posting.

When I was a kid, if you could get away with it,  much more fun than eating was to see how high you could stack the peas, form a dam in the potatoes and break it so the gravy would run out, make the chicken wing work, organize the carrot sticks in geometrical patterns, spread everything around so it looked like you had eaten most of it. “Don’t play with your food” we were told, but no reason was ever given.

Today I noted that there might be something to that rule! Within a few minutes, Dad came walking over from his lookout post. “There’s Dad! I’ll show him what I can do!” The youngster tossed the prey high up in the air one last time and tumbled over in the process, with Dad watching and closing in. The prey flew up in the air and landed on the other side of Dad.

We all know that coyotes are opportunistic, and here was an opportunity! Dad grabbed the food that had been tossed and ran off with it! And he ate it up! The thief!! Might there be a moral to the story?

And the youngster watched, somewhat bewildered! Dad then scratched himself by pushing his back against the stiff branches of  a bush, and then both coyotes headed over to where the prey had been found in the ground. But there was nothing else to be had from that location. Ahh, that’s life!

The youngster turned to Dad and began grooming him. All appeared to have been forgiven, and maybe even forgotten! The female hadn’t been hungry anyway, right?! Then, they both headed off into the bushes.

Following Mom, by Charles Wood

Pup1

Both photographs are of my LA county pup following Mom around. Both were alarmed when they saw my companions, another human and two good sized dogs, and me. Mom headed down the road and within a minute her puppy followed. The road offered us a clear view of them, but for only parts of the way because brush along the road at times concealed them from view. Soon both coyotes were hidden. Yet Mom could have immediately hid with her puppy in the brush. Why didn’t she? I think she had decided it was to her advantage to use the road strategically.

When Mom took to the road, I didn’t know if she intended to approach or avoid. I think she knew that by taking to the road, I wouldn’t know where she would end up or whether she intended to come towards me or intended to go away. All I would really know was that she was on the move.

PupMom

After dusk, Mom came out from hiding to sit and stare at us, her puppy still in the brush. A third coyote, Dad, came in and out of view near them. Together, Mom and Dad formed a stone wall against an intrusion. Then, apparently instantly oblivious to danger, the puppy decided to come out and join Mom. Mom got up and the puppy followed her back into the brush. The puppy is too young to know that Mom doesn’t want to play when actively guarding the family.

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.

Rainy Dawn — in Sepia

It was wet, wet, wet outside, so, of course, when I came across coyotes making their rounds, they, too, were wet, wet, wet. These semi-silhouette photos were taken under very bad early and gloomy light conditions. My ISO must have been about 6400. Nevertheless, the individual fur strands stood out sharply against the background sky and I thought their forms on the rocks were absolutely beautiful. Under those lighting conditions, there really was no “color” in the photos, so I played with some “enhancement” possibilities and decided that sepia showed these forms off to advantage.

Rock formations and outcroppings exist in a great many of our Bay Area parks: these are mostly chert, but there are also a few serpentine formations.

Rottweiler Harasses Coyotes

I have seen the kind of activity in this video too often. Our Animal Care and Control Department, ACC, points out that some individuals continue to allow their dogs, “off-leash in active coyote areas despite education, posters, flyers, signs and barriers all warning dog owners to abide by the law and keep their dogs on-leash, or, better yet, avoid the marked areas entirely.”  So a few irresponsible individuals are setting themselves up for unexpected coyote encounters by not following the simple rules. The only method to keep coyotes and dogs apart is to leash the dog in a coyote area. If you and your dog see a coyote, walk in the opposite direction, not towards it.

We are lucky to have an Animal Care and Control Department which is taking a proactive stance to protect both our native coyotes and companion pets. ACC has recently cordoned off areas and instituted temporary park closures — they have been forced into doing this because a few dog owners continue to be irresponsible towards their pets and our wildlife, putting both at risk.

People have asked about “relocating” our coyotes — this is not an option since another coyote would just fill the vacant niche left behind, and relocation is a death sentence for any moved coyote. Coyotes are here to stay and the community needs to learn how to peacefully coexist with them. Ninety-nine percent of everyone I speak to loves having coyotes — a bit of the wild — in our urban parks. It brings back something that they’ve been out of touch with for too long. Note that it is only a few individuals who are irresponsible. Please be a responsible pet guardian: leash your dog in a coyote area or visit parks which do not display coyote warning signs. We only have ten coyotes in the city — it doesn’t take a lot of effort to coexist with them.

Winter Comes To L.A., by Charles Wood

I’ve been watching my Los Angeles county coyote family since 2009. I watch them during outings with my camera and my dog, Holtz. In the spring and summer I see them frequently. In fall and winter I rarely do. I usually spend a couple hours waiting for them to appear, viewing them only for a few minutes. If they linger, it is to scold Holtz and me.

I saw one Sunday at dusk and took its picture. I had just arrived in their field. The coyote spotted me as it came down a dirt road 200 yards to the south. It ran full speed and stopped about 100 feet from Holtz and me. It yipped and scraped as I took its picture. A few minutes later it was still yipping as I walked on the road back to my car. Which one of my coyotes was it?

Sadly, it wasn’t Dad. It has been more than three months since I last saw him. Six months before that, he was a healthy looking adult male. When I saw Dad in August he looked thin, scraggly, and old. It broke my heart to see him ailing and my instincts told me to let him go. I’ll know Dad is dead if he isn’t with Mom next pupping season. If I see him sooner, I’ll be the only one seen rejoicing because Dad doesn’t like me and he and Holtz have issues.

It wasn’t Mom, lacking a cauliflower ear. It wasn’t Mister, Dad’s yearling son, the lower lip being wrong. If male, it could be brother Tom. If female it could be Bold, but not sister Shy because Shy is smaller. My guess is that the coyote knew Holtz and me. When it saw us it ran up to scold us. All of my coyotes scold us; coyotes that don’t know us just leave. Still, it could be a new coyote, perhaps a new mate for Mom.

Earlier Sunday, I spoke with a man about my coyotes. He said he walks near their field regularly and sees them, though lately not so much. I asked him if he recognized them as individuals and he seemed to say yes. I asked him if he knew the mom, distinguishable by her cauliflower ear. He looked at me saying, “I don’t know them that well”. A nice man who stays on the trails, my coyotes know him as well as they need to. They have to know me a little better than that.

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.

Not Seen

For three full hours this coyote was able to avoid being seen by anyone at all except one man who said he thought he might have seen it, but wasn’t sure!  The coyote picked times to move around when there was little activity. When it heard or saw someone, it slipped casually into the bushes — there was no quick movement which might have drawn one’s attention to it, so people simply did not notice. When there were not enough bushes around to “slip into”, ducking casually behind one, so as to be partially hidden, worked. At one point, on parallel paths separated by greenery, the coyote simply stood absolutely still and watched, until the “danger” on the other parallel path had passed, and then continued on its slow trek. When it stopped to relax, it did so in tall grasses or against shrubbery or far enough away from the beaten path so as not to draw attention to itself. Most importantly, it moved slowly or stood absolutely still — walkers and runners would go by without noticing the coyote at all.

Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes a coyote gets unlucky and is seen — and people like to tell others what they have seen so word spreads.  But also I have seen coyotes who allow themselves to be very conspicuous at times — seemingly on purpose. They do so most often by picking a dog-walking time for an excursion or to check things out. And then there is always the surprise encounter when someone suddenly appears on the path ahead. If there is a dog involved, a coyote will stop its activity and look at the dog until it passes, and then continue with whatever it had been doing and wherever it had been going.

“Mighty Aggressive” is simply not what is going on.

I advised some dog walkers that a coyote was around a bend. They ignored me until the coyote was at the top of the hill and could actually be seen. One of the women turned to me and said “mighty aggressive I would say”. I asked why she thought this — the coyote was just standing on the same path as she was.

I had been watching the coyote hunt, and it just happened to be headed in the direction of the walkers. It couldn’t possibly have seen the walkers to avoid them, just as the walkers could not possibly have seen the coyote. The woman turned to me and said that the coyote was obviously after them — if he hadn’t seen them, he surely could have HEARD them, and, weren’t coyotes SUPPOSED to be afraid of us? Didn’t that constitute aggression?

No, that does not constitute aggression.

And no, coyotes are not necessarily fearful of people — rather, it would be more accurate to say that coyotes are WARY of people. They will do their utmost to avoid people. But closer encounters in a park will happen now and then. The coyote may look at you, and may even study you for a moment — that is not aggression — that is curiosity, or even surprise. And then he will move away. Coyotes are not at all interested in people. In this case, the coyote came within about 50 feet of the woman and her dog which was leashed.  Both parties gazed at each other for a moment and then the coyote ran off the path.

Recap of dog/coyote behavior:  Though not frequent, instances of dog/coyote encounters have occurred. A short leash and walking on can prevent an incident. Coyotes have shown an interest in some dogs — dogs and coyotes, after all, are very similar in appearance. Young coyotes have expressed degrees of curiosity about dogs, and even attempted friendly play — but they remain skittish and ready to flee at the slightest startle.

However, parents tend to be defensive of their territories and their young, and they prefer greater distances between themselves and dogs. If your dog comes too close, the coyote — especially if it is an alpha — may feel threatened and act accordingly, with definite and clear MESSAGES to your dog. These messages progress from a very cat-like defensive posture: arched back and snarly face, to a short charge-and-retreat sequence, and, ultimately, it may attempt to nip the dog at his haunches — trying to herd it away, in the same fashion that cattle dogs do. When they do so, they are not attempting to do anything more than TELL the dog something in the only way they can: ” go away”, “give me space”. Keeping your dog on a short leash and moving on helps guard against this type of coyote reaction in an unexpected encounter. You may have to go so far as to flail your arms and yell at the coyote to back off.

Your dog may want to chase or play with a coyote it sees, or may even feel a need to protect you against a wild animal it is not sure about. It is important to keep your dog next to you and calm, and to walk away quickly before there is time for a possible antagonistic communication to escalate if it has already begun. By doing this, you are messaging your own disinterest in the coyote. But do not run because running might be interpreted as an invitation for the coyote to chase you.

Coyotes have run after some dogs, seemingly unprovoked by the dog himself, and exhibited the messaging behaviors I mentioned above. As far as I have seen, this always occurs when there has been previous chasing by the dog or antagonistic communication between the two — a communication few humans are aware of. Dogs and coyotes communicate exceeding effectively through eye contact and body language. In addition, highly spirited dogs — as many small dogs are — seem to raise the ire of some coyotes: Coyotes seem to want the dogs passing through their territories to be fairly calm, wanting the same respect they get from transient or interloper coyotes. The oddest behavior of a coyote towards a dog that I’ve seen was a coyote who slowly followed a dog which was trailing behind its owner — stretching to reach the dog’s tail as if it were “daring” itself to do so. The owner turned around just as the coyote reached the dog and simply said “go away”, and the coyote did so!

So, please keep your dog next to you and walk on when you see a coyote! And if you need to tell a coyote not to come closer, you can do so by flailing your arms to make yourself appear larger, making sharp loud noises, or tossing pebbles in the coyote’s direction — not at him — to warn him off. Both people and coyotes want the same thing: space!  We need to understand their methods, and we need to know what methods will work for ourselves.

Nose Punch

A hard and fast “punch” is delivered at the entryway to the burrow of a little critter that will become the coyote’s prey. It’s part of the cycle of life. Coyotes sometimes use their two front paws which they stiffen for this purpose. In this case, the nose is used to deliver the hefty punch. From what I have seen, this punch disables or weakens the critter. Most of the time, as here,  it is followed by probing and digging before the prey is actually captured. The coyote regularly looks around to check out the safety of his surroundings.

Wrong Tree?

 

I, too, heard the loud rustling sounds of a squirrel which caused me to look over and see it. The coyote’s attention became more and more intent the more he watched the loud activity. Finally, the coyote stood up, then dashed over to the tree. But no squirrel was in sight. “Could I have mistaken the tree?” Just in case he got it wrong, the coyote inspected the next tree over, but the squirrel was not there either, apparently. So Coyote settled for a green grassy salad close by before trotting off.


Chicken Drama, But No Drumsticks!

This was an exciting day!  Many people keep chickens in their yards these days: chickens are allowed, but not roosters because they crow. But guess what — it is not just the roosters who crow! So crowing is what I heard, and so did this coyote as he passed through a neighborhood. The coyote approached the very well fenced-in yard — there was no chance of him getting in. However, the chickens saw the coyote through the wire fencing and began shreaking and flapping. One flew to the top of the fence where she strutted for a few minutes, and then she flew out of the protected yard into a tree in the overgrown yard next door. I thought: Oh, no!

The dog did his duty by barking at the intruder, but he was fenced in and that is all he could do, so he left. The coyote walked over to under the tree where the chicken had flown. And he waited. And he waited, hoping the chicken would descend to a more reachable level. The chicken crowed continually the entire time, but never budged from her high perch in the tree. And the coyote waited and waited. I wondered if the chicken would make it back. She did. She suddenly flapped her way back after about 35 minutes. As she did so, the coyote jerked to a standing position, but remained where he was, watching.

Maybe chickens are smarter than we think. My thought is that this chicken had flown out of the coop to distract the coyote from the other chickens. She stayed out there scolding that coyote. When she realized the coyote could not reach any of them — which the coyote would have done by then — she flew back to the safety of her yard. Eventually, the coyote walked off. He knew the chickens were not reachable in their yard. There was lots of drama, but no drumsticks this time!

Mmmm: Chile Con Queso!

Urban life has a lot to offer, including a greater variety of menu offerings that can be found right down the street or around the corner. This meal must have been delicious — the coyote licked the bowl and spoon clean after first eating a tortilla chip. Then he looked up and down the street for more signs of food. There not being any, he trotted off into the woods. Although these were tossed-out-the-window leftovers, there was enough there for the coyote to appreciate the taste, and maybe to decide he would like more.

This kind of treat is only ever found in areas of human activity. I’ve seen coyotes wander into picnic areas after hours where they pick up bits of food which cannot be found in wild habitats. Aren’t we trying to keep coyotes from frequenting human activity areas? By dumping our dirty paper plates and leftovers wherever we please, we are actually inviting these critters to come out into the open more.

Watching The Ducks Overhead

A flock of ducks passed overhead and I watched it across the entire skyline. A coyote I had seen not too far off also had stopped its activity to observe the same sight, raising its head and fixing its gaze on the arcing flight of birds.

We both stayed there watching until the birds were no longer in sight, and then continued what we had been doing before we saw them: me, watching the coyote, and the coyote hunting.

Coyotes are as curious and as interested in their surroundings as we are. I frequently see them watching simply to see what is going on. I felt “connected” to have shared the same awareness as a little wild coyote had.

Sniffing For, then Scratching At an Irritant

This fellow had been relaxing when he suddenly bolted up and looked into a neighbor’s yard, then trotted over and stood behind some thick growth and sniffed intently, with his nose high in the air. He spent a full minute doing this, closing his eyes sometimes as if to really savor what might be in the air. He was in an overgrown empty field, and directed his sniffing towards the yard next door where several dogs lived. These dogs were never out of their house without their owners. However, I had seen one come over to the overgrown field to do its business and I had seen this particular coyote sniff out these messes and urinate on top of them. Also, I’ve seen one of the dogs chase this coyote, though not in a very intense manner. These dogs are particularly acute at either hearing or smelling coyotes that come to the property: at the slightest hint that a coyote might be around, one and then all of them will begin barking together. I think there are four dogs who live there, on and off.

On this day, no dogs were around. The coyote sniffed carefully from a long distance away, and then slowly trotted closer to the hedge which divides the properties — yawning on the way over. I think coyotes sometimes yawn to maintain a casual-calm mood for themselves. At the hedge-line, the coyote stopped and stretched its neck up to get a better view. Again, no dogs in sight, and no barking.  So the coyote carefully and slowly entered the yard, walked around casually, found the smell he was looking for, urinated on the spot, and then kicked and scratched that area of ground where he had urinated.  The coyote had probably found a spot where one of the dogs had urinated.  “Take that!” It was one of those “oneupmanship” behaviors directed towards the dogs which have been an irritant to the coyote. When done, the coyote exited the yard and continued trekking through uninhabited areas before disappearing.

A Feast For One At A Time

This posting shows two coyotes feasting on a larger prey than normal. It is a skunk which, when I came upon the scene, was already dead. The above sequence of photos shows only the first coyote eating. The other one hung around, avoided looking at the one feasting, succumbed to looking, tried moving closer. The feasting coyote then warned off this onlooker. She was going to have her fill before allowing the other one to come in and she became nasty about it to make him understand, showing her teeth and pulling back her lips. This part of the sequence I’ve posted in the above gallery.

The gallery below shows the second coyote who decided to move about 50 feet away from the feasting coyote. At this distance of removal, he briefly, and jealously, glanced back at the one feasting before settling down. He then kept his gaze away from the feasting coyote, appearing disinterested, but in truth, patiently waiting his turn to eat. When the first coyote had finished and walked off, this second guy immediately hurried to feast on the second pickings. He ate a bit and then dragged the carcass off before eating some more.