Snapping At Mosquitoes; Relating to Coyotes

In February we had our first heavy rainstorm in almost a year. That is when the climate turned humid and muggy: mosquitoes were out buzzing and biting. The mosquitoes were big and sluggish. I was able to hit every one that landed on me. This coyote, it appears, was in the same predicament as I was. He, too, was dealing with mosquitoes.

“In the same predicament”:  As much as possible, I try relating coyote behavior and what drives that behavior to our own human behavior to help me understand them, and to help me explain them to others. In many ways, I have found, coyotes are not so different from ourselves.

Anthropomorphizing has received a bad rap from some academicians, but, I’m finding, just as many support this approach to understanding non-human creatures. Although there may be no science for it, neither is there any against it! In fact, psychologists for many years have used animal studies to understand humans, such as the classic studies of the affect of maternal deprivation.

Mother’s Harsh Treatment of Female Pup Continues

Before I started videoing the above, two coyote pups had been foraging in an open field when they spotted Dad coming. They dashed ecstatically in his direction. After only a short truncated greeting, Dad confirmed his dominance towards the male pup, who willing submitted by lying on his back immediately and not protesting.

This “status confirmation”  has become a routine where everyone knows how to behave: the pups acquiesce willingly to the submission which is demanded of them, and all relationships are confirmed as stable. The other pup, the female, also immediately turned on her back and then kept low, even though Dad was on top of the other pup. This little threesome seemed happy for the few moments they were there: everyone did the right thing, everyone smiled and tails wagged.

Then mom appeared on the scene. With everyone’s attention on the mother, the dad let go of his hold on the male pup who calmly got up and wandered in the other direction from which the mom was coming. Mom immediately headed for the female pup — the one which has been the target of Mom’s animosity and displays of dominance in the last few days. Today the treatment became more harsh. That’s Dad casually viewing the altercation from in front; he’s still limping from an injury a week ago.

Note that the female pup is not compliant and snaps back, which may be the problem — but then who wouldn’t self-protect under this onslaught?  Also note Mom’s final emphatic statement: “And take this, too!” No holds barred.

[Please see the previous two postings on this behavior: Punishment and Punishment Again]

Bay Nature: Coyotes Raising Kids in San Francisco

#68 BN6

Continue reading by pressing this link: http://baynature.org/articles/photo-gallery-coyotes-raising-kids-san-francisco/

Fatherhood

Two youngsters dart in for food from Dad — the two very active coyotes in the video are pups who are approaching, but not quite yet, 6 months of age.  Dad regurgitates the food — it looks like whole voles — and the two pups feed in a frenzy. They continue to insert their snouts in his mouth in an attempt to get more food — it’s like an assault!  He gently and repeatedly clasps their snouts in his mouth: Is he indicating that there’s no more food to be had, and/or is he confirming his dominance?  Note at 42 seconds that a pup crosses Dad’s path by going under him!

It appears that Dad is the one to approach for food like this these days. I have not seen this set of pups approach their mother recently in this fashion. Rather, she sits in the distance and watches all the activity — safe from the onslaught!

Puppy Spied: Out Alone in the Wider World

This puppy was out, all alone, without a parent in sight, nor were there siblings around. I’m sure the family was close by, but I didn’t see them. I suppose he’s the little adventurer of the group. I have two videos starring this little fellow, one taken right after the other. One is his explorations on and around a log. The second is some solo hunting practice! Last, I’ve assembled some stills from the same photo shooting session.

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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.

Coyotes As Neighbors, Let’s Get To Know Them!

Here’s a full 20 minute presentation I created for my/our new site: CoyoteCoexistence.Com. I began the site with a couple of friends in order to stop the trapping and killing of coyotes in Atlanta last fall.

It’s through Yipps that we connected for this project. We organized and flew to Atlanta to present the case against trapping at a town meeting. We printed a large packet of flyers and helped publicize the event. In the end, money that had been collected to hire a trapper was returned — the trapper was not hired!  This was a clear sign that we should proceed with our efforts!

Presentation Title Page

Presentation Title Page

This video is an aid for future presentations. It is cutting-edge in its unique approach, concentrating on coyote himself! A muted version will also be available for presentation by others at meetings, and so will shorter clips of specific sub-topics, such as “shooing-off”. Contact CoyoteCoexistence.Com at our email on that site for further information.

Rufous Howls, by Charles Wood

For several years I’ve visited a nearby field to watch two coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that a new coyote couple had replaced Mom and Dad as the field’s resident coyotes. I named them Rufous and Mary.

One possible difference between Mom and Dad’s behavior compared to Rufous and Mary’s is that Mom and Dad did not seem to howl at emergency vehicle sirens. Consider my August 22, 2012 post:  A Brief Show.  The video included there showed Mom ignoring both the siren and her youngsters’ howls in reply. My general impression after many observations was that Mom and Dad just didn’t bother with howling back at sirens. I always thought that restraint showed how intelligent Mom and Dad are.

In contrast, the video included with this post shows Rufous howling at sirens. A little earlier, Rufous and Mary, both hidden, were howling at the sirens.

Update on Leg Injury

wound on left back leg

left back leg wound

I was able to get a really good zoomed-in shot of the limping coyote’s injured leg. I first noted the limp about two weeks ago.

I have no idea if this laceration to the heel and maybe even the Achille’s tendon, as shown in the photo, is what caused the limp, but the laceration looks pretty recent.

Below is a video showing a few seconds of her gait — two weeks after I first noted the injury. She is no longer holding the leg up, but you can see that she is being very careful when putting weight on the leg.

A few days ago, as she crossed a field, I could see that her steps were uneven and jerky, as if she were almost “tripping” every few steps. So the leg has not healed, but it looks like it is improving: she is no longer holding it up when she walks.

Behaviorally, this coyote has been keeping out of view, and I wonder if it is to protect herself during a time when she might not be able to defend herself well or run away quickly should she need to do so.

Rufous Runs To Mary, by Charles Wood

For several years I have been visiting a nearby field to watch two coyote parents whom I named Mom and Dad. In November 2012 I found that a new coyote couple had replaced Mom and Dad as the field’s resident coyotes. I named them Rufous and Mary.

Mary being a timid coyote, it has taken me a couple of months to get a close up photograph of her. Rufous isn’t timid and the video begins with him.

After having repeatedly scraped dirt to territorially message my leashed dogs, the video begins with Rufous assessing his effect on us. At this point, Rufous expected us to have either run from him or chased him. Yet we hadn’t moved at all. He wants us to show him we got the message, to show him so by moving. To Rufous we seem really slow in delivering a reply via our feet.

So what’s Rufous to do? Send the message again? Wait? The pause comes from my having constrained my dogs’ ability to communicate, restricted their ability to move. Motion is communication for canines and by now my dogs would have run away except for my influence. I resolved the uncertainty and tension by lobbing a golf ball toward Rufous.

Rufous trots away. Note that a chain link fence separated us and that he was closer to us than a coyote should be allowed to approach, too close for me to just turn and walk away. I needed distance from Rufous in order to leave and he gave it to me when I asked him for it with a softly tossed golf ball.

Mary

Mary

The next two scenes show Rufous approaching his den area. Mary is waiting there in the brush near the center and if you observe carefully you will see her move slightly. The last scene shows Rufous waiting for us to leave. Mary is off camera and Rufous looks back in her direction

The video shows that to my dogs, Rufous ritualistically messaged his claim to both Mary and the den, communicated those claims in a way that any canine would understand. Deviation from canine expected motion, communication, came from my desire to spectate instead of move.

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.

Rufous and Mary’s Place, by Charles Wood

Two coyotes recently moved into a den area formerly used by Mom and Dad, a coyote couple I have been watching since 2009. I named these new coyotes Rufous and Mary even though I haven’t confirmed Mary as female.

Reproductive success in coyotes depends on a coyote couple acquiring and holding territory. Territory has been defined as the area an animal “will defend against individuals of the same species (Burt 1943; Mech 1970).” * The video shows Rufous acting like he owns Mom and Dad’s den area, shows that he defends it against Holtz and Lucas, my two dogs. It then follows that Mom and Dad’s den area now belongs to Rufous and Mary. Rufous and Mary are counting on this territory for their reproductive success.

The video consists of nine clips and opens with workers and their vehicles on the edge of the den area to camera left. The next day, the workers finished their task and departed just as I arrived. The second segment is about half an hour later. Rufous emerges from the den area right where the workers had just been. Clearly, he lives in and around the den area.

The third segment shows Rufous calmly sitting. I’m standing and my dogs are sitting quietly. I wanted Rufous to remain calm and where he was. So I experimented. As Rufous raised himself, I crouched. Perhaps following my lead, Rufous then stretched and got down.

Next, Mary appears behind Rufous to his left. Although I haven’t confirmed her sex, I feel she must be his mate.

The next day, Rufous came south along the dirt road and approached the den area entrance. The video picks up at about the same place he was the day before. Rufous enters the brush. Once in the brush, and after I stopped the camera, he called out to Mary with short howls. I didn’t hear her answer.

A few minutes later Rufus came out to defend his territory. He approached us calmly. The sixth clip shows Rufous pick up a piece of wood. He moves off camera and drops the wood. Back on camera, Rufous carries an orange plastic warning cone he picked up off camera. The seventh clip shows Rufous rubbing against the prized cone. In my view, Rufous knows my dogs envy any object that he gnaws, carries, or rubs. Rufous showed my dogs that he has the power over desirable objects in his domain.

In the eighth clip, Rufous calmly makes his bed and gets down. As long as he is compelled by territoriality to watch us, he might as well appear cool and comfortable. However Rufous’ yawn betrays his inner tension.

The last clip shows Holtz with his back to Rufous while Lucas instead intently watches. We are separated from Rufous by a chain link fence. Holtz is telling Rufous he wants to disengage. However a coyote is still a novelty to Lucas. He doesn’t really understand territory and reproduction, can’t completely understand a coyote. Like a child, Lucas just wants the stick and cone. Lucas sees wild, but Lucas does not fully comprehend it. Holtz has seen enough of wild to know he doesn’t really want to look.

The Gese article quoted above contains the best clues about what happened to Mom and Dad. Instead of evicting Rufous and Mary, Mom and Dad were evicted by them in all likelihood. By himself, Dad probably wouldn’t have been a match for Rufous. Mom, from observations I made over the last six months, is old and achy, probably wouldn’t have been as much help as when she was younger. Mom and Dad’s pack size was low in 2012, a couple yearlings and a puppy where the yearlings may have dispersed though perhaps one yearling became Rufous’ Mary.

Rufous, who I first saw in early September, probably made persistent incursions. I imagine he just wouldn’t go away despite Mom and Dad’s howling, despite their scent marking, and despite their displays. Perhaps there was a physical confrontations. Gese describes physical contacts on page 983 “The resident coyote often rolled the intruder when first making contact, then bit or grappled with the intruder, at times inflicting visible wounds and causing bleeding. These fights usually lasted only 5–15 s, at which time the resident would release its hold on the intruder, then the intruder would typically withdraw from the resident animal while performing ritualized submissive postures with tail tucked, head held low, mouth gaping, and ears held flat. In 7 instances the resident coyote attacked the intruder multiple times (2–5 attacks) until the intruder crossed the territory boundary, whereupon the attacks were terminated.” Mom and Dad could have tried physical contact to evict Rufous and Rufous could have turned the tables on Mom and Dad. It is also possible that Rufous tried physical contact to evict Mom and Dad and won, perceiving himself to be resident on the territory and perceiving Mom and Dad as intruders.

Fatalities from physical contact between resident and intruding coyotes is considered rare. From Gese, page 985 “Physical contact involving ritualized behaviors or fighting (Schenkel 1947; Moran et al. 1981; Mech 1993) was observed when residents caught up to an intruder. In contrast to wolves (Van Ballenberghe and Erickson 1973; Mech 1994), no intruding coyotes were killed when the resident pack encountered them. Bekoff and Wells (1986) also observed no fatal encounters during territory defense. Okoniewski (1982) reported the rare occurrence of a fatal encounter between coyotes.”

My reading of Gese’s observations and of his references to the literature is that it isn’t the coyote way to kill intruding coyotes. Making a coyote intruder give up and run is enough of a win for a resident coyote.

I reason that it is also the coyote way for an intruder to not kill a resident coyote. In fact, it is we humans who identify residents and intruders. Yet in the final analysis, it is the coyote’s concept of itself and of its status in a territory that determines much of coyote behavior. My first impression of Rufous back in September 2012 was that he acted like he thought he owned the place. Mom and Dad may have seemed as intruders to Rufous, where he perceived himself as resident. Rufous may well have come to see Mom and Dad as just two of many intruder coyotes that he, as resident, would need to perpetually chase out of his territory. If there was a physical confrontation, as a self-perceived resident coyote, Rufous would have followed the way of resident coyotes where intruders are not killed. On the other hand, Rufous may not have perceived himself as resident at the time of a conjectured physical confrontation. In my view, his winning that confrontation would have instantly given him the mindset of a resident coyote. Either way, resident before or resident as the outcome of physical confrontation, as a resident, Rufous would have followed the coyote way and would not have killed Mom and Dad. It may simply be the case that coyotes in territorial disputes, irrespective of resident/intruder status, don’t kill each other where submission and flight is an effective inhibitor on the winner.

*(Citation from Gese, E.M. 2001. “Territorial defense by coyotes (Canis latrans) in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: who, how, where, when, and why” . USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications. Paper 530. Page 981.) http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1526&context=icwdm_usdanwrc

Searching for Howling in the Dark

As I searched for the howling, I left my camera on. It’s a large camera, so as I walked I had it in my hand sort of balanced on my shoulder to support it. I thought that even if I didn’t end up getting a photo or video of whoever was howling, at least I would have a recording of the sound. After I got home and reviewed the video, I thought, hey, the “searching” was actually the fun part in this video — I could not see much of anything until the coyote was outlined against the lighter dawning sky, but my jerking paces as I headed towards the sounds are recorded. So I preserved the video as is, except one minute of it right before the end while the coyote was just standing there.

In addition, what you are hearing is a male coyote barking — he’s the one I eventually locate. But a female is answering his barks, with her own higher pitched howling, which includes tremolos. The male began barking alone — that is what I heard initially. Then the female began responding. And finally, only the female can be heard in the distance. About a minute after all howling ceased everything was still and the male just looked around. I cut this part out because it made the video too long. Then the male sniffed the ground and headed off on a trek alone.

New Resident Coyotes, by Charles Wood

On New Year’s Day I saw two coyotes just outside my Mom and Dad coyote’s den area. They were the same two I saw there on November 22, 2012. My November 23 and November 26, 2012 posts speculated that the two were either passing through or living there. With respect to my dogs, the new coyotes have on two occasions messaged them that the area is theirs. It is likely that these two new coyotes have made themselves at home and don’t want my dogs to even think of doing the same.

NewMale

NewMale

Pictured is a coyote male known formerly as “New Gal” in my two November posts. In November his left eye showed an injury and the more recent picture reveals his eye to possibly be blind. I am still unable to tell the sex of his companion.

The video clip begins with a view of his companion. It’s watching my dogs and me while the male is watching off camera. A view of the male heading back to his companion concludes the clip.

The new coyotes could well be mates. Pupping season is just around the corner and coyote couples do need to make preparations. Mom and Dad’s den area no doubt has several ready-made dens, is brushy, isolated, has its own water supply, and has surrounds replete with rabbits, frogs, lizards, snakes, rats, mice, and birds available for the repasts of a coyote family. The property is improved, having deserted dirt roads for comfortable transit and landscaped embankments from which to take a look at things. Although humans do pass by they rarely tarry, mostly going quickly to and fro on comfortably distant and raised, highly visible paths. It’s an area well suited to a coyote couple’s needs where the only real worry comes from the envy of other coyotes. If the new coyotes are mates, the female seems ineffectual. However, the male is superb. He seems to be all the coyote that she is ever going to need.

The new coyotes could be siblings, or could be father and child. Time may tell just as time may tell us what happened to Mom and Dad, holders of the property for at least the last four years.

I last saw Mom and Dad in late October as they reconnoitered the den area. Since then they appear to have lost ground. Mom and Dad may never return to the den area, perhaps having lost it in a fight. Yet perhaps they allowed newcomers in without a fight. At this time of year they may need that space less. In fact, in past falls and winters I saw little of Mom and Dad there. Also, Mom and Dad’s family seems to include only one puppy and no yearlings, where the den area’s food may not be necessary. It may not now be an area important enough to defend; and perhaps not important later because there must be other areas in their home range that could well serve them in pupping. Considering the entirety of Mom and Dad’s home range, with the newcomers there are still only five coyotes in an area that in the past supported as many as seven. At this point I can’t say if Mom and Dad made a losing stand on some principle of ownership or if instead they just walked away from a fight for lack of anything to fight about.

There is another intriguing possibility. The new male’s companion might be one of Mom and Dad’s female yearlings. It could be that an intergenerational transfer of land-tenure explains the presence of the new tenants, a mixing of old and new blood with benefits for all. Although typically coyote young disperse, some coyote apples may not fall far from the tree.

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.

Fist Punches

These fist punches are not as forceful as the fist and nose punches which are supposed to deliver enough blow to incapacitate or stun. Here, the back legs never leave the ground. Instead, these milder punches appear to be “exploratory” in nature, possibly to get a critter to scurry through the underground tunnel so it can be heard, or to even collapse underground tunnels.

If the coyote hears movement below the surface, or feels that it is onto something, digging may follow, as in the video at the bottom. However, as seen by the first two videos, sometimes no digging at all follows the punch, because nothing was heard. In all three cases here, these coyotes came up with nothing for their efforts: either the gopher or mole got away, or maybe wasn’t even there to begin with.

Punch, then looking for movement and listening for possible activity below ground

Another punch, and then listening and looking for possible signs of life below

Here the punch is followed by digging.

Coming Up For Air

Swimmers have to come up for air, or they’ll get water in their lungs. Coyotes, too, have to come up for air, or they’ll get dirt in their lungs — or maybe not enough air into their lungs. Watch the coyote stuff his snout deep into the hole, and then lift it out just enough to get fresh air, and then stuff it back in, and repeat this sequence several times.This video clip shows three instances of coming up for air, and also some intense digging.

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