Communication: Coyote behavior

I clicked away at three coyotes I saw this morning — not a usual sight. I really couldn’t see much detail until I got home and blew up the photos. It is the zoomed-in photos that allowed me to see what was going on — but not what it was about. One of the coyotes had a wide gaping mouth in many of the shots — it is almost a smile if you look at the eyes: possibly a need to comply? This one also tended to keep its ears low and out to the sides. Another coyote had its teeth bared and lips pulled back — the others followed this one as it eventually walked up the hill. The third coyote stood back and stayed back further. I would think that a snarl and baring of teeth would either signify displeasure, or it may have been a threat or even a command, but I did not have time to observe long enough to be able to say for sure. There was also body contact as two of them walked side by side. The coyotes followed each other at first, and then slowly, one by one, they slithered or bounded into the brush.

What Does The Yipping Mean?? I wanted to mention another behavior which surprised me. I was at one end of a park photographing a juvenile coyote which was hunting. The coyote caught a muddy gopher and carried to the middle of a hill where the coyote lay down to eat it, right there in an open area of grass, in plain view. When the coyote was finished, it began wandering on the hillside. As it did so, I heard the coyote’s mother begin an intense barking episode on the other side of the park. It flashed through my mind that I might be able to see how coyotes react to “communication”.

But there was NO reaction whatsoever: no hiding, n running towards or away from the barking, no tensing up. There was total unconcern, and absolutely no change in this coyote’s meanderings on the hillside. When I reached the other side of the park, sure enough the mom had been chased by a dog and was letting everyone know that she was upset. She ended up climbing to the top of some high rocks where she continued her barking for 20 minutes or so. So, obviously, the barking was not a communication to other coyotes. It was just a display to the dog who had chased her. Also, could it have been an emotional release?

Then, the very next day, I was in the vicinity of the mom who was basking in the sun in her normal fashion, when coyote yipping began across the canyon. This would have to have been one of her offspring. In this case, the mom did sit up and listen, cocking her ears back and forth, but she remained put, and eventually lay down to bask some more. The yipping went on for about ten minutes. It appeared that the mom could assess the danger of the situation from the yipping she was hearing. I have seen a non-yipping situation where this mom raced down the hill to aid her pup who was being chased by a dog. Hmm, coyotes seem to be able to size up the danger of a situation pretty accurately.

See entry on December 28th: “It’s a Boy!”

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