Join my pack? Coyote behavior

I’m remembering an incident that occurred way before I began this blog, about two years ago, when I met a coyote for the first time ever. I want to include it here because of the interspecies dynamics involving dog, coyote and human. It involved the first coyote I ever encountered, a coyote which seemed desperately bent on meeting my dog. We always encountered this coyote at the same spot, where it must have expected us — why else would we always encounter it right there? We almost always saw it before daylight. This coyote had performed for us — for me and my dog — several times previously: it had bounced up and down, it had leaped, it had turned and spun in circles — always stopping to see how we were reacting. I always watched these performances, enchanted and approvingly. A couple of times, when we arrived after daylight had broken, this coyote sat in the grass in the distance and watched my dog explore and forage. Yes, mine was a foraging dog. And my dog was not interested in the coyote. This behavior I have just described here occurred several times in the month since I had first encountered it.

On this particular day, we were early. It was pitch black outside. My dog and I were walking along a trail beside the road, separated from the road by a barrier. I saw the coyote ahead, on the trail, so I slowed down. The coyote saw us coming and actually curled up right on the path 50 feet in front of us. I knew that the coyote wanted to watch my dog. I stayed back and took photos — bad photos with my then point-and-shoot camera — but my dog continued on. As my dog approached the coyote, we could hear the sound of a car engine approaching — something unusual for this time of day. The coyote decided to cross over the barrier just as the car with its bright headlights came up the road. The blinding headlights obviously confused the coyote. “Oh no!”  I called out: “We have to get away from the road, come”.

And this is where my interest in coyote behavior really kicked in. My dog followed me, but so did the coyote. It seemingly knew that I was leading it away from danger, it seemingly had submitted to my guidance — as if I were the pack leader — it had copied my dog. I headed towards a grassy area away from the road, and when I looked back: my dog was following me, and behind him, there was the coyote, sauntering along, as if it had joined my pack. The possibility that this is what happened has remained with me ever since that morning. I wanted to write it down. Once we were away from the road, the coyote tried unsuccessfully to engage my dog playfully several times, but then sat and watched. My dog, as usual, ignored the coyote: this was normal behavior for each of them.

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