Coyote Family Security Procedure?

A coyote had appeared, as always out of nowhere, way up ahead of me. It was on a path, standing still, and looking in the direction of a whistling man and his dog. The man and his active, unleashed dog were far in the distance. I had been hearing the loud and intense whistling for a few minutes before this.

The coyote’s attention was on the dog, though the whistling might also have attracted the coyote’s interest, as it did mine. I was on the same path as the coyote, but further on. The coyote barely gave me a glance:  as usual, its attention was focused, and riveted towards the dog — a large, active unleashed dog which probably had the potential for harm — at least in a coyote’s eyes.

The coyote then continued on the path, keeping its head and eyes turned on the whistling man and his dog.  It kept walking, purposefully, but not fast, up a hill and to a rock ledge where it could feel safe and could make a quick getaway if it needed to. It remained there for about half an hour, standing and then sitting, apparently making sure that the dog wasn’t going to pursue it. It waited until the dog and owner exited the area, as I have seen it do before. After the park had become totally quiet for a while, the coyote got up and left.

I then walked in the direction the coyote had taken, thinking I would not see it again, but I found it quite a ways further on, in a dark area, just sitting — sitting quietly. It stayed seated for about 15 minutes —  closing its eyes sometimes but remaining sitting up. I walked on and was surprised to see a second coyote — the offspring of the first — resting about 200 feet further on! I watched both.

Each coyote had become aware of the other fairly quickly and looked in the other’s direction. They also looked at me. And then, at about the same time, both began moving indirectly towards each other, glancing at each other and probably communicating. They ended up sitting about 20 feet apart. The second coyote then meandered back and forth along a nearby path and finally moved away and out of sight. The first coyote groomed itself for a fairly long time and then also slithered into the brush area.

This sequence seems to be the routine: A coyote family heads “home”, the younger one goes quickly to a more secluded area before retreating totally, while the parent lingers if there are dogs around, to make sure they don’t follow, then joins the other.

What’s This? – Coyote behavior

Exploration and discovery are  fun to see in all animals. I have photos of my own puppy barking ferociously at a low-floating helium balloon. And I remember him barking at a ceramic goose — doing so ferociously, and then retreating lickity-split, “just in case”. An office chair on the sidewalk caused my other dog to make a wide circle around it, way out into the street — an infraction she knew was severe; but to her this was safer than getting too near the alien object.

So, all within about half an hour, I watched a coyote find things and react: sounds and sightings. The coyote’s reaction to the blue stool cushion reminded me of my own dogs.  I record everything with my camera and did so this time. I’ve put captions on the photos rather than write any more. The coyote’s nap was very short because a person appeared — coyotes are not comfortable with humans in the immediate vicinity. If a coyote senses that it has not been seen, it might stand perfectly still as a person passes. Otherwise it will walk briskly away from the person to keep the distance a comfortable one.

The Purpose Of A Coyote’s Monitoring Some Dogs

So I was able to clearly see the reason why a particular coyote has felt a need to monitor groups of dogs. These dogs are walked unleashed and have chased the coyotes a number of times. The cause for monitoring is clearly revealed in the photos — mostly by the direction in which the coyote’s attention is riveted as seen by where she looked. The reason for the monitoring was to protect this little guy, a nine-month old, seen here in the first photo. On this particular day, this young fellow appeared on a path and watched the group of dogs and walkers approaching from the distance. It was the same group of dogs I spoke about in my previous posting yesterday: Purposeful Monitoring of Particular Dog Groups, posted on January 28th.

After figuring out that the dogs were coming its way, the fella took off up a hill. At that very same moment, down the hill ran his protector, his mother. She went over to a high ledge from where the path that the dogs were on could easily be seen. The mother coyote remained here, watching, as the group meandered around and finally left the area — she was making sure they didn’t come after her pup or her. She occasionally looked up the hill to where the pup was, and then she watched it as it headed “home.” This entire sequence can be seen very clearly in the photos I took this day.

The coyote’s watchfulness lasted about half an hour. After that she relaxed and even closed her eyes at times. She remained in the same spot until some people came too close for comfort. At that point she got up and trotted away. The coyotes in our parks have always kept their distance from people.

Little Howlers

Today I was able to locate a coyote by a totally different means than ever before. I heard howling, lots of it, maybe twelve voices — and this was not at dawn or dusk. These were, truth be told, not real coyotes, but rather a field trip of preschoolers who were howling coyote howls loudly and clearly in the distance. I knew right off that the joyful children sounds were probably due to them having seen a coyote, so I followed the sounds. Sure enough that is what was going on. They pointed out the coyote to me way up over a hilltop — their view is pretty much what you see in the photo above. So I found a coyote because of these howls — and that was the most charming part of the entire day for me!!

Purposeful Monitoring of Particular Dog Groups

As dawn was beginning to break, a coyote appeared, clearly silhouetted on the edge of the horizon in the far distance, which, just as promptly as it appeared, it disappeared. The morning seemed darker than usual because of the dark cloud cover — and because of this, the dawn seemed later than usual. I walked in that direction and soon the coyote came trotting down the path I was on, stepping off onto a grassy area as it got closer. It was clearly on its way “home”, and away from dogs which were trickling into the park. It was particularly nice seeing a coyote — the rains, I think, made them less visible for a time.

I wondered if the coyote would hurry on, or be here when the gang of dog walkers came over the same horizon. Unleashed dogs often chase the coyotes, and I really didn’t want to see this happen. The coyote kept looking back in their direction. Finally it decided to continue on, at a brisk trot. I followed a certain distance, but it soon was gone. I thought how lucky I had been to glimpse the coyote and at the same time have it successfully evade the dogs — that is an ideal situation. As I was thinking this, another coyote briskly trotted in my direction — it had obviously been on the same trajectory as the first one and for the same reasons. This set of dogs has chased these coyotes any number of times, so it was in the coyote’s interest to keep track of them. This coyote, however, instead of moving on, climbed up some rocks to get a better view and watch the approaching dogs.

The coyote was monitoring their every movement. It stood there, at first listening for the group in the distance — you could not see them at first — and then watching them, still in the distance, as they wove in and out of visibility due to the shrubbery and trees around the path they were on. The coyote watched them for twelve minutes, until they came within about 200 feet and then it took off down a hill. None of the dogs seemed to have been aware of the coyote, and neither did the owners. I thought that might be the end of the coyote’s monitoring this group, but nope.

Ten minutes later this coyote had climbed up to another lookout, where I noticed it was keeping its eyes on this same group of dogs and walkers as they moved forward!! The coyote knew the habitual route of this group — it knows all the dogs in its park and is particularly leery of certain of these. It chosen this lookout where it would be able to see them exit this part of the park!

After that, the coyote relaxed for a while, grooming its legs and finally it slithered off about half an hour after I first saw it up there! Please see my posting of January 29th for a more complete explanation of the monitoring: The Purpose Of A Coyote’s Monitoring Some Dogs.

Clearings open ways for dogs to chase coyotes

At 1:00 pm one of the residents residing along one of the parks called me. A coyote was yipping in a way she had not heard before — she was wondering if it was injured. I could hear the yipping over the telephone!

I went to check it out. The coyote was still yipping when I got to the park, which is what helped me locate it. I saw it only briefly before it ran off. But it was not the coyote which distressed me — the coyote sounded fine except that it was complaining. It is the situation which was distressing to me. Coyotes yip when they have been intruded upon: almost always because a dog has chased them.  Although I came too late to see the cause of the yipping, I later found out that it had been due to a dog. My real discovery was that any dog can now run into this previously very protected area. Only six months ago it was an area in which I could barely get through because it was so dense with thorny branches, underbrush and poison oak. It is an area where no one ever went — there was no reason or need to go there, and there was no need or reason to clear it. It was a perfect animal habitat with all sorts of protection for them. Now, any dog can run through there. This area is known to be a den area.

People have wondered why coyotes are more visible lately in our parks. Might it be that the secluded areas where these animals hung out are no longer secluded? When the coyotes first chose this area of this park in 2006-2007 they chose a well protected area, dense with growth, where dogs or humans would not and could not disturb them. They were seldom seen. We have since cleared out these areas which has made their once secluded areas very accessible now.

Chase-Chase Behavior: Looking Beyond What Meets the Eye

An incident was described by a woman to me this morning. I am attempting to understand and explain coyote behavior so that we may all learn to better deal with it. The general setting involved a park with a pretty regular set of dogs and their walkers, and, in this case, a resident female coyote.

The woman said that at sunset, about 6 weeks earlier, she had been sitting in a little open park with her dog — this was not the wild part of the park where one normally might see a coyote. Suddenly, a coyote came stalking up towards her dog, and chased her dog. The chase went back and forth. The coyote seemed not very afraid when the woman first tried to deter it, but finally, with flailing arms and lots of noise, it fled. Her dog is smaller than a coyote and is 11 years old. This is a leash-law park, but no one obeys that rule. This coyote has previously engaged in “short distance back-and-forth chasing” with several dogs before finally fleeing. There is never any harm done, but dog owners don’t like it. The coyote only engages in this behavior with dogs it knows. Please see my posting of February 4th: A short back-and-forth chase. But I want to look a little further.

My question to the woman was:  But what did the dog do? The woman said “nothing”. She thought something might be “wrong” with the coyote because of its behavior. I couldn’t draw out anything that her dog might have done. But she also told me that previous to this, there had been a number of times in which this coyote had followed her and her dog out of the park on a little-used trail. A coyote might follow a dog and walker if it is curious about the dog or if it is assessing it, or possibly if it is making sure the dog is leaving. It would do so if there was something threatening about the dog.

The little-used path is by a thicket area with little coyote-size exits, where I’ve seen a coyote enter into a secluded back area — my assumption has always been that the dens might be behind this area. A possibility is that when this coyote was “following” this dog, it might have been “escorting” the dog out of the park and away from an area it felt very protective of — making sure the dog didn’t enter the secluded area.

This coyote is an alpha female with a family. She has been seen frequently enough, sitting quietly on a hilltop, observing the world. I see her as similar to Ferdinand the bull in the children’s story — peacefully smelling the flowers.  But she has defended herself when chased by a dog, and she has run down to aid another coyote when it was chased by a dog: she is not one to just flee — at least initially. She also seems to communicate displeasure, or “oneupmanship” with a few of the dogs whose behaviors she has come to know, reminding them that “I’m here, so stop your threatening activity.” We humans would not know what the threatening activity might be, but almost certainly a coyote would pick up on these.

Someone recently suggested that dogs urinating at these underbrush exits may actually be provoking a defensive response from coyotes. The dogs smell the coyote and then urinate there — I’ve seen this often. Canines use urination to mark their territories. So a coyote might see this as a possible challenge to its claim on a territorial den area. In addition, over time I have become conscious that this female coyote appears to know most dogs individually that frequent the park. This coyote knows which dogs do what — as all canine’s do.

The dog and owner regularly have walked through that side area of the park — unleashed — and the dog may have regularly urinated by one of the underbrush exit trails the coyote takes to its den. So, the coyote’s behavior as described by this woman could have been a reaction to what this coyote has seen and knows about this dog. Leashing a dog might make it adhere to the path so that “territorial marking” does not take place.

Coyotes have rich family lives and need to protect their families, they also must protect themselves and they must protect their food source. They do not just eat vegetation which can be found everywhere. Rather, coyotes must search constantly for their source of protein…. other animals, such as voles, gophers, squirrels, rats. And they need to monitor their territories to insure that competitors of any sort — in this case dogs, especially dogs with certain behaviors that we may not fully comprehend.

Coyotes are not like domestic dogs — they are wild animals with instincts and rules of their own which they must follow to survive — rules that we may not know about and may not comprehend.

We know to guide our dogs through heavy traffic intersections with leashes. We all follow the rules because there is too much going on to make it work otherwise. Our parks are becoming more environmentally friendly, more natural and diverse: there is a lot going on, including new wildlife that has been attracted to them. Our parks are not back yards made just for our pets — but places to enjoy the out of doors in all of its diverse aspects. Dogs are not wild animals and don’t know how to deal with the wild. Dog owners need to deal with coyotes in the parks the same way they would with the traffic on the streets. Following some simple rules can make it work: please leash your dogs in coyote areas.

I wanted to add one other observation. The little dog in this posting is of the type that intently and hyperactively retrieves a ball. This is absolutely normal behavior, but in the coyote’s eyes it might be distressing because of the hyperactivity it entails. I have seen this coyote calmly watching all types of dogs walk by from atop a hill. She often reacts to the smaller, extremely active types — her attention becomes temporarily riveted on them and I’ve seen her get up and pace until they pass. So here is another “distressing” dog behavior which the coyote could have remembered when it engaged in its “chase-chase” or “oneupmanship” behavior with this dog.

Please read postings on December 12th: “Dog Reactions to Seeing a Coyote”, November 4th:“Some Reactions to Dogs”, November 17th: “ANOTHER Reaction to Dogs”, and December 1:“Significance of a Seemingly Unprovoked Challenge”.  “A short back-and-forth chase: coyote interaction with a large dog” 2/4/10. “Coyote Safety” of 11/3/2009. “Blatant Visual Message for Newcomer Dog” on 2/8/10.

Lots of RAIN

I walked around a park in the very early morning rain — the rain was not extremely heavy today, but it was continuous. It might have been a miserable walk without my rain gear: wetness brings sticky clothing, hair stuck to your face, coldness, especially to your hands, difficulty seeing if the rain is coming at your face.

But if you have the proper equipment, such a walk is truly a magical experience. First of all, it is very peaceful because no one else is around: very few walkers and dogs can be seen — none when I went. But also, one becomes very aware of each rain drop and the sound of them all, of the change in the paths caused by the rain, of cascading water run-offs, of large puddles that have accumulated, of rain drops in these puddles forming concentric circles of tiny little waves expanding outwards. It is all very beautiful.

Here, where it rains so seldom, the rains bring immediate changes. The biggest change so far has been color: brown (what we Californian’s call “gold”) has given way to emerald green, which will now last through the springtime.

What about coyotes in the rain? I have noticed a coyote curl up on a hill right before a rain began — I’m wondering if it knew that rain was imminent?  If it had, would it not have moved on? As it began to drizzle, the coyote stayed out at first, maybe for about 20 minutes as the mist became stronger. And then, at a certain point, it must have stopped being fun for the coyote — rain in one’s face can be annoying. The coyote got up and went away.

Within the last week we’ve had a lot of heavy rain in the Bay Area. I did notice one coyote on a hilltop in the mid-heavy rain — no one else was in the park. This sighting was very brief before the coyote disappeared. Otherwise, my only sign of coyotes during this storm has been several “twisted ropes” of scat on the regular paths. So they are out and about, probably during the lulls in the downpours, and during darker hours, since I found these in the early morning.

Coyotes, like the rest of us, would prefer not getting wet for the most part. In this respect, they are also similar to dogs: my dog didn’t mind getting damp, but a walk in pouring rain was not his idea of fun — he was always happy to get back home and be dried off. He did not like rain in his face, nor did he like being soaked. Dog coats accumulate a lot of water — it always took three bath towels to dry my dog.

A coyote’s coat would repel more water than a dog’s simply because it is oilier and has never been washed, but it would still get pretty wet. At this time of year coyotes have a much fuller and thicker coat — they look like quite full-bodied animals, whereas in the springtime, when these heavy coats are shed, coyotes can look exceedingly scrawny. A coyote has an outer weather-protective coat, and then the thick, insulating undercoat which is grown in the fall and shed in springtime.

One other connection worth noting regarding dogs. The coyotes appear interested in the dogs that walk in the park, especially dogs which have taunted them in some way, such as barking at them or chasing them, even dogs that tug on a leash in the coyote’s direction.  I have noticed that these dogs in particular draw the coyotes’ interest: the coyotes keep an eye on them more intently than on the other dogs. The coyotes have come in the direction of a couple of these dogs, but never actually close enough to interact. Maybe the coyotes have a need to “settle the score”, or possibly test these dogs for how far they really might go? I’m keeping track of this. These particular dogs have not been walking in this heavy rain. But I’m wondering if fewer dogs, and especially fewer of the “difficult” dogs, might also be why the coyotes themselves are not out recently — or is it only because of the rain? It is food for thought.

√Coyotes in the News

“Get any good photos?” someone asked, seeing me with my camera. “Not really,” I answered. I never had seen the fellow before, so I asked, “And what are you up to.” He said, “I’m looking for a coyote.” I asked, “Why?” He said that there had been a report of an “aggressive” coyote — maybe one biting a dog. I let him know that this has only happened in our parks when a coyote was defending itself from a dog chasing it. There is a leash-law in our parks, but people don’t abide by the rules. I told him the coyotes here were not aggressive.

He said he knew this, that the park department liked the coyotes, and that the park department would be patrolling the area for a little while to make sure dogs in the area were leashed. Most of us want coexistence with wildlife to work, but this entails some effort from us humans — a simple effort that many are not willing to make: simply leashing our dogs in a coyote area.

Everyone should be aware that our coyotes have never approached people, they have always fled away from humans in every instance that I have seen. Coyotes are naturally wary of humans and will keep a safe distance. Humans have not caused coyotes to approach dogs or be more out and about:  In one of our parks this idea has been propagated by a very tiny but cohesive and vocal group of dog walkers who prefer not to leash their dogs. This small group represents themselves as the voice of the park when in fact, as so many other walkers with and without dogs have told me, they represent only themselves. Dog/coyote behavior is the bigger issue, a definite tripartite one which includes the dog owners themselves. Dogs react differently to coyotes, and the coyotes react differently to different dog personality types. All coyote “incidents” in the park have involved dogs.

Two “coyote alert” signs were strategically placed at the entrance to the park and on a main path. Hopefully, everyone will become a little more savvy about coexisting with coyotes. But some will soon want to dispense with their leashes and the situation may very well be repeated.

This incident could have escalated into a far bigger one — the media has traditionally printed negative news about coyotes, but seldom do we see the positive or how everyone could make coexistence work better — the media could take responsibility for helping with this. In 2007 sharpshooters were called in to eliminate an “aggressive coyote”. The public, fortunately, reacted with outrage, especially since it was learned that the dog had chased the coyotes, in a den area, and there were pups involved.

Only the side of the story that promoted fear and sensation was initially reported: that a dog had been bitten by a coyote. The other side of the story: the den, the chasing, that this dog had chased these coyotes often, the self-defense, and that the dog was unleashed, were not publicized until much later and not very prominently. Fortunately, now, everyone is becoming much more aware that there is “the other side of the story” as new incidents of this sort are reported.

Apparently, “aggressive” coyotes, are regularly reported by any number of people to the police, to the park service or to animal control. Often, when questioned about “what” the coyote was doing to be aggressive, the answer has fallen into two categories: “well, it is standing there” or “howling”. The other category is the coyote defending itself after having been chased by an unleashed dog.

Please be aware that by far, most bites to dogs are from other dogs — and few of these make the headlines. However, a coyote story involving a self-defensive bite will catch the public’s eye — simply due to latent fears that exist in our human minds. Would a raccoon bite be reported? Would a skunk spray be reported? Real aggression does need to be reported, but coyotes are not generally aggressive — they just defend themselves. Please read about coyote safety.

A Coyote Surprises Me: Coyote behavior

It was a foggy morning. The fog was very dense — so much so that I actually turned off at the wrong intersection on my way to the park: none of the familiar landmarks could be seen. This, on top of the dark dawn hours, made the beginning of the day very mysterious. It was a suitable morning for surprises.

When I reached the park where I was headed, I began walking and recording park sounds. I wondered if the dampness in a dense fog might affect the quality of the sound. Sound travels further, but not as crisply, I think: I say this because this is how the foghorns in our area sound. I stopped a couple of times to record water, birds, and voices in the distance, and then I continued down a very open path — one with no bushes for hundreds of feet.

When I was halfway down this path, I turned around — I think I was expecting some walkers to appear — the same ones whose voices I had heard in the distance. But there, on my path, not more than 40 feet behind me, was a coyote hurrying towards me — a coyote which I am familiar with. I have seen coyotes approach dogs and their walkers in this same way, but I had no dog with me — a coyote has never hurried up to me from behind this way before, so I was surprised. When I turned around and faced it, it stopped.

The coyote had been coming towards me rather purposefully. At first I thought that maybe this was part of its monitoring/patrolling behavior, or that I may have entered its “space” without knowing it. But, this particular coyote has always ignored me — allowing me to observe it from the sidelines. Never, until this day, I thought, had any of its behavior acknowledged me or been directed at me. Other coyotes have watched me, but not this one.

Just then, as I was trying to figure out this behavior, a walker and her very large dog appeared from further back on the path, over the crest of a hill, in back of the coyote — and the dog chased the coyote. Ahh, that was it — the coyote had been actually evading this dog, hurrying ahead of it, on the same path I was on. The owner was able to call her dog back, but the coyote wanted it known that it didn’t want to be chased or interfered with, so the coyote returned back after the dog in an antagonistic and defensive posture: crouched, hackles up, and teeth bared. The dog again chased it off and this time the coyote headed away, hurrying into the distance.

At the same time, two other beautifully sleek, young adult coyotes appeared and sat in the distance — these are all part of one family group. I walked in their direction. As I got closer, they walked towards me and stopped — they’ve done this once before, looking at me curiously — maybe assessing me — there was definitely a questioning aspect to their stance. I have photographed these two, not too often, but often enough to feel that my respect for their wildness and their space has led to a returned respect which warranted them not fleeing.  I took a few photos in the fog, and then both coyotes, as the first one, hurried off as they heard more human voices coming down the path.

** IF A COYOTE COMES TOO CLOSE FOR YOUR COMFORT, it is important to know how to ward the coyote off. Flail your arms, make yourself big, and make sharp noises, facing the coyote. The coyote is no match for a human and will most likely flee. Statistically, coyotes are not a danger to humans. However, it is important to remember that they are wild — so, for your own feeling of safety it is important to keep them at a safe distance.

One-Upmanship: Coyote behavior

After watching a coyote “show up” a dog, I was reminded of such behaviors with my own two dogs. One can see coyotes as very similar to one’s own dogs in many ways, except that a coyote must totally depend on itself for survival, so its behaviors have more serious intent.

Cinder, my cattle-dog mix, was extremely brave behind a fence, showing certain dogs exactly what she thought of them. In her mind, she had the power to tell them off. However, walking on a sidewalk, she maintained her decorum and safety by never testing these same dogs. On the sidewalk, there was no  barrier to protect her from the other dog.

My other dog, Park, a large lab mix, was once on a walk with me when we passed a dog who was barking furiously at Park from behind a picket fence — this, for my dog’s daring to come too close to his yard. I would have respected the dog’s wishes and given him and his yard plenty of berth. But no, not Park. Park casually, deliberately and slowly walked right up to where the dog was barking, calmly lifted his leg, and peed right there — and the dog could do nothing about it. “Take that”.

So, today I noticed the same type of behavior in a coyote. The coyote had spent a calm morning observing its park from high up on a knoll. After a few hours, it decided it was time to move on — probably towards home –- but it was in no hurry to get there.

The coyote got up to go, pooped, smelled some Christmas decorations which had not been there before, and ate some grass, keeping its lips up as it did so — I have no idea why it did this, but I did observe it. Then, it turned in its tracks, concentrating its attention over to where a dog was sporadically barking — the dog was in its own yard, behind a cyclone fence. The coyote closed its eyes fairly regularly, as if to block out the sound. The coyote stood still, without moving except for its ears and eyes, for about a minute. Then it stretched as an end to its stillness and as a prelude to something else.

Suddenly, the coyote took several leaping jumps — like a horse rearing up before galloping — and ran rapidly over to where the dog was behind the fence. Its hackles were up. When it got within five feet of the fence, it kept its mouth agape with teeth showing and scratched the ground intently in a bouncy manner. I was able to get four rapid shots of the dog and coyote in close proximity — with the cyclone fence between them — before the dog disappeared totally. It must have retreated into its house. “Take that.” The coyote continued on its merry way, triumphant, down the path and into the bushes.

Postscript: I’m trying to understand coyote behavior as I go along. It seems that the behavior I describe here as one-upmanship might be in a similar vein as the short back-and-forth chase interactions between a large dog and a coyote: that it was done for the interaction with no serious intent — in this case with a fence between?

See posting of February 4th: A short back and forth chase: interaction between a large dog and a coyote.

Like Mother/Like Pup: Coyote behavior

Today I saw a coyote which I know to be nine or ten months old — this is full grown in coyote terms. Coyotes at this age are ready to move out on their own if they want, though some wait another year, or even remain with the family. I have observed this one’s mother over a long period of time, and now I’m seeing some interesting similarities and differences between the mother and this pup. I’ve seen no real behavioral similarities between this mother and her other pups. I have not seen the mother and pups together recently, nor have I seen the mother in a while.

In the early morning at first, as usual, I saw no coyotes. But then one was suddenly there where none had been. It was in the exact spot that its mother used to hang out to watch the world, sometimes for almost an hour. This one appeared to be following in its mother’s footsteps: it sat on a little knoll, at a safe distance, where it kept its lookout in several directions: up above there would be unleashed dogs and walkers, down below there would be unleashed dogs and walkers, and then there I was, on the same middle ground as the coyote but a ways off to the side.

The coyote never lay down, as its mother would have, but remained sitting upright. And it was on edge, I could tell, because the part of its body which was in contact with the ground was twitching: so the coyote was alert and ready, though it appeared pretty calm. As a dog — a dog which frequently chases coyotes — and walker passed on the far upper path, the coyote remained still and seated, only turning its head to observe.  And, again, as a man with his three dogs — non-chasers — walked on the path below, the coyote remained seated upright, but watchful. The coyote allowed me, off to the side, to take some photos in the bad light. I had seen the mom with a couple of her pups in this same spot once before for a short duration, but this is the first time I had seen this young coyote imitating its mother in this way.

“Observing” at this same location would have been a taught/learned/imitated behavior. But there also must be a predisposition to do so. Like mother, like pup? This coyote is the leader of its sibling. Is it destined to become a dominant one?

More loud walkers could be heard from below, and when the coyote saw them, it headed off, slipping into the brush area. But it reappeared again shortly thereafter, further along in a quiet area of the park, and began to forage — keeping me in sight but pretty much ignoring me. And then, with me not too far off and in plain sight, similar to its mother, it curled up on the ground by a tree. I, of course, took photos.

The biggest difference that I have seen between this coyote and its mother is that this one is much more ready to flee from humans and dogs — active humans and dogs — and has a much longer critical distance it keeps from them  – this difference may simply have to do with this one’s young age and inexperience. And the difference may also have to do with the fact that the mother is a mother. Motherhood brings with it dominance and leadership: one can sense that this is HER park — her territory — from the way she sits, from the way she interacts with other coyotes (the few times I have seen this), and from the way she expresses her dominance to the dogs that chase her: she does not just flee, but stands her ground. She has been dubbed “bold”.

The younger coyote, on the other hand, is much more careful and is always ready to flee — it would not, at this stage, stand up to another dog, nor stand its ground if it were chased. It would have fled rather than confront or offer resistance. However, this one has followed a couple of dogs (leashed dogs or dogs that don’t chase)  and their walkers, for a short distance off to the side of the path: this coyote has shown curiosity. Is it learning to become bold?

Most dogs are pretty keen on coyote scent, but they sometimes can’t figure out the time frame: they know the coyote has been around, but they really can’t tell if it just passed by or if it is still in the area. I know this, because some of these dogs would like nothing better than to chase — they only turn away because they think the coyote has already gone. I observed this today with this coyote.

Evading by hiding & waiting in the brush

This lone coyote was out next to some willow growth when I spotted it early in the morning. It hung out while I took a few photos and then, as walkers appeared over the ridge in the distance, it opted for the safety within the willows — I had seen it out in the open for only about four minutes. I thought it was gone for the day, so I walked through the park, but I kept my eyes open for if this coyote might re-emerge in the same area — I was hoping.

Forty minutes later, there it was, out in the open again, right where it had been before. I could tell it was uneasy. After only a minute, it re-entered the same spot into the willows. Of interest to me is that this coyote had waited in one spot for 40 minutes — waiting to continue whatever it had been doing before, but waiting until it felt safe to do so. When it did re-emerge, the coyote still felt uncomfortable so retreated again.

Recognition of individuals, bonded, walking home

It was still dark as two coyotes ran by in a hurry — it was hard to see them in the dim light. I looked far up the hill to see a group of walkers and their unleashed dogs — the coyotes were evading them. The coyotes kept their eyes on the group, but then stopped and looked at me. I always stand still when I see coyotes. The coyotes stopped fleeing and hung out for a moment some distance in front of me. But the walkers could then be seen again, and a woman from the group was yelling at her dog. The coyotes must have sensed danger to themselves because they then headed off and disappeared into the brush. I don’t think the group of walkers or dogs were aware of the coyotes.

The walkers moved, temporarily, out of sight and out of earshot. When I got over the crest of a hill I saw both coyotes walking slowly and calmly, and exploring the ground together. When the walkers could be heard again in the distance, the coyotes stopped their activity and looked up. When the walkers became visible again, the coyotes continued walking away from the group and in a direction I have seen them walk before. I’ve seen them walk in this direction often at about this same time — they gave the feeling that they were walking “home”. The coyotes were not in a hurry — they were far enough away from the group to know they could get away if they had to. They crossed the path, out of sight, avoiding detection by the walkers who then came down this same path.

I’ve been able to see that these particular coyotes distinguish me from groups of walkers with dogs. Through their behavior, one can see that coyotes can recognize and distinguish certain groups of dog walkers, certain dogs, and, yes, certain people.

Of note is that these two coyotes, nine-month-old siblings, tend to stick together most of the time — they appear to have a strong bond. One is definitely the leader, the other, the follower. I see them less and less often with their mother.

And the third observation that I’ve been becoming aware of, is that these coyotes were actually walking home — a direction in which I’ve seen them head, shortly after dawn, where they probably remain until dusk can camouflage them again. These coyotes are not out during daylight hours. “Home” may be a den area or close to a den area, or it may just be a place where they feel comfortable, safe and at ease: the same as what we use our own “homes” for — a place we head for at the end of a day.

Fateful Encounters: Life and Death

Very occasionally I’ve seen the spoils of coyote encounters — pelts and skeletons and viscera that were left behind after a coyote, or several coyotes, had finished feasting. I have added these to show additional indirect signs of coyotes in an area — and to show more activities they engage in — activities that mean survival for them. What should be brought to mind is the interconnectedness and dependence of one life on another. An unexpected chance encounter at dawn between two creatures on different levels of the food chain might bring death to one, but it will enliven the other. So that one can live, the other must die. We tend to sympathize with the underdog, but nature sees things differently.

I show carcasses of a possum, a skunk, a raccoon, two semi-digested voles or mice that seem to have passed right through the digestive system, and yes, a cat skull. You can’t be sure how the cat died — older cats are vulnerable as prey to coyotes but also to raccoons — we have many more raccoons than we have coyotes. The raccoon remains were by a roadway, so probably it was hit by a car and already carrion by the time the coyote found it. Most adult raccoons can keep a coyote at bay.

There is a gopher and a squirrel being held by a coyote. These are eaten whole, for the most part — no spoils to be found. Then I have photos of a gopher hole where the coyote dug hard and deep to get its prey.

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