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.

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