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.

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