Health in the Wild

I spotted a raccoon a couple of hours after daylight had broken. That was my first indication that something might not be right. The raccoon spotted me and remained very still on its rock behind some wild mustard. I stayed very still. After a few minutes the raccoon began grooming itself: licking the fur on its arms, licking its hands, and scratching a little.  I could see that this animal was not healthy: it had lost one eye and the other seemed clouded over, the skin under the fur on the nape of the neck was red and infected, there was a large gaping open wound or infection on the upper chest area. In addition, the ears had been torn and there was a scar on the raccoon’s mouth. This animal obviously has had a hard life and now it has wounds from mishaps or from diseases which may or may not heal. I’m adding this posting to show that nature is not always kind or pretty.

I found this raccoon in an area of one of our parks where I have seen coyotes. The coyotes have always been very healthy looking — maybe this is because they are young. The raccoon, on the other hand, was quite large, which indicates to me that it was older. Animals in the wild live much shorter lives than the same animals in captivity: aging, wear and tear, disease, dealing with predators and dealing with a limited food supply take their toll.

We humans are also subject to the same mishaps and diseases as other creatures, but we have excellent health care to compensate. In fact, I think most of us now think it is our birthright to live to be quite old. We all expect to retain functionality and live out our lives until the ripe old age of 80+ or 90. This is not true of wild animals who may rely only on the strength of their own bodies to heal themselves. When a mishap or disease occurs in nature, there is a slimmer chance for survival.

Coyote noses get roughed up

Watching a coyote dive into a gopher hole nose first brought to mind photos I had taken which showed nose and even face injuries. These are not severe injuries, but you can see that the face and especially the snout of a coyote takes some abuse and roughing up. This makes sense, since the muzzle and mouth are a coyote’s primary tools: they manipulate and push with the muzzle, and do the same with their mouths. Their long snouts are meant to grab prey out of small openings, and if these snouts are pushed far enough into a hole, the eye area can get scraped up also.

Hunting and Hiding: Coyote behavior

This coyote was on to something, so I sat and watched. In fact, as I came upon the scene, there were two coyotes out, but one slithered off right away. This one must have been hungry. The “flying leap-nose-dive” is always the most exciting part of the hunt and I was able to see three of these fabulous springy leaps in a row. This coyote is a young one — under a year old. That may be why it took three leaps to disable its prey. I only caught the last and least of the jumps with my camera. The hunt and meal together lasted only four minutes. By the manner in which the coyote kept licking its chops when all was done, I could tell that it must have been a good catch.

After eating, the coyote more or less kept itself hidden from view. From its hiding places it kept an eye on me. If I had not seen the hunting beforehand, the coyote would have been difficult to spot — it stood so very  still “behind” cover. Within a short time it trotted off to the underbrush.

Coyotes Camouflaged or Well Hidden

I used to think coyotes were always well camouflaged, until I saw one stand out on a hill like a sore thumb: a coyote can be easily seen against a green background. But a lot of the time, coyotes blend into the background and this is why many people often don’t see them. Coyotes also know how to keep very still, and they are able to move in such an extremely stealthy manner that they often are hard to detect unless you are actually looking for one. Of course, as I have posted before, if the coyote is one who likes being out in the open, resting up on an open hilltop, it might be very easy to spot it. I’ve collected some photos showing coyotes blending into the scenery pretty nicely: their coloring, stillness and stealth are the important factors.

Enjoying the Rain

I enjoy walking in the rain: I like the quiet and the sense of peace as I walk. There is a sense of focus much closer to oneself and less “out there” than on clear days. If it is too cold my fingers get cold and go numb, but if it is too warm my raincoat retains the heat and doesn’t breathe. However, if the temperature is just right, the rain can be lots of fun to walk in — I allow myself to “let go” when I’m this comfortable: allow myself to get wet, fall in the grass, slide down an incline or whatever, and enjoy experiencing all there is to experience in a good rain without guarding myself against it for fear of eventual discomfort, especially if I’m going to be out a while.

During my walks in the rain, I usually expect to find no animals, but this is less so in the springtime. Birds are all over the place, and so are other animals, including, sometimes, a coyote. In spite of steady rain, a coyote at times can be seen out in the open resting in a favorite spot and getting wet — maybe it experiences the same comfort that I do when the temperature is right. It would have been easy for the coyote to find shelter under a tree, but it didn’t. I’ve waited for a coyote to get up and leave under these conditions, and was surprised that it stayed put — I watched it bask in the rain for a couple of hours. Apparently rain, at least one that isn’t a driving rain, does not interfere with a coyote’s life.

If a dog and its owners walk by, the coyote might get up from its lying down position to a standing or sitting position. Otherwise, I’ve seen it stay curled up on the ground as it gets wetter and wetter.  However, they don’t like having the rain in their eyes — but this inconvenience isn’t bad enough to make them get up and leave. Of course, a driving rain might produce totally different behavior — I have only observed coyotes stay out in moderate rain. I saw a coyote only once in a driving rain, and that was only for a second. You can see the rain coming down in the photographs — hopefully this will be apparent on this blog.

Still Looking Up To Mom: Coyote Behavior

One early morning walker who was out early with her small dog had something interesting to say about her small dog’s behavior when the dog became aware of coyotes up ahead on a path. As the unleashed dog came over the crest of a hill along the path, it suddenly turned back and hugged against its owner’s legs. The owner said the dog was “asking to be leashed — asking for protection”!! When the woman herself reached the crest of the hill, she found out why. There were three coyotes. They were quite a distance away, but nevertheless, the little dog was nervous about them. The woman sat down, hugging her dog, and watched for a while and then she took a path which circled way around where the coyotes were. When I saw her again the coyotes had moved a bit, but they were still there.

The small leashed dog was actually trembling and began barking when it saw the coyotes again, yet at the same time, this dog was very curious about the coyotes, and vice-versa. I think with many dogs there is a “push-pull” interest about the coyotes. Coyotes appear so familiar to us all in many ways, yet at the same time they are sensed by the dogs as being so completely different from themselves. The woman took a quick photo and decided to walk on. That her dog had asked for protection — that he had asked to be leashed in the face of potential danger — was fascinating. Could this also have been meant as a message to the owner: “beware of what is ahead?” The same behavior had been described to me once before, but in this previous instance the dog had been a very large male Labrador.

While this woman was circling around I watched the coyotes. There were two young ones — they were very alert. But what was of primary interest was that they kept their attention on “mom” who was sitting up higher on a hill. The young coyotes moved around a little bit, but mostly they were still and strained their necks at times to keep their mother in view or to find her.

As a set of dog walkers went by in the distance, the mother went further up the hill where she was now hidden — she kept her eye on this dog group. I could not see her, but the young coyotes knew she was there and they kept their gaze on her. As the walkers and their dogs descended the hill I noticed that the mother coyote had come up behind them: she wanted to see them, but didn’t want them to see her! There must have been communication between the two young coyotes and their mother because the youngsters wandered slowly towards a brush area as they kept looking back at her — as if they were following her orders or getting her approval. After 25 minutes of continually returning their gaze to their mother, they finally slithered into the underbrush. These young coyotes are not quite a year old.

“The Sky Is Falling”: Coyote Behavior

A young coyote was out, calmly and nonchalantly sitting on a path this morning. The coyote watched a couple of people and their dogs. The dogs just looked at the coyote — their attention was on the coyote, but it wasn’t a riveted attention. They were just watching, seemingly with no need to go after the coyote. Both dogs had had previous encounters with a coyote, and the owners felt their dogs thought the encounters were not fun. We have all noticed in the last two weeks that the dogs in this park have ceased chasing the coyotes to the extent that they used to. These two walked on. Another walker and her dog walked by, as did a man without a dog — everyone comments with amazement on having coyotes in the city, and we exchange information on keeping it a safe situation.

I settled down to take some photos at my allotted 75 feet — I always hope to see some new behavior. I was crouched down when a man walked by on an adjacent path higher up the hill with his three dogs. I don’t know if the dogs saw the coyote or not, but the man did, and he didn’t like it, even though the coyote was over 150 feet away and minding its own business. The man walked on, but at the last moment — unprovoked — tossed a single stone at the coyote. The coyote did not see where the stone had come from, but the coyote was aware that something unexpectedly had hit it. The coyote was startled: it flinched and jumped aside. Then the coyote started looking up and around for where this missile had come from. The coyote made sudden jumps and leaps to the side, as if trying to avoid the same thing from happening again — the first one came out of nowhere, so might the next one do the same? It pursued this activity for about 5 minutes. It then headed into the bushes because more dogs and people were coming down the path. As it headed off, the coyote continued to be jumpy and to look around itself, still trying to figure out if the sky was falling!!

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