Like “Ferdinand”: Coyote behavior

When I see coyotes resting on hill slopes, I can’t help but think of the children’s story about Ferdinand the bull, who cared for nothing more than to sit peacefully in a field and smell the flowers. Be that as it may, Ferdinand was taken to the bullring to fight because he was seen as the most furious bull in Spain — his finders happened upon him right after he had been stung by a bee.

There is a lot that goes on in a coyote’s life, but I have found that predominantly they want to remain peaceful, be left alone, and live their lives. This is what we all would like for ourselves. The peacefulness can be seen in the photos I’ve taken, day after day, of one or another coyote that I’ve found on a hilltop somewhere: basking in the sun, napping, watching contentedly as the world goes by. Some coyotes engage in this type of activity for a couple of hours at a time. Although most coyotes do not lie around in the open during daylight hours, even if it is in the distance on a hill, some apparently do.

Of course, coyotes are more active than this. I have seen plenty of hunting, playing with other coyotes, walking home. These all are fairly calm activities. And then I saw a coyote yipping: this was totally different. The yipping is a very intense activity, and I have only seen it in the daytime after dogs have chased a coyote. I have since become aware that coyotes are much more alert and active when dogs are around. This is because dogs are their chief threat in the parks.

When dogs are around, the calm “resting” I had initially seen so often, became more of a “watchfulness and monitoring”.  Dogs walking or loping by with their owners produce little reaction from a coyote watching from a hill top. But I’ve noticed that small hyperactive dog types, or dogs running wild off-leash, or two dogs instigating a fight or something resembling a fight, will cause a coyote to sit up at attention: coyotes do not like commotion.

Coyotes feel intruded upon by dogs coming after them or chasing them. But coyotes are also alert to potential chasers — a coyote can read this by a dog’s activity level, body language and gaze. A relaxed coyote watching from a hilltop may sit straight up if it senses the possibility of a dog threat. A coyote might also react to this with a blatant antagonistic display: hackles up, scratching the ground, teeth displayed. This could be frightening to a dog owner who is not used to it. Keeping dogs leashed can prevent a problem.

And during pupping season — May through October — the coyote’s alertness increases many times over, especially for coyote mothers: they are no longer just looking out for themselves, but during this time frame they are also watching out for their den areas and the pups themselves.

A coyote assesses, monitors, patrols for its own security. I’ve now seen coyotes do this in the early morning until dogs and their walkers leave the park. Ahhh, we do this too. To maintain our peaceful existence, we have our patrol cars to keep an eye on things: it’s a precautionary measure. When threats or possible threats are gone, our coyotes like sitting up on their hill tops, smelling the flowers, like Ferdinand

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