Marking: Coyote behavior

Right after going to a rock and looking over to see what was going on below — there was a dog being walked — this coyote happened upon something that caught its attention. I don’t know if it was the sight of it or the smell of it which attracted the coyote. It stopped and sniffed the area on the ground intently. Then it walked forward a few paces and urinated on it. And then it walked on, first shaking itself out and then scratching itself. I, of course, stopped to see if I could tell what this was about. What had been urinated on was coyote scat from several days ago. Hmmm. See first 6 photos.

Deliberate urinating on something is how animals leave a message. Several months ago I had seen a coyote pick up a dead mole and then spit it out disgustedly. The coyote then walked forward a few paces and urinated on it. I had assumed that it was a message to her young pups to avoid it — after all, the rodent was dead and might have been poisonous.

But why would a coyote mark coyote scat when the only coyotes around are three that belong to the same immediate family? The only plausible reason that I could think of would have been to “trump” a dog’s having marked it. Most marking has to do with territory boundaries and ownership. This was probably an instance of oneupmanship!

Update 5/19/10: See last 3 photos. Five days later, this exact same spot was again marked, this time by an offspring of the first coyote. Again, the coyote was walking by when it whiffed something that made it stop. Then it went up to “the spot”, sniffed the area carefully, and then urinated on it. Note that this time the marking coyote is a male!

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