Amazing Maternal Care & Affection: A Typical Example

What a thrill I had today as I observed coyote behavior.  The intricacies and depth of care, and the bonds and affection within a coyote family I am finding to be very profound.

This morning the moon was full, bright and overpowering. So I sat down to photograph it. I was hoping to get the details of moon topography which my camera is so good at picking up — not so my naked eye! As I was doing this, yes, a coyote wandered by, looked at me, went further off, came closer and then wandered on. What a nice opening for my day!  I then continued my own walk, not needing to see anything else at all that day.

An hour later, on my way back on one of the looped footpaths, I saw the mother coyote headed to where I had seen the other one earlier — the other one being a year-old offspring of this one. I followed at a distance in hopes of picking up some interesting tidbit of behavior. This coyote kept stopping, looking around and then moving ahead, rather purposefully. Then, right at the edge of some tall grass I could barely discern some activity: there were two coyotes now, falling over each other with joy, kisses and hugs. Yes, that is how I would have to characterize it. This greeting lasted about 8 seconds — I only got one bad shot of it. The one photo I have does not convey the intensity and warmth. I have never seen two dogs greet this way, and seldom have I even seen a human and dog greet in this manner. I think the greeting must have also imparted a message to “come with me”, because the mom seemed to lead the way and the younger one followed, back in the direction from which she had just come. Whenever the younger one stopped to examine something, the mom stopped and waited — sometimes sitting patiently while doing so. When the younger coyote appeared in the path in back of the mom again, they walked on.

They soon veered off the path, and proceeded over rocks, tree trunks and overgrowth. I followed as best I could and did end up where they did. The mom trotted on and junior followed. He had been led to food: mom had fetched him to take him to this food. The young one began eating and the mother moved out of sight and into the further distance. I was too far away, with shrubbery in the way, to be able to tell what was being eaten: it looked like soft food, such as a pear or potato.  It was not of animal origin. Possibly there is a pear tree in the area? Or, could the mother have retrieved this from someone’s garbage? The other possibility is food left by late night revelers — of which there are plenty in the park as attested to by the beer cans we find on the weekends.

When all had been eaten, the younger coyote urinated on the food spot, looked around, and moved into the brush area where its mother had gone. I went to the spot where he had eaten to check it out, but nothing remained. So I continued to follow. At this point I could see the mother coyote waiting up on a hill, continually looking in the direction of the younger one. I assumed the younger one was supposed to follow. But the younger one continued to hunt in the area, and then I lost vision of it. The mother obviously was waiting for the youth to follow her. When he didn’t appear, she went looking for him!! The mom began a fairly intense search, trotting this way and that, looking and smelling for clues — even looking down an escape path which I have seen coyotes use. She finally disappeared into the underbrush. I returned to find the young one in the area where I had last seen it. When it saw me this time, it took off into the underbrush, too.

So, this very purposeful family interaction was very rewarding to watch. The sequence included the mom’s initial search for the younger coyote, the super-affectionate greeting, her waiting for the younger one, leading him some distance to food, her going off to wait while he ate, and then her searching for him when he was supposed to follow. The entire series of behaviors constitute a thrilling show of family interconnectedness, care and affection. In coyotes, the family, with all of its attendant interactions, appears to be what social structure is based on.

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