I’ll Mark Here, Too!

Here are two coyotes wandering around. They both sniffed the tail end of this truck — really!! And then one urinated there. The other was right there watching. “Since you marked here, I’ll mark here, too!” You can see that the first coyote is a female and the second is a male from the way they urinate.

Keep Away From Me/Trapped On A Path

This is a display used by coyotes to keep dogs away. I’ve only seen it used by dominant female coyotes. The display is performed when a dog has chased the coyote or come too close, possibly by accident. HOWEVER, in this particular case, it is the coyote who approached the unleashed dog which was sauntering down a trail. One of the coyote’s full-grown pups was following the dog, also sauntering along good-naturedly!! The coyote’s display is a message: it serves as a warning, most likely it includes a territorial warning, and it is a reminder to the dog not to intrude. Dogs which the coyote has become visually familiar with over time are the only ones I have ever seen approached in this manner by a coyote. In this case, the dog did not respond to the coyote but just walked on, so the coyote moved in a different direction. If you are going to walk in a coyote area with your dog, it is a good idea to carry a “shake-can”  — a six ounce aluminum juice can filled with 10-15 pennies with packaging tape over the opening. Shake it aggressively and vigorously.

A few days ago I was following a coyote on a path to see what might be in store for the day. There were two minor encounters with dogs. In the first, a woman and her small Vizlu appeared over the crest of a hill as the coyote was walking in their direction. Neither knew of the other and both were surprised. The dog, off-leash, ran after the coyote in a playful manner. The coyote could not turn around and run off because I was on the path in back of it. So the coyote ran up a grassy hill where the small dog followed it. The coyote immediately went into its “Halloween Cat Posture” as a warning for the dog to keep off. The woman yelled for her dog, but before the dog obeyed, the coyote had come up to the dog and attempted to nip its leg. We found no bite marks. If a coyote feels threatened, this is a possibility that everyone should be aware of. A dominant female will react this way, whereas betas in a coyote group would probably just flee.

The same thing happened again — a walker blindly coming upon a coyote on a path. This time the walker could not see the coyote because of tall grass growth and curves in the path. Again, I was following behind the coyote when the coyote came to a dead stop — so I knew someone was coming down the path in its direction.  I tried turning back and then getting off the path, but the walker’s dog already had whiff of the coyote and went after it — not viciously, but it went after it. The coyote put on its warning display. This time the woman was able to grab her dog quickly. She turned around and went the other way: this was exactly what she should have done. As she went the coyote began following her. I yelled out that the coyote was in back of her, that she should just keep moving away. She picked up a couple of stones which caused the coyote to flee off the path, and then she went on.

More Family Dynamics & Communication

Here are some photos of another “greeting”: there is always a lot of affection. But also I’m noticing little irritations with each other, as can be seen by their expressions: eyes, ears, snouts, even noses and posture. I can’t read everything that is going on, but a lot is happening. Try looking at the facial expressions and body language. I see constant interaction and communication about feelings, desires, expectations, relationships. For instance, in slide #9 coyote on the left draws his lips up as his sibling approaches; #10 this same coyote gets BETWEEN that sibling and his mother, #11 mother stiffens in reaction.

Actively Hunting

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Here is hunting sequence. It began with two coyotes hunting right in the same spot, but one went off. The hunting session lasted about twenty minutes. Note that when the lone coyote stood still, which was not often, its tail swished slowly back and forth, back and forth, revealing the coyote’s excitement and tension. There was one pounce, but nothing was caught. In the end, the coyote curled up, right there in the open, right at the hunting spot, but at a considerable distance from any path, and fell asleep!  Hunting might last awhile, as it did here, or, it could be totally effortless, lasting a mere split-second — as if the coyote had gone to the refrigerator and pulled out a coke!

In this instance, the coyote seemed to look directly at whatever he was after. But another technique the coyotes use is “triangulating”, where they will cock their heads from side to side for auditory signals which will tell them exactly where the prey is.

Snakes Are Not For Eating

I have seen coyotes pick up dead snakes before, snakes that had already been killed either by them or some other animal, but today I actually watched as a coyote caught a live snake. The coyote was quick and exact in its hunting techniques: it only took one plunge before the coyote had the snake. I watched intently, thinking that this was a “fresh” snake, and might be eaten, but that was not to be. I don’t think that coyotes eat snakes if they don’t have to.

The coyote put down the snake, rolled on it, and played with it, tossing it high in the air. The episode took a little over a minute. I learned that an animal does not have to have decomposed for a coyote to want to roll on it — maybe snakes are strong smelling to begin with. When the coyote was through with these activities, it moved on to making its rounds. Interestingly, the coyote returned to this snake about 40 minutes later, searching for it and picking it up just for a second before dropping it and continuing on the path. Ten minutes later I came back to find the snake was gone: it had probably been picked up by either a red-tail hawk or a raven which are seen constantly flying above.

Lots of Commotion and Noise Can Be Upsetting to Coyotes

I watched as this coyote made its rounds and ended up on a high ledge to watch. Another large field trip of kids was coming into the park. As the coyote watched, it gave off barely audible grunts and narrowed its eyes. It was not happy with the situation — with all the noise and activity. The parks serves as a coyote’s territory and they like it calm.

In another park a coyote actually went to the periphery of a day camp where there was a lot of noise and commotion. Here the coyote began a barking session. The camp director was able to shoo the coyote off easily by walking towards the coyote and tossing stones. Coyotes do not want to be approached by humans. But it is important to know that noise and commotion can be upsetting to a coyote who considers a park its territory, and that it may react to this commotion as an intrusion, in the same way it does when it has been intruded upon by a dog: by engaging in a loud and often long barking session. The barking serves as an announcement of its presence — maybe its ownership of the territory –and an announcement of its being upset.

A Bit of Sibling Rivalry For Mom?

This posting actually goes along with the last one, the one about affection and love, but I wanted to separate these photos out because of something new I saw.  At first glance the “greeting”  appeared to be a pile-up of mutual affection between a mother and her two yearling pups. On closer examination, I could see that it actually consisted of puppy-love for their mother. Of course, Mom is the one that came looking for the pups, knowing full well that her presence would elicit their affection, and she accepted their affection. She seemed to be very even handed with them.

After even further examination, I could see that there were instances of rivalry between the two pups for contact with Mom. In this sequence of photos I saw one of the pups narrow his eyes a number of times at the other yearling when he came close. Hmm. I wonder how this will develop over time!!

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