The Observed Coyote Becomes A Co-Observer!

Not only do I observe coyotes, but I also observe what interests coyotes. Of prime interest to them is the dogs in the parks. I watch for which dogs attract a coyote’s attention the most, and try to figure out why. There appears to be a vast difference between the way a mother/dominant coyote sees certain dogs as opposed to the way all the other coyotes see them.

So, a few days ago I watched a coyote youth stop to watch dogs between hunting bouts — it was very casual observation from off the trail — the dogs were on a path very far away and I could tell that none was aware of the coyote. Then, one dog I had not seen before caught my attention, so I went right up to the ledge and squatted down to observe, making myself very unobtrusive behind some plants.  The dog was about 400 feet away, so I pointed my camera, which serves as binoculars when I need it to, and observed this new dog and walker for a few moments. As I turned my head a little, I saw that the coyote had approached and was imitating me! It had come right to the ledge also, right behind some growth to watch what I was watching. We were both looking together!! He was curious. My own behavior was something it must have wanted to account for. The coyote wanted to know what I was doing, what had my attention. It had used my behavior as a cue as to where its own attention maybe should be focused. So we became co-observers for a few moments. When I stood up and faced the coyote, it bounded off again into the distance.

This same coyote has used the behavior of dogs and, now it seems, humans to gather information for itself. I saw this same coyote observe a dog as it dug furiously, at a gopher hole. When the dog departed, this coyote went up to the same spot to dig, taking the dog’s cue that something was there. It also has “looked up to” its mother and sibling for cues/clues about the danger of a situation. This coyote is a year-old juvenile, which may help explain its behavior a little bit: using indirect evidence for information.

I’m wondering if an aspect of a coyote’s “following” a dog and walker might include gathering information for the coyote’s use, such as “can you lead me to a food source?”

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