Playing With A Dried Twig

I was watching this coyote sit peacefully on a hillside in the early morning with two other coyotes. Then, the silence was broken by an intense and long sneezing fit by a human who was quite some distance away — maybe 600 feet or more. The person was not visible from where I was. In fact, no one was visible in the park. Maybe the sneezing was not related, but all had been calm when this coyote, at the end of the sneezing fit, grabbed a large dry branched twig and ran up the hill with it. The coyote was playing, excitedly, as can be seen by its expression, and maybe even inviting the another coyote to join in the play — there were no takers, though. The coyote jumped and bucked and then, when the twig got caught on another plant, the coyote pulled and pulled, tug-of-war fashion. The playing didn’t last long, and the coyote settled down as it had been doing before the sneezing fit.

Coyotes, just like us humans, enjoy playing and entertaining themselves. In the first slide you can see that the coyote had been sitting next to another coyote, and it may be it was trying to incite this one to play. The last slide is actually of the second coyote who went up to the spot — but not until the first one had abandoned the twig and moved on.

My first sense of this behavior when I took the photos was that the coyote had become agitated at the intense sneezing. But it took zooming in on the photographs to tell that there was no agitation at all — it was about playing.

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