Perplexed And Fascinated By A Sibling’s Activity

I watched a pair of siblings actively descend a hill. But the similarity in energy and activity stopped there. The first to arrive on the trail stopped to wait for the other. When the second one arrived, he did not turn or wait for the first one at all. He ran straight for a bush area where he energetically sniffed, jumped about, pushed his way through. He remained in this spot engaged in this activity, while the first coyote watched, perplexed and fascinated by this siblings activity. The activity and the watching lasted for four full minutes.

“Mom Intensifies”, by Charles Wood

Friday evening I watched from the river bank looking east.  I stood at the chain link fence that separates their field from the bike path that runs the length of their field.  With me was my dog, Holtz.  We watched a dirt road about 130 yards from us, a road often used by my coyotes.  I hoped to see youngsters.  Instead I had an encounter with Mom.

I watched for a while and saw no coyotes.  Suddenly Mom was at the chain link fence, confronting us.  Holtz slipped his leash.  He barked and chased Mom south along the fence.  I ran and retrieved him.  Mom returned to face us.

I have observed her for a little more than a year.  Upon seeing me last Sunday she was content to mark and perform a short mock charge, the first aggression she had shown towards us.  Friday evening her display was intense.

My past impressions of her were of a timid coyote.  Her display this evening differed little from the Dad’s aggression.  She didn’t vocalize where Dad often does.  The fur on her back was raised, yet not as extremely as Dad’s.  She urinated whereas Dad usually drops scat.  Like Dad, she scraped dirt repeatedly, prowled back and forth and included a yawn in her performance.  She then withdrew to watch us.  What she saw was Holtz and me retreat north.

It was too dark to see if she stayed put or followed.  I took the bike path under the east-west main street.  As I emerged on the north side a bicyclist called to me that I was being followed by a coyote.  She had gone under the bridge, though it was too dark there for me to see her.  I reached for my flashlight and found I had lost it.

This evening was the first time Mom was out of her field on the bike path.  The bicyclist kept me appraised of her position.  He soon said she was looking at him from the top of the southern embankment of the east-west street.  By the time I reached him she was gone, presumably back to her field.  I went to my car and left.

It is important to remember that my coyotes specifically direct their aggression towards my dog and me.  Many travel the bike path on foot or bicycle and never see my coyotes.  A few people visit their field and are not bothered by the coyotes.  In contrast, the coyotes recognize me as an individual who, with his dog, while frequenting their field, got too close to their pups.  Until that event, I was able to visit their field and rarely saw coyotes.  When I did see them, they saw me and avoided me.  Clearly I transgressed and am singled out for negative treatment.  Perhaps the value of my experience with them is as an example of how to not behave towards coyotes.  Don’t, as I have done, continually bother a wild animal with its young.  Doing so brings risks that are difficult to manage.  My primary motive was to photograph them.  To do so, I ignored the best advice and the best advice is that when you see a coyote, avoid it and let it avoid you.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Battling Mosquitos

It was only because the same thing was going on with me that I understood what was happening with a coyote, barely visible up on the horizon at twilight. The photos are not too good because of the great distance and dark hour.  I myself was contending with swarms of mosquitos, and they were winning. I looked up to see this coyote engaged in its own mosquito battle: the coyote was repeatedly snapping at them, batting them with a paw, shaking itself, rubbing its face and twitching its ears. The final remedy that worked was to get up and move on: it worked for me. It probably worked for this coyote!

More Frolicking Fun and Exuberance!

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“Just Mom Returning South”, by Charles Wood

Sunday I observed from the bridge looking north into the 100 acre sanctuary.  My goal was to photograph one or more of my coyotes scooting under a chain link fence’s gate.  The fence encloses the sanctuary.  The gate allows service vehicles and coyotes to pass between the areas to the north and to the south.

Mom came sauntering down the road towards the gate.  I lifted my camera and she halted at once.  She stared at me for a few moments and sat down.  Coyotes are able to sit and watch for lengths of time unendurable to me in fading light.  Just the evening before she and two others had fled south from the northern area and had ignored my presence.  Now she walked and sat as though she owned the north.  I crossed the street to look south from the bridge.  I hoped at least to get a picture of her passing into their field.

I waited a quarter hour before seeing her.  She surprised me.  I didn’t see her passing into their field.  Instead she popped out of the brush moving east to west just south of the bridge.  Then she bent her front legs and sprung her shoulders up, front legs rising almost off the ground.  Her display conveyed displeasure and was followed by her marking dirt.  These aggressive displays were the first I’ve received from her.  She calmed down and lingered long enough to be photographed.  The flash startled her though from that she recovered quickly.  Then she continued south and, before going very far, left the road for cover.  I neither saw nor heard other coyotes and left in just under another hour.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Life Is A Dance

In a carnivorous world, one life must end so that another may live. There can’t be judgement about this: nature is set up this way. This coyote is joyfully celebrating its “catch”.  The choreography was precise and smooth, with one slight movement seamlessly blending into the next. The whole was a graceful dance, enriched by the coyote’s sheer jubilance. I’ve seen many happy coyotes in our urban settings.

“Packs” and “Pups”: Terminology

It’s interesting that the English language has so many different names for groups of animals and animal babies. Coyotes in a group are referred to as packs, routs, bands or trains of coyotes. Baby coyotes are referred to as pups or whelps. I thought I would list just a few other animals that most of us see pretty often in our area. The collective nouns often refer to the animal’s home, but these are often used synonymously for referring to the group.

  • bats:  a cloud or colony of bats, their babies are called pups
  • butterflies: a swarm or rabble or kaleidoscope or flutter or rainbow of butterflies
  • crows: a murder, muster, hover, horde, parcel or parliament of crows, the baby is a chick
  • ducks: a raft, paddling or bunch of ducks on water; a team, brace, bed, flight or flock of ducks in flight
  • foxes: a skulk, cloud, troop, leash, earth or company of foxes, the baby is a kit
  • frogs: army, knot or colony of frogs; frog babies are called tadpoles, polliwogs, or froglets
  • geese: a gaggle or flock of geese. In the air they are called a skein, team or wedge of geese; in water they are referred to as a plump of geese
  • hawks: an aerie, cast, kettle, boil (two or more) of hawks, the hawk baby is an eyas. A hawk male is called a tiercel, the female is called a hen
  • herons: a scattering, seige or sedge of herons
  • humans: clan, crowd, family, community, gag, mob, tribe, country, etc., depending on how we want to divide them up: there are lots of nuances.
  • hummingbirds: a charm of hummingbirds, the baby is called a chick
  • moles: a labor of moles, the baby is a pup
  • opossum male is a jack, the female is a jill and the baby a joey. They are marsupials, the same as kangaroos whose baby’s also are called joeys
  • owls:  a parliament, study, stare or wisdom of owls; a baby owl is an owlet or fledgling (once it has flown)
  • raccoons: a nursery or gaze of raccoons, the baby is a cub
  • rats: a horde or mischief of rats, the baby is called a pup, pinkie, or kitten
  • ravens: an unkindness of ravens
  • skunks:  a surfeit of skunks; a baby skunk is a kit
  • snakes: a bed, nest, pit, slither, knot of snakes; a baby is a brook, snakelet, neonate, hatchling
  • pelicans: a squadron, pod or scoop of pelicans
  • quail: a bevy, drift or covey of quail
  • squirrels: a dray (its sleeping quarters) or scurry of squirrels, babies are pups, kits, or kittens (female is called a doe)
  • turtles: a bale, dole, nest or turn of turtles
  • woodpeckers: a descent of woodpeckers

“Pursued”, by Charles Wood

Saturday I waited on the river bank for half an hour looking east.  I stood with my dog about 130 yards from the main north-south dirt road often used by my coyotes.  I neither saw nor heard anything until 7:40 pm when three coyotes exited the underpass trotting south into their main field.  Dad, in the rear, stopped several yards south of the underpass.  The other two continued their trot south.  Dad dropped scat and then hurriedly followed the other two coyotes.  Apparently all three were hurriedly returning from the area to the north, an approximately 100 acre sanctuary for animal and plant life.  Their main field is connected to the sanctuary by an underpass and I have previously observed both Mom and Dad in the sanctuary.  In contrast, my coyotes’ main field approximates 25 acres, where all except around six acres were mowed a month ago for weed abatement.  My coyotes numbered nine a week before the mowing:  Mom, Dad and seven pups.  Since then I’ve observed no more than four coyotes together at the same time in their field.

Dad caught up with the other two, having stopped to look behind him several times in the process.  Together, they all stopped to look north from where they had come.  I saw no pursuers.  Dad took a break to groom his mate.  A youngster was lying on the ground beneath them.  Dad finished grooming Mom and then bared his teeth at the youngster.  He stood over it, tongue out, as Mom went a bit to the north and stopped.  She looked both north and east down flat dirt roads.  Apparently pursuers could come from either north or east.  The youngster followed her, and then returned to Dad.  Dad put the returning youngster to the ground with seriously bared teeth.  The youngster then remained near Dad as Dad again checked north.  The youngster also stayed with Dad as he went to investigate some odors a few yards north of where Mom had stopped.  This investigation lasted about a minute.  It ended when the youngster headed south while Dad marked whatever they had discovered.  Mom and the youngster headed south and Dad followed.  While following, Dad frequently stopped and looked behind.

Mom and the youngster arrived at an entrance to what I assume is the area of dense brush that contains their den.  She marked the road and then she and the youngster disappeared into dense brush.  At that point I looked back down the dirt road for Dad and did not see him.  I waited a bit, saw no pursuers and decided the show was over for the evening.  I doubted that any vocalizations would follow because vocalizing didn’t seem wise in the circumstances.

What were the exact circumstances?  From whom did they flee?  Why was Mom groomed and the youngster instead chided?  The second time the youngster was disciplined seemed clearly to tell the youngster to remain near Dad.  What odor was important enough to give them pause to investigate and mark when obviously in flight?  Did the three return to join other family members?  How many of the other six children are still alive?

That the three were fleeing from one or more coyotes seems a safe bet.  Perhaps the grooming behavior performed on Mom by Dad was to calm and reassure her.  The youngster obviously had messed up earlier.  I say obviously because it had prostrated itself by the time Dad had caught up with them.  Had it handled an encounter with other coyotes poorly, or caused such an encounter?  After being disciplined it chose to head towards Mom and apparently for that, was disciplined again.

It seems safe to say the odor marked was that of a coyote trespasser.  The odor was important enough for both father and child to thoroughly absorb the information it contained.

The position Mom took, looking both north and east, suggests that no other of their family members were east.  The area to the east, consisting of about four lightly covered acres, has its own north-south entry point and another entry point at the east most boundary, not particularly safe from intruding coyotes.  The more southern area into which they ultimately disappeared is dense brush.  I have seen Mom alone similarly seeming pursued as she headed south.  She at that time also marked the point where she headed into that brush, nearly the same spot as this Saturday.  This southern area is about two acres and I can’t take a step there without cracking dry twigs or rattling brush.  Probably intruder coyotes would sound similar alarms.  The high ground, banks to surrounding road beds and structures, are planted with rows of reeds that are green and supple for being irrigated.  They are thick, high, and have tight yet navigable spaces for evasion and ambush.  I’m hoping the other youngsters can be left there unsupervised while Mom or Dad or both reconnoiter before taking more family members out for their early evening hunt.

I’ve read and heard many times that feces and urine mark territory and thought it rather benign, perhaps even thoughtful or polite.  I have rethought that.  I have seen Dad drop scat a few yards from me to begin a confrontation.  Dumping, scraping, mock charges and barking do drive me off, particularly with the way he looks so much larger with his fur buffed out.  It isn’t simply that he can drop scat.  He can do so and back it up with all his power.  To mark while fleeing, and to mark the area they have the most interest in defending suggests to me:  “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Submissive Behavior

Here is a sequence of photos showing a greeting between a mother coyote and her yearling offspring, a male. The full-grown pup is 17 months old. Not only is there plenty of affection, but the yearling shows very strong submissive behavior: coming in from below, constantly seeking mouth contact. Interestingly, each coyote appears to close its mouth over the other’s — but one does it from a crouched position. The mother is on the right-hand side in all of these photos.


One of the coyotes I’ve been watching always stretches after getting up to move on to another place. It’s a slow and easy stretch, and very often is accompanied by a long and wide yawn. When the routine is completed, the coyote trots off, seemingly as happy as a lark.

“A View From The Bridge”, by Charles Wood

Tuesday at 8:15 pm my view from the bridge was two young coyotes passing through the underpass headed south.  Of course they spotted me.  They stopped to look.  Looking, they moved from side to side and at angles that moved them further away.   Soon they took to the brush and my flashlight’s reflection from their eyes gave me their positions.  After several minutes they were gone.

Wednesday I returned to perhaps catch young coyotes heading towards the underpass from the north side.  None showed up.  I arrived earlier than on the previous evening.  I walked towards the bridge on the north side of the street.  At about 7 pm Mom, in her field on the south side, spotted me.  There wasn’t much of me to see given her angle of view.  Yet still, she followed me as I walked east towards the bridge.  When I arrived at the bridge she had approached it to get a better look at me.  After a couple of minutes she left.  At 9 pm I left having not seen any other coyotes.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Coyote Coats Are Beginning To Fill Out Again

I have noticed that coyote coats are beginning to fill out and lengthen already by August: note the tail, especially.  During the coyote’s shedding period, fur loss moved up the shoulders from the legs. The last place to be shed was the neck area: in June some of the coyotes even appeared to have lions’ manes before this last bit of thick winter fur was shed!  The shedding was completed in June, leaving a coat darker in color as compared to what had been shed.

In June and July coyotes appeared at their scrawniest due to the minimal amount of fur: bones and ribs could be easily seen. Because of the sparse and short fur, the very distinctive markings of each coyote almost disappeared during the end of the shedding period. Bushy tails became thin and wispy. But now I’m seeing the same original, distinctive markings re-appear that I had noted from wintertime. These includes distinctive colors as well as distinctive patterns, especially on a coyote’s back. The coats seem to be at their fullest and most colorful in the fall, and last until January when the fur will start, again, to be shed slowly, leaving grayer/silver and blacker tones which cause a lot of the coyotes to look alike. The change is amazing and particularly noticeable in very young coyotes! What remains the same, of course, throughout the year, is a coyote’s facial features.

Get Off Of Me!

These male siblings are a year-and-a-half old. As usual, I spotted them playing and then hunting together. Only this time, one attempted mounting the other.

I have seen this behavior performed on the mother who sat down and patiently put up with it for a moment before snapping. Within the next few moments, the younger coyote repeated this a couple of times as I watched, and the mother always responded in the same way. The behavior ceased when the coyotes got up to leave.

And I have seen sporadic attempts of this behavior a couple of times between two male yearlings, but the attempts were not very insistent and appeared to be more part of the vocabulary of play — the attempts were abandoned quickly as other types of play took over.

This time, the behavior was clear and insistent and occurred three times within a matter of ten minutes during which I watched them. The underling did not like this, but was playful about it at first, and then annoyed, pulling back its lips in a display of “cool it” — the same as the mother had.

I wondered if the fun-loving and play in which these animals have engaged all their lives was beginning to turn in the direction of hierarchy and dominance. And I wondered if this would be the factor that will cause them to leave the family group and move on in the near future. The male from a brood born the previous year departed the area in November at the age of 20 months.

Of course, the young always, or almost always, leave and move on. But one wonders if leaving has to do with the urge to leave, or if they are “forced out” without cause, or if they might have been expelled due to a behavior — maybe a behavior which grows in intensity, such as dominance — which was not going to be tolerated by the rest of the group?

“Solitary Hunting”, by Charles Wood

I didn’t see who killed the bird yet it is clearly being eaten by a young coyote.  Several contentious hawks were flying over the field and one may have ceded its kill to the coyote.  The coyote was too engrossed in dining to notice me until I began to use flash.  Then it hid briefly only to return to its meal.  Most of the bird was consumed and I was tempted to enter the field and identify it from what remained.  Yet I wasn’t interested enough to brave an encounter with Dad at dusk in his field.

As I walked towards the street to the north, I heard Dad’s antics close to the chain link fence that separates the river bed from their field.  My dog, Holtz, was leashed yet still managed to charge the fence.  Dad stood his ground while Holtz repeatedly barked at him.  Dad did not vocalize.  I quickly reigned in Holtz and quieted him down.  In late dusk I use a flashlight to aid my camera’s autofocus.  Lit, Dad decided to continue on his way.  I last saw him headed north.  I went to the bridge to look south for Dad.  I didn’t see him or any of the other coyotes.

Back at the river bed I conversed with a homeless man while continuing to watch for coyotes.  None showed and on my walk back to my car I did not hear yipping as I had the night before.

It seems to me that although Dad still displays dissatisfaction at my presence, he isn’t as driven to chase me off.  I’m inclined to attribute his less aggressive displays to the fact that his family has grown in stature, independence and wariness.  They are young coyotes now, no longer pups.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for these and more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Mustard Plants Attract Coyotes’ Attention

These photos show two coyotes standing by a mustard plant when something about the plant caught the coyotes’ attention. I really don’t know what the interest was, but the coyotes in both instances definitely and intensely sniffed out the plant. The top row is one coyote, the bottom row is another.

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