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?

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