From Janet: I’m wondering if the youngster is more curious than “confronting”? The youngsters here, at 18 months, still don’t have it in them to confront — but they are curious sometimes and have approached a little because of this.
It may be that the youngster was being curious as opposed to confronting. The Approach picture in this post was taken just prior to the YoungsterContronts picture in my previous post. It really is hard to infer intent, state of mind. What does the body language in Approach communicate? I am not at all sure. Does the raised tail suggest anything? The picture EyesonMe was taken a few minutes before the youngster came down the road. The look it was giving me seems as it should: no warmth. When the other day I saw one youngster emerge from the brushy den area and then quickly retreat, I waited an hour for it to “get curious” and pop its head out again. In vain I waited. In Spring 2009 I was taking pictures in their field and noticed a young one about 10 feet away spying on me from the brush. I was startled and it startled and ran off. The big trouble this year started when a new pup did the same. Dad showed up shortly after the pup fled. Dad first sought out the transgressing pup and then hurriedly returned and went ballistic on my dog and me. How Dad had handled the pup I couldn’t see. What happens in dense brush stays in dense brush.
Part of my inclination to infer that the youngster on Wednesday was confronting comes from the contexts of the particular road the youngster used for its approach. Both Mom and Dad use the same road to approach me aggressively. The parents will go down that path half way to stand and stare. Also, they will lie at the half way point on that road. It is a good vantage point to track me along the river or when I am on the east-west road with the bridge. Either Mom or Dad will take that half way position and watch as I leave. Once I leave for the other side of the river they retreat from that position. Also, Tuesday night Mom charged my dog and me down that road, came all the way to us at the fence and ran back and forth, did some dirt scraping. The youngster took the same path Wednesday evening and was moving at a half trot even after my dog alerted. It was a stealthy choice of an approach path considering where I was standing Wednesday night. I had to carefully study the area my dog was looking towards in order to see movement in the dim light. I believe the youngster halted because I lit it with my flashlight, an aid to get my camera to focus. In the dim light, looking through my telephoto lens, I thought the approaching coyote was angry Dad and wanted to stop him. Its demeanor suggested Dad, and I wasn’t certain of which coyote it was until I got home and enlarged the photograph. All in all, I am predisposed to think of that particular path as one which my coyotes use for signaling displeasure. These preconceptions of mine make it hard to not assemble a “story” that in actuality may not be at all related to the actual intent of the animal. Either way, as a challenge or curiosity, the youngster was showing some new independence. I left because Mom and Dad may have not liked that and it was dark enough for all of them to become really unpleasant. It is the case that when the parents come down that road towards the fence it is always to warn and watch.
I’m wondering if at 18 months your boys are a little slow? It is so cute that they seem to be mamma’s boys. One difference may be that they don’t have (or do you?) coyote rivals that dispute with your pack? I’m waiting to see how the two boys eventually separate from each other and their mom. Are there other females around to entice them away from Mom come January? I can’t wait to find out. I wonder if another male will solicit their mom and chase the boys off.
That was a great link to that Carol Kaesuk Yoon article. I’m heartened to read that coyote watching is “like working with a ghost species.” You have such great opportunities there, always something new with great pictures
From Janet: Yes, the situation I’ve been observing here seems very unusual. There is no dad, and there are no other coyotes close by who might challenge these youngsters. They live in an idyllic haven and have not HAD to grow up. These particular youngsters have been “allowed” to be “slow” in growing up. I, too, am particularly interested in dispersal time and mating season and what this will bring in the way of new behaviors. The pup of the year before dispersed in November, at the age of 20 months — will it be the same with these? That pup either followed his own instinctual timeline or may have been booted out because of conflicts with these younger siblings — I’ll never know the exact reason.
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.