“Youngster Gets Bold, continued” by Charles Wood

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.

“Youngster Gets Bold”, by Charles Wood

At dusk Dad, Mom and a youngster showed at their usual gathering place.  There may have been a fourth, another youngster.  Mom and Dad, one youngster hanging with them, did seem to be watching for another.  They were relaxed and didn’t seem to be on alert for intruder coyotes.  Of course they were aware of me although neither Mom nor Dad seemed concerned enough to chase us off.  The light soon became too dim to keep track of their positions.  As I watched them my dog alerted.  I noticed a coyote coming in our direction.  It came towards us on a dirt road that runs up to the fence that runs along the riverbed where I stood.  I moved closer to get a picture of the approaching coyote and thought that it had to be Dad.  It wasn’t Dad.  It wasn’t Mom.  It was the youngster who for the first time took on the duty of challenging my dog and me.  Bold as that behavior was, it came only half way down the road, perhaps stopping short because it knew it had been spotted.  Nevertheless it didn’t immediately withdraw.  It stood some, ambled around sniffing, stood some more and then trotted back towards its parents.  Not a bad performance for its first attempt at confronting us.

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.


I followed this young pair of coyotes as they sauntered along a path in a routine manner. There was nothing going on in particular to distract them as they moved uneventfully along the path. That is, until Mom was spotted a little ways off the path. What a reaction! One of the young coyotes turned to putty, twisting and contorting — absolutely dissolving in delight at seeing her. I was not quick enough to capture the kisses when they met after this one ran down the hill to greet her. Mom is still a big presence in the lives of these 18 month-old pups.

“Mysteries That Howl And Hunt” by Carol Kaesuk Yoon

Please read the New York Times article which appeared on September 27, 2010 in the science section: “Mysteries That Howl and Hunt” by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. This article is excellent. Superb! It is the most accurate and fair I have seen to date on urban coyotes.

Passing Under!

One of my dogs was was a clunky, happy-go-lucky lug of a dog who took up too much of the path as far as our other smaller dog was concerned. Twice, I remember, the smaller cattle dog needed to get around the larger lab: the easiest path was simply to go under him!! The smaller dog just slithered through without disturbing the larger dog at all. The smaller cattle dog weighed about 50 pounds — not such a small dog; the larger lab weighed about 90 pounds.

So when I saw one coyote pass under another, I was reminded of my own two dogs. But in this case, the coyote passing under was actually the larger of the two and lifted the other one up high — it was not as smooth an operation as with my own dogs!!

Black Squirrel Outfoxes Two Coyotes

These two coyotes were rustling in the bushes and very excited when I happened upon them. They kept scurrying back and forth and up and down in the same area, noses to the ground. Then suddenly a black creature whizzed passed them, and me, at full speed and up to the very top of a tree branch. I thought I had seen a black cat, but it was too small and a cat was unlikely to be in this part of the woods.  Soon I was able to see that it was a black squirrel! I had never seen a black squirrel before.

The coyotes went into hot pursuit, but, as usual, they were no match for the squirrel. The squirrel must have known he was safe perched high above the ground. He complained bitterly and loudly, thrusting his tail tensely back and forth. The coyotes paced a little and eyed the squirrel for some time from below. Eventually they gave up — they would not be able to reach the squirrel. One coyote sauntered off, but the other coyote lay down in forlorn resignation a few feet away for about ten minutes.  This is when the squirrel stopped its angry chattering and its tail movements, and became absolutely frozen and still. The second coyote then departed, but the squirrel remained frozen for long after both coyotes had gone. Only once have I seen a coyote with a captured squirrel, and this was a small young one that may have been injured or may have fallen out of its nest.

I have the impression that for coyotes, at least for well-fed coyotes, the activity of hunting borders on play: the excitement, novelty, adventure and amusement of a hunt are as compelling as the reward at the end of having captured something. This would explain why coyotes continually chase squirrels they can’t catch, or sometimes discard rodents after they capture them.

Intestinal Cleansing: Coyote Behavior

This is the second time in less than a week that I’ve seen a coyote eat grass. Only this time the process continued into a more elaborate behavior.  After eating the grass, only a few carefully selected blades, the coyote sat down and heaved. He heaved over and over, which created a rolling motion and slight pitching forwards over its entire body. At a certain point, the coyote stood up and upchucked the grass he had eaten. He looked around, selected one more bite of grass, “marked” the spot where he was and sauntered on off into the distance.

Feeding Coyotes Could Lead To Their Death Sentence

Today I saw a scrawny juvenile coyote attempting to hunt in the intense sun and heat at noon. He was not full grown, which means he is from a litter born this year. He was terribly scruffy looking and scrawny. The temptation to want to help was tremendous.

The problem with feeding them is a huge one: it is illegal, but what about the moral question of helping an animal in distress? These animals will not remain wild unless they learn to survive on their own. If you spoil a child, you are not helping the child, rather you are ruining his chances to become self-sufficient and productive. Spoiling is usually done for selfish reasons, not for the child. With coyotes, we want them to remain wild. Please don’t feed coyotes — it could lead to their death.

The biggest problem of all with a fed coyote is that they know where the food comes from. It might seem like benign feeding at first, but the coyote will eventually “ask” for more food, and then “demand” it aggressively — “biting the hand that feeds it.” This is the only explanation some experts have for why some coyotes — shy animals who are wary of humans — have become aggressive around humans. If you feed a coyote, you might be setting him up for future problems with humans, and possibly even eventual death by firing squad at human hands.

“Palm Seeds” by Charles Wood

I recently saw undigested palm seeds in coyote scat.  I speculated that those coyotes must have been very hungry to eat that!  Janet had previously observed palm frond licking by coyotes in her area.  A quick internet search shows that the fruit of the Desert Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) is “the main component in the fall diet of coyote” according to Howard, Janet L. 1992. Washingtonia filifera. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).  That source credits coyotes as primarily responsible for the dissemination of palm seed.  In tests, scatted palm seed has a better chance of germinating.  I guess I better put those palm seeds back in the field!

“Dad Sighted” by Charles Wood

Friday September 24 I saw three of my coyotes.  I last saw Mom and a youngster September 13, and hadn’t seen Dad since August 31.  I had been seeing them fairly often for about a month.  I thought I understood their early evening rendezvous routine.  I felt I could count on seeing them almost daily at a particular time and place.  When I had come to that conclusion they stopped showing up.

In the 10 days since my last sighting I tried varying my visiting times.  Once I went after dark, walking with my dog heading south along the east side of the river, starting at the north end of the nature sanctuary.  About half way to their field, I heard some rustling in the dense wood and brush in the sanctuary.  I couldn’t see an animal even with my flashlight.  The rustling did morph into some obvious leaping, where brush and branches rattled for about two hundred feet at a lightening pace.  It sure sounded like a bounding coyote, evidently spooked by our presence.  A couple of times I went about an hour before sunset and wasn’t rewarded with a viewing.

Thursday September 23, impatient, I decided to enter their field.  Their field has their den and is south of a nature sanctuary.  I have observed them going in and out of that sanctuary and have also seen Dad and a youngster in an area to the north-west, across the river.  Before entering their field I visited that north-west section.  There I spotted some coyote scat on a dirt road.  I took a stick to turn it over and the dust underneath the scat was still damp.  It consisted of several fibrous palms seeds strung together with the usual brown material.  I wondered if my coyotes get enough to eat.  I then headed across the river and went south into their field.

Once in their field, I noticed more palm seed strewn scat on one of my coyotes’ roads.  I kept my dog on leash and walked south along their main dirt road.  I came to the area that has their den. A young coyote poked its head out of the dense brush, ears up and staring.  It held still for a moment and backed into the brush.  I left the field encouraged and waited on the river bank for an hour.  I didn’t see a thing.

The next day, Friday the 24th, as the sun was setting I watched from the river bank.  I hoped at least to see Dad who I hadn’t seen since the end of August.  Instead I had been seeing Mom.  There was a long period when the pups were first brought out that I would see them with Dad and never saw Mom.  I don’t consider it unusual to see only one parent.  I don’t have any certainty about why that should be so.

As soon as I arrived on the river bank Mom and a youngster showed up on the east-west dirt road.  Mom was fed up with something the youngster did and gave herself some space.  The two settled down for some waiting and watching.  I noticed Dad was near them.  I took a fairly clear shot of the youngster alone and recognize it as one of the two I saw in the rendezvous on August 31.  I’m hoping these three’s watching and waiting Friday is a clue that the other or other youngsters are still alive.  Friday’s youngster could not stay still.  Mom and Dad were vigilant yet also at times were curled up, their eyes either closed, looking down the dirt roads or looking at my dog and me.  The youngster was ignored by both Mom and Dad despite its attention seeking antics.  Mom and Dad had jobs and attended to them.

I’m thoroughly impressed by the consistency with which Mom and Dad do their jobs.  If their job is to sit still and wait, they sit still and wait.  If their job is to chase my dog and me off, they do.  I can’t imagine a coyote parent ever having to exhort “do as I say, not as I do!”  The youngster, obviously with “ants in its pants”, simply could not do as its parents and just sit still.  Yet it was not chided for ambling around.  Mom did snap at the youngster when in its amblings it disturbed her with body contact.  I read that as her saying “be a puppy, just don’t be one too close to me.”  In contrast, tonight Dad seemed better able to simply tune the youngster out, even when body contact was involved.

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.

Typical Encounter Between Mother Coyote and Dog Who Chased Her Pup

This behavior is so predictable, it has become a script. A dog is out with its owner for a walk. The owner spots a young coyote and is thrilled to see it, so stops to observe. The dog does not see anything. I mention to the owner that she might want to leash her dog if there is any possibility that dog might chase the coyote. “Oh no, my dog never chases dogs or coyotes.” I mention that dogs see coyotes more as squirrels than as dogs. I am ignored. The dog eventually sees the coyote, goes into his threatening stance and then goes after the coyote. The young coyote runs away.

The problem is that in one of our parks, the mother coyote is watching. In this case, from over 1000 feet away, the mother coyote had observed this dog and saw what was happening. The minute the dog threatened her pup, she dashed full speed to her pup’s defense. Her pup is 18 months old and full-sized, nonetheless, he is still her pup. She reached the dog and pursued him at a galloping speed. The dog’s owner had yelled repeatedly for the dog to come — but when a dog’s adrenalin is up, it never does come.

The dog ignored its owner until the coyote came full speed towards him with anger in her face. Then, when fear finally hit him, he came running towards his owner who grabbed him. At this point the mother coyote stopped her chase. The mother coyote’s job had been successful: she had kept the dog off of her pup. The dog could have been nipped in the haunches, but it did not happen this time. The owner grabbed the dog and leashed it, repeating out loud “Why didn’t I leash my dog.” The owner then retreated to a distant path and watched. The coyotes stopped all further activity and stood frozen, watching for any further intrusion from the dog. Not for ten minutes did the dog and walker depart, and not until then did the coyotes move into a more relaxed mode.

More Bush Smelling

Here, again, is another coyote smelling bushes. The smelling is taking place too high off the ground to have been of the scent left by another coyote or dog’s purposeful “markings”. I have seen a coyote “back scratching” by rubbing itself against a bush at this height. Is there something going on here related to this?

Stopping to Sniff Plants

This coyote was sauntering along when it stopped to sniff a plant. Then it continued its walk and stopped to sniff another plant, and then another. I have come to see that this is a very normal coyote activity, but I have not figured out its significance or purpose! The sniffing takes place higher off the ground than where another coyote or dog would have “marked.”

Eating Grass

Like dogs, coyotes, too, eat grass sometimes.

Yes, A Rooster — Bereft of Tail, In A Coyote’s Habitat

A couple of people were observing something in the distance — I was sure it was a wild animal of some sort. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a live rooster. How did this rooster end up in a wilderness area? Our Animal Care Department didn’t seem too concerned when I called them: it probably had escaped from one of the numerous neighborhood chicken coops.

We tried to catch it but failed — it was able to wedge itself deep into some briars. It will not live long in the wild: some animal already had deprived it of its tail. Life in the wild is harsh and hard. It has its own set of rules: survival depends on being fit for the wild. Chickens are not fit for the wild, and neither are any other domestic animals which need humans for protection. Wildlife can only survive by being smarter than the next critter; by taking advantage of the other critter’s weakness; by being alert to danger — these things are learned by growing up in the wild. A domestic chicken does not have a chance in the wild.

We have hawks, owls, raccoons, possums, skunks and coyotes who will be eager to dine off of a helpless, injured rooster. Even rats have been known to kill chickens. We also have dogs, cats and cars with which a chicken on the loose is not prepared to cope. Please keep your chickens secure and safe. Please keep your pets secure and safe. Wildlife cannot be blamed for following its own survival instincts. Animal Care Department will not blame wildlife for a mishap involving a pet owner’s negligence. It is up to us humans to protect our domestic animals by not letting them run free. It is also irresponsible for dog owners to allow their dogs to injure another animal. The damage already inflicted on this chicken was probably caused by a dog — an experienced hunter such as a coyote, raccoon, or even an owl would have finished the job.

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