“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.

Dissolving

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.

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