“Youngster And Mom”, by Charles Wood

The week ending Saturday, October 10 included a twilight sighting of one youngster on October 7.  I stood looking east from the river bank accompanied by my leashed dog.  We saw the larger of the two youngsters, probably female, move briskly north along a dirt road.  She stopped at the rendezvous site where the north-south dirt road is met by a dirt road that runs east.  Her demeanor was of a coyote with an important and agitating concern.  She did not look towards us.  Nor did she linger at the rendezvous site.  She turned back and even more quickly arrived at the dense brush that contains the family den.  Before entering the brush she gazed south a few times.  An unknown had prompted her to venture out into the open, investigate, and withdraw.  Perhaps her behavior was prompted by what in her mind was a known unknown.  Apparently her behavior confirmed the known unknown as yet unknown and she had the presence of mind to know she still didn’t know and she withdrew.

Late dusk Saturday was Mom’s day.  Again I stood looking east from the river bank with my leashed dog.  I had difficulty seeing any motion in the dimming light.  Then my dog alerted by standing up with a whimper.  I used my camera to spot Mom advancing on us from the north.  It took me about half a minute to focus on her after my dog stood.  My first picture of Mom shows her advancing and making eye contact with the camera.  The second shot shows Mom averting her gaze.  She then evaded and I lost sight of her.  It took me four minutes to find her watching us from a point further south.  I found her by aiming my camera along my dog’s line of sight.  He had not lost track of her.  The impression I am left with is of Mom having it in her mind to challenge my dog.  I favor that view because Mom didn’t halt her advance or avert her stare until she noticed I had spotted her.  Until that moment she was most probably giving my dog the eye as she approached, causing him to stand and vocalize his concern to me.

Mom, Dad and perhaps the larger youngster (in an inexperienced way) object to my dog’s presence in their territory.  My proximity to my dog has so far worked in his favor.  Over a year ago Dad wasn’t carrying the battle scars he currently displays on his upper nose.  I am inclined to view Mom’s drooping ear as from battle as opposed to being a congenital defect.  Mom and Dad have occupied and held their territory for at least a year.  There are other coyotes in the immediate vicinity, presumably each breeding pair dispersing youngsters.  Dispersed males and females must eventually be drawn to each other by scent to then find and hold territory of their own.  Coyotes are both drawn together and in opposition to each other.  Coyotes are at times drawn to dogs and at times are in opposition to dogs.  Dogs are domesticated, coyotes are wild.  To be safe near wild coyotes, a dog needs proximity to its owner, secured by a leash.

I sentimentally refer to my breeding pair as Mom and Dad.  Actually, they aren’t mine and they aren’t sentimental about me.  I recognize them as battle hardened by conflicts with their coyote neighbors and with coyote interlopers.  Together Mom and Dad are capable of severely injuring my dog, perhaps fatally, despite his weight advantage over either of them alone.  Were he not at my side and leashed, or, if leashed, were he twenty feet from me instead of six, I would have significantly less influence over an encounter’s outcome.

The character and outcome of encounters between dogs and coyotes are not predictable to a certainty.  It is certain that experts advise a dog be leashed when walked in areas where coyotes are known or suspected to be present.  In considering that advice, substitute cars for coyotes.  Unleashed, a dog may run into a street where the outcome can’t be predicted with certainty.  Cars are known or suspected to be present in streets.  Yet cars may either be present or not, may hit a dog or not and if hit, may injure or may kill.  With a dog off leash near a street, an event may unfold that either ends well or doesn’t.  Consider that with either cars or coyotes, one just doesn’t know what is going to happen once a dog gets in the wrong place.  A leashed dog is far less likely to get in the wrong place.  A leash provides a dog owner with some power over events.

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.

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