Mom Checks In, by Charles Wood



I was pleased to see Mom in her field just after sunset.  A week or so ago I also saw a lone coyote in the field, too far away to identify.  I haven’t seen Mom, Dad and their juvenile together for almost two months.

It had been so long since I’d seen my coyotes that a friend asked me if I thought that they had left.  Anything is possible.  However I doubt that Mom and Dad would willingly leave productive range.  Mom looks like she is getting enough to eat.  Their field allows them to reproduce more or less in secret.  Dad has been in that field for well over a year and Mom may have been there as long, though certainly since late January 2010.

Mom’s most noticeable distinguishing feature is her drooping ear, now noticeably worse and worrisome to me.  I had thought her ear drooped for fighting, but now think she has an infection.  She spotted me standing on the river bank and stood staring until I began to leave.  As I walked she moved off the road to watch from cover while lying down.  From that brush-obscured vantage point she could also watch north, east and south.  Smart coyote, always working.

Each visit invites me back.  Is their youngster still there?  How is Dad doing?  Will the couple stay put?  Will they have pups again?  Is Mom’s ear a threat?  Will they be in that field long enough for me to see them start showing gray?

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.

All Yawn

A Bite To Eat

Find, pounce, poke, retrieve, crunch, gulp, shake, lick chops. That’s how it goes. Sometimes any of these steps can take lots of time, and sometimes it’s over quickly. This sequence here was very quick.

Ritual Greeting?

Ritual greetings are used in coyote packs to confirm the social order. Here a young coyote approaches the Alpha, who is his mother, to greet her with kisses and muzzle rubs. Note that his ears are always back.  She seems to only accept it and to put up with it — she does not return the behavior in any way. In fact, the young one did not approach with his usual wiggly joyfulness — maybe because that had already happened an hour earlier?

The Stick Finder & The Stick Snitcher

Here, one fellow finds a stick and begins having fun with it: tugging at it and chewing on it. But a second guy comes up and wants that very same stick.

The first guy repels the second guy’s attempts to take it with a growl.  However, the second guy doesn’t give up and tries to weight down the first guy and then he tries a frontal approach again, both unsuccessfully. Finally he tries the ultimate put-down: he mounts the first fellow who then moves to get away from the tight grasp.

Seeing that the stick is no longer his, the first guy resigns and  moves off some distance to watch. Not to be totally defeated, he returns and grabs a different stick to pull on. Ohhhh, but now fellow #2 actually wants THIS particular stick and goes for it.

Fellow number one snarls angrily, but it is fellow two, who at this stage is succeeding in showing himself to be the more dominant of the two, now has the second stick.

So, the fun is over for the time being.

Back When Play Began Turning Into Bullying

The two siblings in this coyote family used to play evenhandedly — this is not so now. In the first slide, as one of the siblings begins to dominate the other, Mom snarls her discontent at them and moves away from them. Notice that one sibling continually goes after the other one to dominate by pushing him, mounting him or forcing him to the ground — it is always the same one that does this. In the end, the dominated runs off from his tormentor, almost always with ears back, tail under and back arched.  These photos were taken at the beginning of October — about when I started noticing this one-sided pattern to sibling interactions.

Family Greeting Sequence: Smothering Mom Who Then Needs To Get Away

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[24 slides]

Here is a display of strong family affection — affection for Mom from two of her full-grown pups aged 18 months at the time. Joy from the juveniles can be seen in their body movements and facial expressions as they approach her. They approach her with lowered heads in deference to her Alpha status — so the greeting is both one of love and a confirmation of their respect for her. Mom is the coyote on the far right in these photos. Mom appears to “allow” them to display this affection — but I have seldom seen her return it.

In this sequence, Mom soon tires of it all. After the first initial greeting with just one of the pups she moves off and lies down. At this point the other youth appears and both this time approached her with kisses and hugs (close body contact). She then gets annoyed at the pile up, reacting with a gaping snarl (#13) and then moves off. The younger ones follow and Mom snarls again (#17) but they offer apologetic kisses and then they all settle down now with plenty of space between each other.  This entire sequence lasted over three minutes. These photos were actually taken at the beginning of October when these displays were still going strong: the displays are not nearly as lengthy or nor as intense recently.

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