Mister Reprimanded?, by Charles Wood

Dad and Mister

Sunday at twilight Dad spotted me as he was coming down his Los Angeles area road.  I was on the bridge to his north about 225 feet away.  He paused and then kept coming.  He stopped again to sniff.  In a moment, he resumed his trot and Mister came from the brush to join him.  Mister is new to me though he has been with his parents and sisters all along.  Dad made Mister get down as shown in the “Dad and Mister” photograph.  Soon they were up and both trotted across my bow, Mister coming first.  I had seen Dad first, Mister came out on the road and got in trouble, then Mister led them away, apparently doing as he had been told by Dad.

Was Mister truly in trouble?  I can’t know.  Until yesterday I didn’t know that Mister was there, had confused him with his sister Bold, and had thought he therefore was female.  There is room for getting simple facts like gender incorrect, so my story of Mister and Dad’s complex behavior has plenty of room for other interpretations.  For example, Mister may not have seen Holtz and me on the bridge and Dad may have been communicating my presence and a danger assessment to Mister.  Both continued on, Mister in front. As they went camera left, both glared at me, Dad with his neck and shoulder fur flared to make him look big.

The one thing I consider clear is that Dad is in charge of his son Mister, whether reprimanding Mister’s misstep or warning Mister of what they both have come to regard as a concern:  Holtz and me on the bridge.

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.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. yipps
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 17:22:57

    As an alternative interpretation, I’m wondering if there is a possibility that this behavior isn’t tied to discipline, but rather that it might be related to dominance and reinforcement of hierarchy? A clear-cut hierarchy allows a pack to function smoothly — each individual fits unquestioningly into it’s role. But each individual role has to be continually reinforced — the same way a dog needs regular repetition and reinforcement of the commands it knows, and therefore of its place in your pack. I’ve never seen father-son relationships — which could very well be tied to discipline — but I have seen siblings display this behavior which was based on dominance.


  2. Charles Wood
    Jun 23, 2011 @ 21:04:30

    Yes it looks certainly like Dad showed dominance and that Mister accepted that Dad is dominant. Dad asserted himself and Mister showed submission and there may have been no information exchanged between them other than that of hierarchy. And Dad’s dominance display may have occurred had I not even been there watching, it may have had nothing in its origin that had anything to do with their knowing I was there intruding. Much of what they do I wonder and speculate about though. Most of the time I watch them interacting with me. It isn’t often that I see them interact with each other, their focus being on me and my dog.


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