Dad In Charge, by Charles Wood

Dad stops

Tuesday I saw Dad at the east end of their east west dirt road, as was Mom Saturday.  Both Mom and Dad, Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, appeared east and headed west.  Last Thursday, Bold instead moved from west to east on that road to arrive at the eastern spot where I had seen Mom (and Dad Tuesday) start out.  Mister frequently heads from west to east on that road, as did Bold last Thursday.  Dad and Mister recently headed together from west to east, which I read as Mom having the puppies somewhere else.  (All this activity usually takes place in the hour before and then during dusk.)  Last Friday, Mom and the three yearlings were together a bit west of that area.  They appeared to be waiting for Dad to come west to them.  I reasoned that he must have had the new puppies with him, though I couldn’t confirm it because he didn’t show up while I was there.

Nor could I confirm on Tuesday that Dad had the new puppies in tow.  Interestingly, once he spotted me, he turned around and trotted back to the cement ditch, exasperatingly out of my view, from which he had just come.  Then he trotted out again to stare and to sit.  He had a view of both me and the ditch.  My thinking is that he had run back to another adult coyote and messaged it to not bring the puppies out.  I guessed there was another adult coyote there because last year, Dad was not by himself able to stop an avalanche of marauding puppies in tow.  The puppies were always slow to recognize his danger messages, mostly glares and grimaces, placed on the puppies once he would spot me.  Last year it would take him time and effort to corral them and move them away from me and into safe brush.  The puppies were slow to glean his meaning, mostly taking an inordinate amount of time to respond appropriately, even at six months of age.  Tuesday, if indeed he had gone back to warn, his orders were followed instantly, something I only conceive of an adult coyote being able to do.  Once he sat, he was in control of both me and his presumed followers.

Dad down

Once I’m spotted, the only activity I generally see are waiting, watching, leaving and/or warning me.  Consequently, Tuesday I moved west to wait for Dad to proceed.  A few minutes later, Dad came along, defecated and then sat staring at me where I was on the bridge.  A rabbit cavorted in front of him just a bit away.  Then Dad bolted to the east, scaring the bejesus out of the rabbit who ran into the brush!  It needn’t have worried at that point.  Things to the east had evidently gotten out of hand and undistractible Dad went back presumably to reassert control of his pack for their own good.  Just after Dad headed back east, another coyote came from the north and went south under the bridge where, once in the field, it headed east to where Dad had bolted.

It is starting to look like a part of my coyote pack takes the new puppies into the nature preserve for at least the afternoons, leaving it for their field around twilight, rendezvous time.  Fortunately for my coyotes, the nature preserve’s boundary road, a major Los Angeles/Orange County east west running street, has two large drainage culverts under it as well as a utility road running under the bridge I stand on.  My coyotes make good use of those safe passages under a heavily trafficked street to go back and forth between the nature preserve and their field.  If I am able to confirm that the puppies are being schooled in the nature preserve in the afternoons, then that is a break with last year’s afternoon use of their field as a puppy school.

Dad ignores rabbit

I hope I am able to convey in the foregoing some of the competence I see displayed by Dad.  The “Dad Stops” photograph reminds me of many of his good qualities.  Among them, total information awareness, his eyes on his present object of interest, his ears perked to assess where he has been and where he is going;  decisiveness in action, where he acts with confidence and competence, Tuesday to make his space safe for himself and his progeny;  he commits entirely to a course of action and doesn’t quit until he has achieved his aims, seeming to know from start to finish what is required of him;  and he digs in and he takes the initiative, sometimes making a stand, sometimes instead taking to the brush.  All of which qualities in the same degree I have also observed in his mate, Mom.  I’m fairly certain that the yearlings are learning some of their final lessons before dispersing, lessons about guarding and secreting puppies, the tactics of how to fully inherit their “ghost species” legacy.

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.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. yipps
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 22:45:09

    This is a great posting, Charles! I, too, have been impressed with a parent/alpha coyote’s awareness and command of a complicated situation and with his/her very purposefulness in dealing with it — exactly as you describe here. The alpha coyote looks ahead and back in time as well as in space and is continually assessing every detail of what is going on in preparation for protective action. Their awareness and purposefulness are really astonishing! Their “competence” is truly impressive!


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