Why Spooked?

This guy was wandering an area looking for scraps of food in a picnic area early one morning. He scratched the ground cover in a couple of places where he then picked up something and nibbled it up — I could not tell what it was that the coyote was finding and eating — it was still too dark to see.  The coyote then wandered over to a small building structure where he continued scrounging around. The structure had a small overhanging roof which the coyote found disturbing for some reason.

Did this small protrusion at the roof remind the coyote of something frightening? It wasn’t so frightening as to cause the coyote to run away, but the coyote did continually flinch, look up, withdraw, and reach in while keeping most of its body and weight as far back as possible from what he was after. He kept himself ready to take off and flee, and began doing so several times but stopped himself in mid-takeofff, returning to a position that was at the “ready”, “set”, . . . . but not quite “go”. Whatever caused this spooked behavior was totally in the coyote’s mind — maybe a thought or a fear based on some past experience. There was nothing going on in the roof.

I have seen coyotes repeatedly look up as they walk under trees. I’m wondering what kind of threats could come from “above” besides falling gum nuts and fruit, or maybe a large branch falling that might hit them? My dog used to spook at objects in this exact same manner — though never from something “above”. The funniest was when he noticed a life-size ceramic goose close by and reacted as if it might go after him. My dog weighed 92 pounds!

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