Sniffing For, then Scratching At an Irritant

This fellow had been relaxing when he suddenly bolted up and looked into a neighbor’s yard, then trotted over and stood behind some thick growth and sniffed intently, with his nose high in the air. He spent a full minute doing this, closing his eyes sometimes as if to really savor what might be in the air. He was in an overgrown empty field, and directed his sniffing towards the yard next door where several dogs lived. These dogs were never out of their house without their owners. However, I had seen one come over to the overgrown field to do its business and I had seen this particular coyote sniff out these messes and urinate on top of them. Also, I’ve seen one of the dogs chase this coyote, though not in a very intense manner. These dogs are particularly acute at either hearing or smelling coyotes that come to the property: at the slightest hint that a coyote might be around, one and then all of them will begin barking together. I think there are four dogs who live there, on and off.

On this day, no dogs were around. The coyote sniffed carefully from a long distance away, and then slowly trotted closer to the hedge which divides the properties — yawning on the way over. I think coyotes sometimes yawn to maintain a casual-calm mood for themselves. At the hedge-line, the coyote stopped and stretched its neck up to get a better view. Again, no dogs in sight, and no barking.  So the coyote carefully and slowly entered the yard, walked around casually, found the smell he was looking for, urinated on the spot, and then kicked and scratched that area of ground where he had urinated.  The coyote had probably found a spot where one of the dogs had urinated.  “Take that!” It was one of those “oneupmanship” behaviors directed towards the dogs which have been an irritant to the coyote. When done, the coyote exited the yard and continued trekking through uninhabited areas before disappearing.

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