Taking Control of the Den, by Charles Wood

Here in LA County I’m starting my fourth year watching a coyote family fortunate enough to live in a square mile of undeveloped land in the middle of suburbia. Pictured together are the two I call Mom and Dad, moving across their home range. Pictured alone is a young female coyote I don’t believe I’ve seen before. Surely their child, she may be from their 2011 litter.

Mom & Dad

I haven’t seen Mom and Dad for about six months. At that time, Dad looked like an old beat up coyote with an illness. Rumors of Dad’s death have been greatly exaggerated!

From the riverbank outside their field Tuesday, I watched Mom as she watched me while sitting outside their den area. NewGal showed up next and Mom didn’t rise to greet her, meaning they had been together in that area for a bit. I started to walk away. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two coyotes joyfully greeting and knew a third had shown up after an absence. Through my camera lens I could see it was Mom and Dad. The couple then moved across their field towards where I had been standing on the riverbank. I lost sight of them in the brush. They were agitated so I continued to walk away.

New Gal

A jogger came from their direction and told me that a coyote was out on the riverbank. Surprisingly, he said that the coyote was going away from me. Probably it was another coyote in that field that irked Mom and Dad, a coyote they didn’t want around and worked together to chase off. Dad’s hackles were up for trouble and Mom was his backup.

Mom and Dad have returned to their den area and have taken firm control. Last year they successfully kept me from seeing their puppies. This year I need to work smarter.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more coyote photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Pounce, Catch, Toy With

Here’s a pounce and a catch, followed by toying with its prey.  Have you ever noticed that coyotes are similar to cats in some of their behaviors? Both coyotes and cats bury prey that they either don’t want or want to save for later. They both arch their backs in the same halloween cat like fashion when threatened. And, as this video shows here, coyotes, as cats, sometimes “toy” with their prey, batting it around or tossing it in the air and then watching it before consuming it.

First Contact In Pupping Season, by Charles Wood

Here in south Los Angeles county I haven’t seen any of my coyote pack members since the end of December. I still haven’t, but on Saturday one did let me know it was there.

I’ve been in their field lately about once every two weeks and none until Saturday objected. I stood near the entrance to their den area, pictured, with my leashed dog Holtz. I fiddled with somewhat moist coyote scat. For a moment Holtz stared intently into the bushes. I looked too and didn’t see anything. Getting cautious, deciding the scat was neither new nor old, we moved along and walked away from the entrance area. Holtz was compliant by my side instead of, as is usual, tugging for the lead. Suddenly a hidden coyote flitted in dried leaves to our side. Holtz did not look towards the noise. I looked hoping to see a coyote. It rustled dried leaves again, moving back and forth along our direction of travel. I cautioned it with a yell. It did not show itself and was about twenty feet away.

By its behavior, the coyote sent us much information. It’s scat told me the area was claimed. Its noises revealed a place particularly important to the coyote at this time, pupping season. I walk exactly there at other times of the year without coyote contact. Further, the coyote, by rustling leaves along our path of travel, marked a line in the brush past which we were not to come. By its speed and energy it told us it was agile and strong.

My coyotes have spoken. It is now time for me to watch them from points outside their field.

Interestingly, when the coyote rustled leaves, Holtz didn’t look. Holtz must have already known that it was a coyote making the noise. They probably had eye contact when Holtz had earlier stared into the bushes. Holtz had already been told to leave and the coyote added rustled leaves to emphasize where Holtz should never think to go.

Finally, I don’t know why the coyote didn’t come out and show itself. My coyotes have done so in the past, Mom in exactly this place about two years ago after pupping. I’ve annoyed all my coyotes enough to where they aren’t shy about coming out to scrape dirt or bark. Perhaps it was a coyote that didn’t know us.

Posting written by Charles Wood. Visit Charles Wood’s website for more photos: Charles Wood. His work is copyrighted and may only be used with his explicit permission.

Taking Aim


Here’s a cool photo. Note the intense focus right as a pounce is about to happen. The coyote has taken aim and has just backed up enough to gain maximum spring in his leap. He’s already begun his upward motion with a raised arm, which will allow him to forcefully punch his prey, thereby incapacitating it. The punch occurs sometimes with the forepaws and sometimes with the snout. In this instance, the coyote came out empty handed.


These photos above show the wary interloper coyote carefully and quickly passing through.

Coyotes are territorial, and they guard and protect these territories. Seldom have I seen intruders — the coyotes I repeatedly see in different parks are resident coyotes who are very at home in their territories. Today I saw an intruder — but I wasn’t able to figure this out until I had gone home afterwards to blow up my photos — coyotes look quite different from each other once you get to know them, but when the lighting is bad and the distance is great, sometimes this isn’t immediately apparent. At the time I wondered why one of the coyotes was so on edge and tense, keeping a huge distance, tail down and wary, looking around and fixating into the distance, and finally hurrying off as if to avoid something. There were no dogs around, but the coyote was uneasy anyway. I followed it over the crest of a hill.

Here I caught up with the coyote, or so I thought, but its energy had changed drastically. Rather than being wary and skittish, the coyote was energized and exuberant, excited and enthusiastic, rushing this way and that, sniffing all over the place and obviously onto a scent. Within minutes I saw a buddy of this coyote’s in this same mode — these two are friends who spend most of their time together. These coyotes were absorbed and focused in a frantic sort of way.  They were following the scent of something and often losing, jumping and running about, and then picking it up again. They covered quite a distance which baffled me, because any rodent or raccoon or even a domestic cat would not have been able to cover the distances that these coyotes were sniffing out and rushing through. It was not until I got home and examined my photos that I realized that the first coyote was an intruder, an outsider, and the other two coyotes were intent on finding it and flushing it out.

Once before I had seen a stranger coyote pass quickly through an established territory. When one of the resident coyotes appeared in the vicinity some time afterwards, it caught the scent and followed in this same manner. I’m wondering what might have happened if the resident coyotes had caught up with the interloper? As it was, I don’t think they ever did.

These photos below show  two coyotes excited and enthusiastic, on the trail of the first.

A Dominance Interaction Between Two Coyotes

This looks like a dominant fella lording it over the guy in the water in an intimidating manner. The dominant guy struts and stretches, hackles raised and tail up, and then moves in closer with a snarly expression and more intimidation. Submissive guy stands still with his ears and head down, a non-threatening and submissive pose, and then walks away only when he thinks the coast is clear, tail down and constantly checking in back of himself.

My experience has been that young males are driven away from their birth families — out of their birth packs — by either a more dominant sibling or their father, or sometimes their mother. It looks to me as though this is what is going on in this video.

This video was sent to us by Amy Ries from the Raptor Resource Project. She said the EagleCrest Hawk camera is normally pointed at the tree, but the guy who pans saw the coyotes and filmed them. Thank you, Amy for sharing this!

Coyotes vs. Nutria, by Jen Sanford

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Nope, no birds involved, sorry.  At Ridgefield yesterday I watched a pair of coyotes try to take down a nutria and fail miserably.  I thought I was about to vomit my lunch while watching a nutria get torn in half, but nope.  He made a run for it down into the slough.  But it was still cool to watch.

From Janet: I want to point out that coyotes often hunt in pairs like this, especially when there is larger prey than a gopher involved. Also, coyotes, like the rest of us, don’t always have the same skill sets, most of which have to be learned through practice and through watching other coyotes. All the bites by the coyotes were to the nutria’s back: I wonder if they were trying to break its back to incapacitate it?  Or, might they have been trying to pick it up to carry it off, but unable to do so? It looks like the nutria endured several puncture wounds — I hope its injuries were not too severe. Nutrias were “eradicated” from California, but they still inhabit Oregon. Thanks, Jen, for sharing your posting and superb photos!

This posting and photographs were republished, with permission, from Jen’s site i used to hate birds.

Suddenly Focused

This coyote became suddenly absorbed by something interesting in the distance. Whatever it was, it did not seem to warrant becoming apprehensive over. It must have been something more amusing than threatening or dangerous, because the coyote then sat back and relaxed for a moment, watching a moment longer before continuing its trek. By the time I stopped filming, whatever it was, was gone. Coyotes tend to be very curious about what is happening in their territories — they like to know what is going on and will often investigate if they can’t figure it out from afar.

The coyote was also licking its chops as I filmed. My original posting mistakenly stated that moments before the coyote had found a mole. It turns out that was a totally different incident. So, then why is the coyote licking its chops? Your guess is as good as mine. However, I have noticed tongue activity as a communication device, for instance, a slight licking of the upper lip is a sign of submission and non-confrontation.  Then again, maybe there were residues from a previous meal still sticking to the coyote’s muzzle!

Coyote Returns, by Charlotte Hildebrand

You can hear them at night; a pack of 50 or 100, or maybe just 20, down in the canyon yipping and yowling for a good long while after a siren goes off. I’ve never seen a pack, but I have seen a solitary coyote hanging out by the turn in the road, my headlights illuminating its opaque, glass-colored eyes, when I come home from work. I’ve wondered if this isn’t the same lone coyote that visits next door in the middle of the day, looking for a handout from my neighbor Thea.

Thea started feeding a coyote two years ago, when it was a toddler. I told her, pleaded with her, that it was wrong to feed a wild animal and, much to my surprise, she agreed; she promised to stop but then she didn’t. I felt helpless to do anything about it: my neighbor is old and lonely. The coyote was her friend.

I hadn’t seen the coyote for three or four months; I’d missed its absence, for no matter what you say, having a wild animal nearby can send shivers down your spine. It’s thrilling, yet….it’s still wrong. I was sitting down to write, when, out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash, it was the coyote back in Thea’s yard!

Coyote biding his time until I leave

I heard Thea calling to the coyote, “Come, come. Come, come,” in her German accent, as she placed food on the ground. I grabbed my video camera and ran outside. You can see in the video, the coyote looking to the left (Thea), then looking straight ahead (me) and the dilemma he finds himself in. He doesn’t know what to do: here’s a witness to his forsaking his wild coyote ways, and I imagine, he’s a little bit embarrassed. Later, he plops down in the grass in Thea’s lower yard, smelling the flowers (a true Ferdinand, the coyote), passing a peaceable afternoon.

After 45 minutes of taking the breezes and catching bugs, he goes back to dine at Thea’s table.

This posting was reprinted with Charlotte’s permission from her blog, The Rat’s Nest. Please visit her site to see and enjoy more of her fabulous writing!

Carefully Investigating from a Safe Distance

This resting coyote — hidden from view — perked up when a dog and walker went by. A number of dogs had passed, so I don’t know why this one was of particular interest, but  the coyote felt that an investigation was called for. As I’ve noted before, the interest is often about “what are you doing and where are you going.” The coyote followed, ever so carefully, at a fairly long distance, keeping an eye on the dog and owner who walked in the vicinity of hedges where the coyote had been resting.  At several points, the coyote stopped to wait for the walkers to move way ahead, and then followed at a distance that just allowed it to keep the wakers in sight, yet not be seen. When the coyote stopped and stood still, it was almost undetectable. Then, when the dog and owner finally headed off for good, the coyote just sat down and watched them leave. The activity, from start to finish, lasted thirteen minutes, and the dog and walker never noticed the coyote.

I don’t know how this dog might have reacted had it seen the coyote.  Some dogs can smell coyotes from afar and know they are around, even if the coyote can’t be seen. Some dogs are either oblivious or don’t care, even when a coyote can be seen. And there are some dogs that show real respect for the needs of wildlife, leaving them alone and giving them their space on purpose.  But most dogs have no such comprehension and think coyotes are to be chased.  The chasing sets up a precedent which the coyotes then come to expect. Most often, the coyote will just flee. But it could stand up for itself by messaging its needs to be left alone or to leave its territory. This could entail charge-and-retreat sequences, or sometimes even nipping at a dog’s behind, cattle-dog fashion, to get it to leave. Keeping your dog close to you and leashed can prevent such incidents.

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