Reading a Scent

After hunting for a while this coyote finally disappeared into the brush. I thought that was the end of my observations for the day, but not so. Soon thereafter, two large men and their two large pit bulls appeared from a path close to where the coyote had disappeared. They proceeded down a trail which would lead them out of the park. The coyote then reappeared from the brush, sniffed where this walking group had lingered for a moment, caught sight of them, and then follow them, not too closely, but within eyesight, until they left the park. The dogs and walkers never turned around, so they never saw the coyote, and when they exited the park, the coyote disappeared again into the bushes close to the park’s exit. No one was any the wiser because of this. And that was the end of my observations of that coyote.

Within 10 minutes, there appeared another coyote sniffing around where the first one had first caught whiff of the dogs.  This coyote sniffed intently and looked all around, stretching his neck high, but no one was in sight, and maybe the scent of the dogs and the other coyote had begun to dissipate a little because he didn’t seem sure of which direction to follow. He finally made his choice. Instead of following the scent on the trail that led out of the park — the direction the others had gone in —  he turned around and retraced the path the dogs had originally come from.

I’m wondering: Did he lose the scent which led out of the park? Or did he mean to retrace the direction from which dogs and coyote had come? Was his interest a curiosity in the dogs or in meeting up with the first coyote? Or, might he have been attempting to assess if the dogs and coyote had had an encounter?  We don’t actually know what pheromones and other clues were there for the second coyote to tap into. It’s always fun to try and figure out what these animals are up to!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charles Wood
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 21:19:22

    Hi Janet – It is fun to try and figure out what your second coyote was up to. Mainly I feel the second coyote was trying to find out as much as it possibly could about the dogs that went through its area. It would want to know the approximate age, health, and gender of the dogs. It also would want to know the dogs’ individual scents so it could recognize if they came through the area again.

    Though we know that a dog’s inconsequential recreational walk should be of no account to a coyote, a coyote doesn’t know that. A coyote assumes a dog’s purpose is at best food seeking, at worst residence or mate seeking. The second coyote probably knew the walkers and dogs had left and wouldn’t want to follow them. I feel that if it hesitated interpreting the scent, it was to be sure it didn’t follow them. It likely knew they were going out of the area. What it did not know was the very interesting story of where the four had been.

    It would follow that story by tracing the path backwards. The coyote would read every scent on the way, especially the information rich treasure troves of pee and poop. It might even find a tale of a recent dog and coyote interaction.

    The important thing to the coyote is that the walkers and dogs might come back again someday. Its curiosity is not idle, and the coyote assessed each bit of information as would we the signs we encounter in our lives that portend big changes in our world, like rumors that the company we work for is going to merge. We know that most times rumors and worries resolve into nothing. A coyote probably can’t reassure itself with the thoughts like, oh, I’ve seen thousands of dogs being walked by humans and nothing has ever come of it. It can reassure itself by gathering as much information about the event as it can.


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