Yearling With Stick, by Charles Wood

My coyotes rendezvous daily around dusk in the same place and have been doing so for the four years I’ve been watching them. They don’t all arrive there at the same time. I’ve often seen one or two family members waiting for others to show up. Once all are together and joyful greetings exchanged, the pack trots away together. I’ve seen some wait for two hours and more, sitting or ambling around. While waiting for each other, I’ve never seen them hunt. The time they spend waiting looks pretty boring for them.

The yearling in the video is passing time by walking around with a stick in its mouth. In the distance to camera right, humans jog and bicycle until it’s time for them to meet up with friends and family for the evening. For humans and coyotes, social contexts are essential.

Individually, coyotes eat small prey and consequently could exist as solitary hunters. Yet coyote food security comes from holding territory and a solitary coyote can’t hold territory. A coyote couple can; and a coyote couple can only raise a family by holding territory. Within that territory, coyote family members don’t depend on group hunts to get food. However coyote families do depend on family members to hold territory. Without family there is no territory and without territory there is no food security for coyotes. Family is food security for coyotes and territory is family.

Within the bond of a coyote couple rests their food security. It is no wonder that a Chicago coyote study researcher has noted no cases of coyote divorce. My Mom and Dad coyotes fundamentally know that eating has been really good since they met, just as good as when they lived back in the homes of their respective parents. In essence, they are each other’s promised land, they are an abundance to each other that only death can put asunder.

Still in its own parents promised land, the yearling was at a comfortable distance from me. It didn’t feel its territory was being compromised and didn’t need to defend it. Its backward glance at me confirmed that I was staying put and that it could keep walking around with its stick.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. yipps
    Aug 26, 2012 @ 21:20:20

    Hi Charles —

    This is a fabulous posting! Your idea about social context is fascinating and seems right on!! Thank you for posting this! I, too, have observed this waiting behavior, though, from what I have seen, sometimes the “early bird” seems to engage in some appetizers before the others arrive, and/or a shorter circular trek alone before meeting up with the others!


  2. webmaster - SaveSutro
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 09:11:57

    That’s a great post. There’s something about pair-bonding that has a universal appeal… and that youngster with the stick reminds me of a dog I once knew. It collected sticks and brought them on walks, sometimes dropping the one it carried in favor of a larger or more interesting one.


  3. Charles Wood
    Aug 29, 2012 @ 23:45:06

    Thank you SaveSutro. The coyote pair bond and its in-severability from food and territory is profound, though those aspects of that bond aren’t the whole story. I should have also somehow included that coyote females with nursing pups are dependent on their males for food and that the parents share equally in child rearing. It makes sense to me to see yearlings participate in child care in that those are evidently learned skills to some extent. From watching my coyotes I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a social species.


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