Intruder, by Charles Wood


I got a surprise Tuesday when a coyote I’ve never seen before showed up in my pack’s territory. The adult female intruder was checking out some of the places where I often see my pack. Though not entirely clear from the photograph above, she has the eyes of a Husky. She looked well fed, self-satisfied, and slightly wet.

My pack’s territory has pooled irrigation water as much as six inches deep. My dog has used those pools to cool off on hot days, walking in and sitting down. The intruder’s chest was mottled by dampness and her pasterns were marked by mud. She too may have used those pools to cool off. Then again, when she went out she went down into the riverbed and may have been damp from having swam in.

I didn’t see any of my coyotes around. They either weren’t there or were non-confrontationally laying low and waiting for the intruder to leave. Certainly the intruding female knew she was in an area claimed by other coyotes. When she did leave she left quickly. Maybe she was able to see a bit of my coyotes that the dusk didn’t allow me to see.

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.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 15:20:02

    Wonder if the reaction would have been different if the intruder was a male? Even if she had not seen the other coyotes, would she have picked up on the others’ scents and known she was in foreign territory? Maybe she was just trekking and wandered into the area. If she had lost her mate, she wouldn’t be looking for another yet, or so I think.


  2. Charles Wood
    Sep 05, 2012 @ 19:26:03

    Hi Barbara! I don’t know how finely my coyotes parse an intruder. Male or female, relative size, age, just looking around versus actually hunting, being near the den area or fairly far from it, what its intentions might be, etc.

    Certainly the temperament of the resident coyote would come into play. When I first met Mom she was tentative and shy in her attempts to get me to leave; Dad was the rowdy one. These days Mom is the least tolerant and the most bold. I’m not sure how much an intruder would also try and size up the residents.

    The intruder female, a little after I took the photograph, came right up to the bridge I was on. She stared up at me with my two large dogs, one of them on his feet barking at her, both leashed of course. A while earlier she saw us on the river bank and hid. As we walked to the bridge she came out, sniffed around in the field and hid again. Once on the bridge she came up for a closer look and checked us out. My dogs and I were part of that area and she wanted all the information she could get about us and the area.

    The evening before, very close by to where the intruder is in the picture, my coyotes had a reunion. Part of the reunion involves marking the road with urine. My packs’ scat is up and down the dirt road running through that area. There is no doubt that the intuder knew she was in an area claimed by my pack.

    Interestingly, while in my coyotes’ territory, the intruder behaved as though the territory was hers. She used it for cover when we first spotted her. She came out later as we left for the bridge to investigate for smells, and she came up to us to see what we were doing ‘there’. Not at all different than how one of my resident coyotes would have behaved. Were I a resident coyote wathing her, I would have thought, “What nerve! She acts like she owns the place!” I suspect that is exactly how a resident would have parsed her presence in their space. If you aren’t a pack member, you are an upstart and deserve to be chased, you aren’t worthy of showing any nerve. It is a chase or be chased world to them, where the worst assumption you make of your neighbor can be counted on to be spot on. If you don’t chase them they just walk around like they own the place.

    The intruder female is well fed, suggesting to me she has territory she holds with a mate. It is impossible to say. There are other coyote packs in the general area and coyotes have well defined and defended territories. Some of those territories come with cool pools of fresh water with frogs, snakes, lizards, and rodents. Some of those territories are meager in comparison. I like to think of my coyotes’ territory as prime. The intruder is so well fed as to not be mistaken for being destitute. Still, to her my coyotes’ area may seem better, the corner lot or even a fine estate. Who wouldn’t want to walk around it pretending to be the master or lady of the house? Who wouldn’t hope to find it suddenly vacant one day, or find that it housed only a few scruffy yearlings with an aged arthritic father who could be easily chased off? Oh, my coyotes have her number alright, she walking around with that self-satisfied expression. The only thing she could want is everything that is theirs!


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