Watching Wildlife

This coyote stopped what he was doing to observe a Red Shouldered hawk catch something. He watched for a good three minutes, so he was quite interested. From what I could see, it looked like the Red Tail caught a jerusalem cricket this time. But I’ve seen the hawk catch the same voles the coyote catches.

I wonder if the coyote was actually eyeing the bird, or was he eyeing what the bird was hunting? Or, might he have been interested in the bird’s hunting activity — maybe even identifying with it?

This particular hawk and coyote frequently share this particular hunting ground where they both hunt for voles. They are very aware of each other.

Mom Eats Grass, by Charles Wood

In this video clip Mom is pulling green shoots off a tall grass type plant and eating them. I watched Mom continuously for ten minutes after she ate that particular grass and she did not regurgitate. However, grass eating by coyotes is also known to be very often followed by the coyote soon regurgitating the grass and much else. In fact, when we see a coyote or our domestic dogs eat grass, we can be almost certain that they will soon vomit. Intrigued, I looked for a study on coyote diet. In Chicago, grass species accounted for from five to ten percent of food items found in coyote scat.

Some amount of the grass species in coyote scat must get there from the stomach contents of some of their prey. Also, some grasses eaten by coyotes never make it to their scat. Mom’s green shoots of grass assuredly left her body. I expect they later exited from her rear because they did not come up during the ten minutes I had her continuously in my sight. In my own dogs, I’ve noticed that when they eat grass leaves from my lawn, they do throw up. However, when they eat long, tender, wispy green, and succulent stems of uncut grass in my local park, my dogs don’t. My dogs love those shoots, pulling on their leashes to make sure we visit the long grass; and later pulling against their leashes when, finally bored, I begin to move them away. Mom too, seems to be enjoying her greens as much as my dogs do. Perhaps she knows not to eat too much grass leaf in order to be sure that the parts of the grass she does eat will indeed stay down.

Seasonal Fur, by Charles Wood

These pictures show my mom and dad coyotes in Summer and Winter fur. I’ve also included a picture of Dad after he went for a July 2011 swim. He looked surprisingly skinny. Both Mom and Dad in 2011 were underweight. I agree with Janet who had surmised around summer of 2011 that their 2010 large litter and two new pups in 2011 left Mom and Dad with less food, three or four of seven 2010 pups surviving and staying with them through late 2011. When too many coyotes are around, fewer coyote pups are produced, again as Janet reminded me this year when we saw just one pup. Again, Mom and Dad had two pups in 2011 and in 2012 they had one.

For me, my July 2011 encounter with Mom was significant and I want to describe it. The July 2011 picture of Mom was taken from a bridge and shows her looking up and at a time when her milk was drying up, a time when she was a particularly busy coyote.

Coming into view from under the bridge, Mom at first hadn’t sensed that I was there. The sound of my camera alerted her to my presence, interrupted her travel and she stopped. She hadn’t wanted to stop, but I again had bothered her and that disliked dog, my dog, was there too. She had to stop and “deal”, it’s the rule.

Stopped, Mom seemed only slightly disturbed. Then she slowly scratched herself, trying to rid herself of us like two dastardly fleas. Done scratching, she still did not look up at me. Instead, closed mouthed, she turned her head to the right and stared motionlessly off into the distance at nothing, focusing. Mom composed herself for several more moments, preparing to speak while exuding patient exasperation. She knew it was me there, above her on the bridge looking at her for the hundredth time, that horrid dog at my side. We were too close, but not unforgivably so because the proximity was entirely impassable height. Mom contemplated a safe yet unwelcome circumstance. Self-possessed, she sorted through the implications. Mom’s pregnant pause was longer than I expected. My mind cleared of all except anticipation. Mom looked deep within herself, carefully considering her next words.

What do you say to an errant grown man who, though knowing the rules, repeatedly insists upon transgressing beyond endurance despite having been told over and over again not to do so? “You, man, and me, coyote: here we are, too close now, inconsequentially albeit. I am unpleasantly surprised and actually sir, we don’t know each other all that well, now do we?”, she could have thought to herself. When Mom was ready she looked up at me, was composed, calm, stern and seemed to say: “Do we three have to do this again?” Mom asked me: “Must we?” That question was also her statement about who she must be. Before she had spoken thus, I didn’t know her.

Having interjected myself into Mom’s intimate space, from taking her away from her more important tasks, and from having been spoken to about that by Mom, I felt sheepish, humbled if not shamed. Yet I took her picture as she looked at me. Then, as she trotted away, she seemed wise and I like a child. She talked to me alright, and it was a significant encounter to me because that is when I recognized her. From that recognition, I began to love her. For my having taken Mom’s picture then, I would say to her, “Mom, you are a coyote, and I am human, we each are what we must be.”

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.

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .

. . . . and, if you can get to it, you might as well go for it.

It was really dark out, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos — I have an ISO of 6400 which helps compensate for the darkness. The coyote begins eating grass on this side of the fence after trekking for a very short time. In fact, he may have come to this location specifically for the grass which is brown in most places of the park. It must not have tasted very good. The grass may have looked greener on the other side of the fence, because the coyote approaches the hole in the fence — it looks like he knows it well — and slithers through it. Once on the other side of the fence, the coyote continues eating, now the greener grass. When he’s eaten what he needs to, he sits down and heaves a number of times, then stands up and belches everything out. After one more nibble of grass, he heads towards the hole in the fence, and again scoots through it to continue his trekking! This little episode lasted a total of 7 minutes.

The coyote must have had an upset stomach. Just like dogs, they cleanse their insides by eating grass and then regurgite the grass, along with all the rest of the contents of their stomachs.

The hole in the fence was only about 5″ in diameter — it looked much too small for a coyote to pass through — more like a raccoon passageway. We have to remember how lean and scrawny these animals really are. In addition, the wires of the cyclone fence are bendable, and the coyote may have been able to push the wires enough to get through. Then again, maybe they indeed can fit through a 5″ hole!

Typical Travel, by Charles Wood

The video clip, out of focus for the first ten seconds, shows Mom and Dad as they typically travel together on this particular stretch of road. The clip begins as they trot along together. Then both pause to reconnoiter, watchful and alert. They move on. Dad takes the low ground and Mom has his back, positioning herself on high ground. She is ready to either defend his rear or to join Dad should he encounter foe. Out of view, my guess is that Dad is investigating a scent. Momentarily Mom hurries to join him.

Mom and Dad come back into view and stop at a scent. They both mark it and scrape. Probably they are messaging my dogs and me and are at the same time, more importantly, marking over scent left by an intruder. Mom and Dad both leave their mark to be read by any interested coyotes. It says, “Team Mom and Dad are here. Stay away.”

Dad lingers for more investigative scent sniffing while Mom hurries toward an entrance to the den area. Dad trots to catch up with her. In the final seconds of the clip, Dad scoots past Mom, leading their way into fairly dense brush. I don’t think Dad was pushing to lead Mom, or trying to get ahead of her so he could lead, protect and serve. I think instead Mom just happened to slow down so as to sniff something and Dad just happened to pass her.

Mom, Dad, and their family don’t spend all their time in or in proximity to their den area, are away from there for hours at a time. Upon returning, they reclaim it by marking, clear out any intruders, and eventually meet up with other family members. In short, they sweep the area clear before settling in. Once settled, they attend to family matters and guard their space.

More Burying Behavior

Prey to be buried

Here you have a video, showing a coyote burying something from almost start to finish. I snapped the photo to the left immediately beforehand — it was twilight and I could barely see, but my camera did well. The photo shows the size of the prey the coyote is carrying.  It looks about the size of a gopher.

Then, under those extremely bad twilight lighting conditions I was able to video almost the entire sequence of the coyote burying his prey and covering up the evidence. The coyote began by poking his prey down into the ground as far as possible with his snout, and then used his snout to cover it up with leaves and debris. There was no “digging out a hole” beforehand in this case.

We have seen coyotes bury items for an apparent variety of reasons. Sometimes we’ve seen coyotes bury items they like to roll in: Burying Perfume Bottle or Another Burial. And, at other times, they bury prey that can be consumed later: Buried Rabbit Found or A Burial: Coyote Behavior. The absolute best observation was by a contributor, Heather, who saw a coyote bury a rock! Burying a rock.

Mom’s Transformation, by Charles Wood

When I first met Mom she appeared to be a timid coyote. The first two pictures, from May and June 2010, show a reserved Mom. In the May 2010 picture she was peering out at my dog and me. She didn’t want us there and perhaps in just showing herself she said she wanted us to leave.

In the June 2010 picture, she barred my dog’s and my way into the den area. She was lactating and her puppies were about fifty yards behind her. Yet still, with puppies to protect, her eyes didn’t even dare to meet ours.

By August 2010 she had transformed. No longer reserved, the picture from August shows the first time Mom came up to my dog and me to scrape dirt. She seemed exhilarated and free.

The picture in December 2010 shows Mom giving us the look I still see today. Compare her December look to the look she gave in the May and June 2010 pictures. Quite a difference.

The video opens with Dad waiting for his pack to arrive after having run up to me and my two dogs. In fact, Mom was around the corner and up on a ridge, out of Dad’s sight. Neither seemed aware that the other was nearby as they waited for each other. Not shown in the clip, Mom came up just below Dad. He didn’t rise to greet her and his body language wasn’t typical of a happy greeting. Instead Dad looked startled. Maybe Mom had caught Dad unawares, but I think there was more to his atypical gesturing. I think that Dad wasn’t at all surprised to see Mom. Instead, I think Dad was surprised by Mom’s mood.

Upon meeting, typically Mom and Dad are pleased and happy to be in each other’s presence again. They expect joy from each other when greeting, exude joy upon first sighting each other. Yet that day Dad acted startled when he first saw her. To me, Dad’s reaction was a surprised “What’s this? You’re upset? About what? Oh yes, I see. Of course I’m with you on this, of course, of course.” It teemed with domestic intimacy.

Dad had previously approached me and my dogs, messaging us. He was done with that, relaxed, situation under control. When Mom arrived, she wasn’t done, wasn’t relaxed, and the situation wasn’t under control. The man was still there with his camera. Lynne, with two dogs, had been watching Mom as Mom watched Lynne watching her. Then Lynne had started to walk in the wrong direction, toward the den, not away from it. Mom came off the ridge and headed toward Lynne. Coming down, Mom then saw Dad. He was lying with his back to the dogs and the two people, doing nothing. Situation under control? Hardly. Upset? You bet she was upset. With everything!

To Mom it was all messed up. Compared to Mom as she was two years ago, Mom is today a completely different coyote. If my dogs and I are in part responsible for her transformation, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Dad. Then again, maybe there was no transformation, perhaps I just hadn’t yet seen that side of her. Maybe I wrongly thought she was the “nice” coyote when all the while Dad knew her better.

Fierce protector, a master of the bluff, Mom in the clip studied the field as Dad stretched, he preparing to follow Mom’s lead. To camera left, Mom looked toward Lynne as she walked toward me with our two leashed dogs. Mom didn’t even wait for Dad to finish his stretch. She took off at Lynne and the dogs a fraction of a second before Dad was fully ready. Mom looked totally into it, with an exaggerated bounce in her gait. In contrast, Dad’s body language said that he was just along for the ride, accommodating his spouse. I left the camera, ran at the coyotes and they broke off their mock charge.

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.

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