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.

Burying the Perfume ‘Bottle’ for Later Use

This fellow was trekking along in a park when he pulled off to the side of the path to examine something. He must have been drawn by the intense smell. He picked it up, moved it a few inches to a more appropriate/accessible place, rolled on it, picked it up again, carried it off about ten feet and then buried it. The above photos show the “find”, “rolling on”, and “carrying the item for burial”.

Below I caught the end part of the burying on video. When I got home I was able to see from my zoomed-in photos that the object of interest was a tiny mole. It had been dead already when the coyote picked it up — there was no killing as I watched. I actually went back to see if I could find the little deceased critter. Even though I had photos to guide me to the exact location, I could not re-locate the animal. Of course, the coyote will have no trouble at all re-locating it — by scent — when he wants another perfume bath!

Coyotes on a KY Farm, by Barbara Scott Knupp

Hi —

Since moving to our KY farm 2 years ago, I’ve become intrigued by our coyote neighbors and thankful to find your blog, Yipps. The observations of you and Mr. Wood add greatly to my understanding of the animal. I marvel at the photos and videos. It’s a rare occasion when I actually see a coyote and my efforts at wildlife photography are dismal, to say the least.

In recent days I responded to Mr. Wood’s interesting observations with a story of a coyote caught on my game camera in the past few days. I’ve attached the photos with a request that you share with Mr. Wood and others if the photos are of any interest in documenting the animals and their habits.

The camera sits on a tractor path which runs through our farm (about 1/2 mile) ending at our neighbor’s hay field. The camera is attached to a tree near the back of the farm. It faces a soybean field. The tree is part of a tree line separating our farm from a vacant, overgrown field. I set up the camera in the Spring and was rewarded with shots of deer, turkeys, raccoons, squirrels, a bobcat, and brief glimpses on occasion of a coyote trotting by — usually a paw or a tail. However, by late Summer, I no longer captured any photos with the camera! Possibly due to the drought, wildlife seemed to take a different path. I soon discovered a coyote was visiting our nearby corn field, instead.

Then the rains came. I saw a large deer print on the path and thus put the camera back out. The camera takes 12 photos — I don’t have a chip in — and all of the photos were of a coyote who seems interested in an ear of corn — possibly dropped by another animal. Attached are 2 photos. However, I also had photos of the coyotes (mostly shots of tail or a foot) from 8 pm to 1 am. I wonder what was so interesting on that path. Last night I got another coyote photo in the same spot — however it appears to be a different coyote and I wonder if it has a scar on its leg? I also have observed several scat along the path — some of which includes berries and dark hair.

This I really can’t add any knowledge but offer the photos of KY coyotes and wonder what is so interesting along the path??

Thank you — Barbara

PS: Oh, my husband looked at the photos and thinks its not corn but part of a corn shuck – I still think there was a small cob there  – now its gone.   If just part of a corn shuck, maybe the coyote saw it float through the air before landing on the path.  Who knows??

Dad Strolling, by Charles Wood

In this clip, Dad is evasive as he comes toward the camera. Coyotes are typically very aware of and present in their environment, and Dad is no exception. Facing him are the camera, two good sized dogs, and me. As usual, Dad saw us first.  He came on along regardless. From Dad there is no trust, ever. Yet he is familiar with my dogs’ and my habits. I think his yawn tells us he has only mild concerns. Notice that Dad checks to his rear and flanks. I’ve never seen anything of interest in the directions he looks. Seems like he just does that.

In the last section of the clip Dad performs an act typical of a dog on a walk. He passes by a scent and then returns to it, doing what we all expect him to do. We expect it because it is canine habitual behavior. I suspect that Dad can’t not do it, just as we humans can’t not talk to each other. Dad’s scent is a message to other coyotes, telling them that he is still there. Dad’s family likes that message. To intruder coyotes, it is a cautionary tale.

Mom and Dad Strolling, by Charles Wood

Mom in this clip looks to be a bit larger and fuller than Dad. At about fifteen seconds in, after pausing to look at passersby on the river bank, Mom yawns. I think her yawn is from low level anxiety about being watched by my two dogs and me. We are at least a hundred yards apart.

Mom was itchy that day, slowing progress on the trail. Dad stays with her though. Toward the end of the clip, Dad picks up his pace yet Mom doesn’t. So Dad slows down until she is willing to trot with him. They begin to get going pretty well when Mom’s feet seem to hit something unexpected. Wouldn’t you know it? Mom slows down! Then, just after that, she has to scratch herself again. Seems like they will never get to the den area, about 200 feet off camera right. I think there is an incredible amount of communication passing between those mates.

Mom and Dad Scraping, by Charles Wood

I don’t know why at times Mom and Dad decide that the type of messaging behavior shown in this clip is necessary. My visits during a week can seem to be going so well. Then Mom, Dad or both materialize in front of my dogs and me and scrape the ground. I’m looking at them from high ground and a chain-link fence separates my team from theirs.

Dad, at about nine seconds into the clip, asks Mom to move back. There is a particular spot he wants to urinate on and she is in the way. Not shown in the video, that spot is exactly where Mom urinated twenty seconds before. And sixteen seconds before Mom did, Dad urinated there first.

In their messaging to my dogs, Mom and Dad are a team. Yet while engaged in messaging intruder dogs, Dad had something to say to Mom, namely, “move.” Why did Dad have Mom move with the result that he could then pee where she had? Were Mom and Dad competing for last pee rights during a tense encounter? If so, what does that say about how well they cooperate as a team?

A possible interpretation of Dad moving Mom away is that Dad was being competitive with Mom. If we take that view, then Dad bested Mom when he moved her away in order to pee on her spot. Competition, in that view, compelled Dad to best Mom because Mom had tried to best Dad when she urinated where he had already peed.

My problem with competition as an explanation is that it requires us to believe that Mom and Dad were bickering at the very time that a conflict between them would be imprudent. It is hard for me to believe that Mom and Dad would bicker when engaged in a dispute with intruder dogs. After all, Mom and Dad were cooperating in a territorial display. It makes more sense to me to see Mom and Dad as cooperatively peeing, not competitively peeing. I see cooperative peeing as a key element of their territorial display.

In my view, Dad started this particular scent pile and Mom, thinking that a scent pile was a grand idea, added her two cents to it. Dad then expressed a desire of his to Mom. Dad expressed it when he moved her off. Dad’s desire was that he be the one to put the finishing touches on their extremely well-made scent pile. Mom, thinking that they both had been doing such a lovely job building the scent pile together, was pleased to assent to Dad’s desire. I think Dad in moving Mom, was telling her “Okay, we’re done. I’m going to finish this great job off.” That’s just what Dad does, and Mom is fine with it. Walking away Mom glares at my dogs, not at Dad for supposedly having bested her with his final blast of pee. She couldn’t care less about that. I see Mom and Dad first and foremost as a team, intimates who always inform each and the other of their intentions when confronting obstacles together. The communication between them is a key element of their success as a couple.

In the final section of the clip, Mom glares at my dogs, looks away, and glares some more. Dad is occupied with grooming himself. They sat like that until after the sun set and I went home.


Abscess on lower throat area defined by white puffy fur ball

Wound revealed as coyote howls

This little coyote has been plagued with an abscess on her lower throat area for months and months. Finally, it looks like nature did its work — the infection looks like it has drained and it looks like the wound is a clean one.

I wonder what might have caused the infection and why it lasted so long? My first guess is that this resulted from a tick or another insect, but there is no way for me to really know.

Few of us think about the health of our wild animals, but they suffer the same range of infirmities that we do, along with the attendant pain and fatigue. It’s something to think about.

Mapping Trekking Behavior: In A Residential Neighborhood


I’ve been mapping some trekking behavior. It occurred to me that documenting coyote behavior during a larger, yet delimited, chunk of time and space would increase our understanding of them: where do they go and what do they do?

What is trekking? It involves the several excursions/tours, both short and long, which coyotes engage in every day. They use these outings to hunt, scout, mark, play, watch, etc. When they are not trekking, they may be just hovering around their home base or sleeping!

Keeping coyotes in sight as they trek along is not easy and can’t be done all the time. For one, I often can’t fit through some of the spaces on their routes. Secondly, most of their trekking is done at night — that’s when I sleep, and anyway, it’s impossible to see and even less possible to record with a camera. So, I limit my observations to times when there is enough daylight. Thirdly, in the wild, another critter would go in their direction only if it was a pursuing predator. I have to be careful how I keep them in sight. If I simply hang around in one location appearing disinterested, they ignore me as a fixture, but this is harder to do as they move along — and may put them on alert, altering the behavior I want to observe.

I have seen how they react to humans and dogs going in their direction, and it makes them uneasy:  they look back at them — almost glaring, they poop or mark with urine sometimes while looking at them, they hurry, they are not sure of themselves so they come to a standstill as if they can’t make up their minds how to proceed, they duck out of sight, they watch out of the corners of their eyes. I cut my observations short if I sense any of these signs of discomfort from them.

How much territory do they generally cover? The distance could be as short as 1/3 mile and as long as several miles or longer, as the crow flies. Of course, they do not follow a straight line, they turn back on themselves and wander in all directions, so the amount of territory actually covered is much more than a straight line from point A to point B. They are on the streets and sidewalks, on park paths, they go through thickets and brush, they are on playing fields and golf courses. It’s easy to lose sight of a coyote. I’ve learned to listen for ambient sounds and to use other clues to help me reconnect once I’ve lost sight of them, such as the alarm cries of ravens, squirrels or a red tail hawk, or the sound of a distressed human voice yelling “get outta here!” I’m also aided by patterns of behavior I’ve become familiar with over the years.

Charles has posted excellent observations on rendezvous/reunions engaged in by coyotes before their treks. It’s fairly routine and standard, unless a coyote decides to head off for a little lone activity.

Treks can last half an hour, a couple of hours, or, I’m sure, all night. My observations involve daylight trekking — always delimited by either dusk or dawn when I no longer can see.

The camera time-stamps all my photos, and, of course, the photos show me what is going on and where: it serves as a great notebook, and I don’t need to stop to write anything down! There is immediacy in my first-hand observations and, since I am there, I can pick up on so many things missed by “devices” of any sort. Devices, such as radio collars, cannot give you the full picture. They create one more degree of separation and removal from what you might be able to observe first-hand. They also cause irritations and can cause damage to the animals, including the process of capturing them to put on the collar. I admire the information that can be retrieved from these devices, but, personally, I think they should be used as little as possible.

Here is one of my maps showing time and distance traveled, and context. The photos above go with this map.

Trekking Map #1 [click image to enlarge]

Young Raccoon Wins Skirmish With Two Coyotes

I’m sure these coyotes have come to this place knowing that they might “get that young raccoon this time.”  They have probably tried many times before and failed to flush it out. These bushes are located on one of their trekking routes, in back of some houses. Coyotes will keep trying — hope reigns supreme — and they may win some day. But raccoons, too, learn from experience, and this raccoon has probably developed some “coyote smarts”. I never did see the raccoon, but wow, I discovered that they have a vicious bark! I had to call a wildlife specialist to find out who owned that bark — I was told that it was a young raccoon. Larger and older raccoons can defend themselves well against coyotes.

Of interest is that the coyotes are working as a team. They look at each other and take cues from each other. One knows when it’s best to move out of the way and to step aside to let the other do the job. Also of interest is how the coyotes actually walk on top of the bushes — the bushes are much too dense for them to plow their way through with feet on the ground, but walking on top of them works!

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