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]

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 01:10:37

    Very informative. So surprising to see a coyote walking down the steps and along a road in town. A question – how regular are their habits? In other words, can you expect to see the coyote on the same route at the same time? Does it vary its routes much? Sometimes, when I’ve seen a coyote, I try to watch to see if it will appear in the same place, at the same time, on another day. I’ve had uneven success at that but not certain if its my amateur attempts to spot it or that they vary their paths and routines more than I thought.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 03:08:44

      Hi Barbara —

      Coyotes have a variety of routes, none of which are totally predictable by place or time — there are always variations on the theme depending on what they encounter as they move along. Having said this, they have been seen repeatedly at some locations.

  2. Charles Wood
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 07:04:06

    You are amazing Janet! I often wonder about where my coyotes are both before and after their dusk rendezvous.

    Last year I did find Dad’s late afternoon sleeping spot, near the southwest corner of the nature preserve that borders my coyotes’ field. Another resting spot is their den area, dense with brush. By fall my pack’s routine changes and they don’t appear for their rendezvous at the times I am able to visit. One reason for the change may be due to diet. In fall their scat becomes almost all seed, possibly palm although I haven’t the knowledge to be sure. One source of dates or other fruit may be the mile long nursery that runs along the river in an Edison easement. Palm fruit, when available, is known to be a significant component in the fall diet of coyotes. It may take them a bit longer to collect fruit towards fall, or they may just snooze longer before starting an evening trek.

    Reply

    • yipps
      Oct 02, 2012 @ 00:56:01

      Thanks, Charles! I’m sure that food availability is a big factor determining their routes. From the way the coyotes approached the bushes where they found the raccoon in this posting, I could tell that they knew that little rascal was around and a possible meal for them. Maybe that was the real purpose of this trek. However, I have seen treks which consisted mostly of “marking” or “watching” with very little scavenging or hunting in-between — as if they had had their fill of food already.

  3. Out Walking the Dog
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 13:50:18

    I hope coyote behavior researchers are reading your blog. It’s such an amazing resource.

    Reply

  4. Charlotte
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 18:09:05

    Love the story you tell with these photos. Great post.

    Reply

  5. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 18:17:37

    I’ve read books on wildlife, talked to hunters, farmers etc. but for me nothing replaces this site for information on the coyote. One of the benefits of farming is finding you share the land with wildlife. Coyotes are amazing as they thrive despite so many efforts to eliminate them. They are truly survivors.

    Reply

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