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.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 13:56:46

    Twice watched a coyote trotting through a mowed hay field to the corn field. I’m sure the coyote saw me but decided I wasn’t all that interesting. Absolutely no one else around. Still it moved quickly heading straight to the corn but would briefly pause and look around a few times on its trek. Just hyper alert to its surroundings.

    On our game camera, are photos of a coyote checking out an ear of corn. The photos were taken at intervals from 8 pm to 1 am. It kept returning and checking out that ear of corn. Wonder was there a scent on it – maybe it was dropped by another animal which interested the coyote. It could even have been dropped by our dog. Something about the corn must have been very interesting that night. Lately the coyotes seem to be more active around the farm – more scat, howling, and foot prints. Not sure why.

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  2. Charles Wood
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 20:41:40

    I doubt there was an interesting scent on the corn. Coyotes appraise scent quickly, study and take in the information and then just move on. Maybe the ear of corn serendipitously fell on its head, or fell because the coyote jostled the stalks. Something falling from the sky would be interesting. It doesn’t happen every day. Maybe it kept coming back to see if the piece of corn would move again.

    An object new to a coyote would have an attraction. Janet has posts where a coyote happens across something different in their area and gets transfixed for a while. An ear of corn behaving differently than other ears of corn would also be interesting, although it is hard to imagine an ear of corn being anything except static. Again, just the fact that an ear of corn was out of place would in my view attract a coyote’s attention. Maybe it mostly sees corn on stalks. Then one day, an ear of corn is not on a stalk at all. It is on the ground. How does corn usually behave around coyotes? Anything unusual going on with corn would be disturbing to a coyote.

    My dog and I once were almost hit by a car while on the sidewalk crossing over a bridge. The car jumped the curb and headed towards us. We leaned back against a chain-link fence and the car missed us by about a foot. Ever since that day, for Holtz, the spot on the bridge where the car came at us has “bad juju.” He can’t believe that I would return to such an evil place. The corn may have had some juju associated with it in the coyote’s mind.

    I’ve learned the features of my coyotes’ territory, down to where the odd rocks are and down to the bushes growing newly that don’t seem to belong. My familiarity with their area is far inferior to their own. Yet I do notice immediately when something is out of place. Often that something turns out to be a coyote. With bird watching we rely on our sense of place to identify new birds. Once the local species are learned a migratory bird that shows up is easy to spot it. We feel that something is different, something is out of place, something is not quite right with a particular bird, the shape is wrong, or the beak. We look more closely and identify a bird we haven’t seen before. To the non-birdwatcher, it’s just a bird, nothing to notice. The coyote can’t tell us that if it is a corn watcher and this or that piece of corn looks different from the rest, deserves study. In truth, it isn’t a corn watcher. The coyote democratically watches everything.

    Coyotes are all about objects in places. At the very least, the coyote was taking in everything it could about an ear of corn. Meaningless to us, to a coyote, that piece of corn was for a few moments a very important part of its space.

    More scat, more howling, more footprints. It sounds like they are making themselves at home.

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  3. Charles Wood
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 21:27:39

    One other thought. My dog Holtz and I disagree about whether the bridge we crossed, where we were almost hit by a runaway car, is a safe spot or not. I think the calculated risk of crossing the bridge again is a risk worth taking. He does not think it a risk worth taking. I see him as superstitious for thinking that that a spot on the bridge has bad juju. Upon reflection, my dog may indeed know more than I do about where it is safe to walk, and where it is not safe to walk. I ask myself, why would I walk in a confined space of a sidewalk on a bridge? Why would I walk where there is no room to run away should danger suddenly loom before me? Upon reflection, I am starting to think that Holtz makes a valid point. From Holtz’s point of view, humans do incomprehensible things, like walking in spaces where there is no room to run.

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  4. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 22:56:58

    Of course, it must not have been the corn itself. Husband is harvesting corn and corn shucks are sometimes blowing in the breeze. The corn may have rolled a little. Most important, I suspect, were prints of other animals – deer and squirrels – on the same path. That may be one reason it kept returning. Also, the path is adjacent to an overgrown, vacant field. Possibly the coyote found a den there and crosses the path on its treks I’ll have to keep watching..

    Yes, animals do perceive things quite differently. I remember trying to put my husband’s horse into a stall. She balked. She wasn’t disobedience. She didn’t know me that well at the time, the stall was new to her, and the stable was dimly lit. Why should she agree to this stranger putting her into a small, dimly lit space, from which she couldn’t escape? Smart horse.

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  5. Charles Wood
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 03:57:55

    Barbara, do you have pictures to share? I was going by your first impressions, where you described the coyote as looking at the corn and returning to look at the corn. I think our first impresssions can be a good clue as to what could be going on. I’m not persuaded by your alternative explanations. Coyotes follow prints, they don’t return again and again to look at a print that is losing its information richness with each passing hour. Prints aren’t interesting to a coyote other than a quick check of who left it and where it was going. Forgive be if I belabor the point.

    Also, the prints would be all up and down that area, not just where the corn was. Why would it stop each time where the corn was? That vacant field would be interesting to a coyote. There are a lot of routes it could take to the lot. Why each time going the way that had the corn on it? And why stop each time where the corn was?

    Like I say, I think your first impression, that it was the corn, was correct. We just don’t have an explanation for it that makes any sense. Welcome to coyote watching. You are going to see a lot of that. I hope that you will send some pictures and start contributing posts here.

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  6. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 23:39:02

    Thank you again, Mr. Wood. Ms. Kessler kindly allowed to post 2 photos of the coyote under the title Coyotes on a KY Farm. Last night the camera caught what may be a different coyote on the path. Could the explanation be as simple as the path is the easiest route (I remember your post of Dad walking around the mud puddle) on its trek? Guess I need more game cameras along the path!

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  7. Charles Wood
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 11:23:11

    I’m not sure either if the third picture is of the same or a different coyote. It has a head, body and fur like the one’s I see here. That cut looks like from a fence, as you say. My coyotes use the same routes day in and day out, with some variety of course. They have established paths and your camera may luckily be on one. These are interesting photos and circumstances and I hope to see more.

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  8. Barbara knupp
    Oct 12, 2012 @ 00:59:54

    I also have a camera on another path which leads to a grassy alcove bordered by woods and the corn field. The camera often captures photos of deer and raccoons but never a coyote. More than once I’ve seen a coyote trotting near the area but wonder why the predator isn’t hanging out there. Possibly because it’s more interested in the plentiful rabbits and mice?? I’ve often thought if the coyote were eliminated we would be overrun with rabbits and mice.

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  9. Charles Wood
    Oct 12, 2012 @ 18:59:50

    Your coyotes most probably are more interested in rabbits and mice than in deer or raccoons. An adult deer would have to be taken by several coyotes and normally coyotes don’t hunt that way. I believe deer in coyote diet would come from fawns and road kill, but you would need to research that. I’ve seen my Mom coyote lying in wait as an unwary rabbit nibbled greens around her. Mostly my coyotes wander around in order to find something to eat.

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  10. Barbara knupp
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 12:10:59

    That makes sense. I’d heard that coyotes hunt deer thus wondered why I never saw one near areas where the deer regularly graze. We’ve watched a couple of coyotes hunting mice in the field by standing perfectly still over a hole waiting for the mouse to venture out then quickly scoop it up. Coyotes appear to be quite efficient mouse hunters.

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