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.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 13:34:18

    These videos/photos/blogs just keep getting better! Certainly seems to me that Dad and Mom were working as a team to establish territory and let the intruders know just what they thought of the situation. Could Dad also be protecting Mom by moving her and taking the dominant role? In my few sightings, I noticed the larger (male?) first came out, looked around, and then sat and waited for the smaller (female?). Somehow the smaller knew that it was safe to appear. The larger would continue to look around. Then the larger took the lead as they head out again. Coyotes seem super alert.


  2. Charles Wood
    Oct 09, 2012 @ 19:01:21

    Barbara, in theory Dad could have been protecting Mom when moving her. It is a possibility. I’m sure in your observation, the larger coyote was seeing if the coast was clear, protecting a smaller coyote. Was the smaller coyote the larger coyote’s child? Dominance/submission between a parent and child is the natural state of affairs. We expect to see a parent protect and command a compliant, well behaved child. We pray for that actually while still knowing experience is the greatest teacher. With my coyotes, between parent and child, I’ve seen the parents let a child make its mistakes without getting involved, and I’ve seen the parents get involved. What I haven’t seen is Dad acting all tough and dominant with Mom. Their power relations are more subtle. In the other video posted today, where both are walking along, Dad is encouraging and attentive when setting the pace. So it seemed to me. But my “encouraging, attentive, almost tender” may be another human’s “dominant or bossy” or “protective”. I offer that we really don’t know their state of mind. It is hard to really know what indeed we are seeing.

    For example, which of the two decided that the scrape display was necessary? The dominant alpha? Which one is that, Mom or Dad? In the case of this video, I didn’t see which one initiated the charge and subsequent display. In the past, at times Dad is the instigator. At other times, Dad seems happy to leave my dogs and me alone, happy enough to have us at a distance. Then Mom comes on the scene, seems to put her hands on her hips and insist that Dad do something. Which he then does. Either alone or with her. Of course for me, with preconceptions about one or the other having to be the boss, I’ve in the past tried to decide who is the boss between them. I’ve never been able to decide who the boss is because each seems to be able to get the other to do something they want the other to do. I describe their relationship as one in which each responds affirmatively to the other’s expression of what he or she wants. They accommodate each other. It is beautiful.

    In the scraping clip, there is a clue as to who the instigator of the scraping display was. The last part of the clip shows Dad sitting with his back to my dogs and me, attending to his personal needs. Mom sits facing my dogs and me. And she is glaring at us while Dad couldn’t care less. When Dad moved her off, he could have been saying, “Okay, dear, you started this and it has been fun. But at least allow that I finish it!”

    And so with Coyote we end up telling ourselves a story, as we have since time immemorial. I offer that we can only really know is this: the stories we tell about the natural world are important in some magical way to our own physical and psychological well-being, as individuals and as a species.


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