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.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 15:32:59

    Interesting when Mom was lactating, with associated hormonal changes, and had pups to protect she was still abit shy. Wouldn’t this be the time she was most aggressive? Here she seems protective but lacking confidence. I assume she isn’t in season yet in December. Another thought, I’ve noticed that as my dogs mature their temperaments change somewhat. Coyotes certainly aren’t dogs but wonder if it could be the same for them. For example, my neutered male lives with several intact females who dominant him. He’s very passive and now at the age of 3 is just beginning to growl a little and stand up to the female bullies. Another quite mellow female’s personality changed after having pups. With the pups, she finally stood up to the “alpha” female and that continues to this day. Surely the coyote also learned from her experiences. Could she decide that Dad is too mellow for her comfort thus she must step up to the plate? Finally, my male dogs are generally more laid back than the females although the males can be very assertive when they think it necessary. Well my observations of the dogs – and they are very unaggressive, small dogs (shelties) – aren’t scientific and I’ve no reason to believe apply to coyote. Still it makes me wonder…

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  2. Charles Wood
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 22:14:48

    Hi Barbara. It does at times look like Mom thinks Dad is too mellow at times. Also, I agree that Mom’s change may have been part of normal maturation, as Janet also commented to me in an email. I think the comparisons to dogs are helpful. I also wonder if there was any “change” at all.

    Mom when lactating, with associated hormonal changes, with pups to protect, seemed a bit shy. I would have expected her to be more assertive. Over the latter part of 2010, she may have grown into herself, may have transformed. On the other hand, she did stand in the way of my dog, 60 pounds, and me, close to 200 pounds. She is at most 30 pounds. That was brave, but not brave enough to make direct eye contact.

    Direct eye contact would have been a serious, more immediate challenge to us, in her way of thinking. I think she was wise enough to not make direct eye contact. After I took the picture of her, I stepped forward and she retreated into the brush. I couldn’t see her, but I kept moving forward with my dog Out of her hidden position, she ran towards us. She stopped short, but she had the advantage. I figured she would keep the pressure on us, being able to hide, lunge, withdraw, hide again, and lunge. We turned and left. At the time I didn’t even know she had puppies, just thought it odd that she would try and get in our way. I wanted to go where I was going, and she wouldn’t let me. I didn’t understand why. And compared to Dad, who went ballistic when soon after I unintentionally got near the puppies, Mom seemed donwright shy.

    The difference between Dad and Mom may have not been in themselves, but in their “stars”, that is, in the situation. With Mom and her “shyness”, I may have been pretty far away from the pups. With Dad, a pup was only a few yards from me and Dad went nuts. The differences between their behaviors towards me may have been totally accounted for by how close my dog and I were to the pups: outside a critical distance from the pups with Mom, and within a critical distance when with Dad. Here is a link to Dad displaying “puppy real close” behavior: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=11117050 .

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