More On New Coyote, by Charles Wood

This post is an afterward to my post on November 23, 2012 about a new female coyote I saw on Thanksgiving. Included in that post is a segment of video where a female coyote looked like she was stalking. Here I offer additional video from that day. I hope it will better contextualize her behavior. When viewing the video, please remember my dogs are tied off and separated from the coyotes by a chain link fence.

The additional video picks up where the earlier one left off. I am back at camera after tossing a golf ball and the new female is shown going away.

After that we see where she came from. Still there, her coyote companion continued to survey the scene. (The new female is sitting down in the lower right.) Having tired of waiting for me to leave with my dogs, she apparently decided to message us again.

She walked in our direction. At that point I could easily have stomped and yelled. Had I done so, I’m sure she would have stopped and turned around. She was approaching this time with comparatively less energy, even stopping to groom. Each time she slowed down or stopped was another opportunity for me to message her. Note that as she got closer she yawned. I see coyote yawns in these circumstances as involuntarily betraying anxiety. Continuing, the new female was distracted and stopped to sniff. Again, she was not overly interested in having to message us again and her pause was another opportunity for me to move her back with a stomp or a yell. She came forward and yawned, another opportunity to move her back. Since I made no objection, she moved forward a bit. Then she stopped to appraise, and came forward more. One of my dogs began to bark. I reassuringly went to my dogs and made myself big. She responded at once and moved back to where she started.

The last segment shows the new female and her companion, now to our left. Her companion chose to be visible. She instead used a small rise to partially conceal herself from my dogs and me. Soon I could no longer see her. Her companion also didn’t seem to know where she went, my losing track of it as it looked around for her. My dogs seemed to suspect her location, but appeared to be barking aimlessly. It was dusk, getting cold, and I decided to leave.

The two coyotes were almost exclusively focused on my dogs. I think the new female wanted them to run away. Until I acted, I was just a placeholder, a possible complication. Even so, when I softly tossed a golf ball during the first approach, she immediately went away. I think she understands that she isn’t able to deal with a human. I think her second approach was consequently less vigorous than her first. From her first try, I think she learned that in this situation she indeed had to deal with a human, not just with dogs. In her second approach, I think she acted deflated. However she was able to find a dignified way to leave after the second try.

I am struck by how dependent the companion was on the new female. At first I suspected they were mates. However, their actual behavior was more parent-child than mates. For example, my Dad coyote, when Mom takes action, doesn’t stand around all flighty and looking like a gulping coward confused about what’s going to happen next. Mom, when Dad acts, is alert and in tune. The companion appeared as in training, not as a mate. It acted like her baby. She arguably acted parentally to be rid of unwelcome dogs. Just maybe the companion isn’t a yearling yet, is instead only about seven months old. If so, that would help explain a behavior that otherwise approached aberrance. The only time my Mom and Dad coyote act similarly is when they have small ones around. It is starting to look like both these coyotes are new to me, are mother and child, and were probably just passing through Mom and Dad’s territory.

Male Vocalization

This is a male coyote responding to the sounds of a siren. Doesn’t look like he’s too into it! The siren petered out quickly, and so did any enthusiasm for howling!

Male vocalizations appear to be lower pitched than females, and consist of more actual barks than howls. I’ve never heard a male sustain a tremolo the way a female does — I wonder if this is a generalizable truth, or if it is just so for the coyotes I’ve heard?

Same Place, New Coyote, by Charles Wood

The video is five clips combined. Each part shares the same setting. The first shows Mom and Dad lounging in late afternoon sun. Coyotes are territorial and they are relaxing in one of their spots.

The second clip shows one of their yearlings standing possessively over the same spot claimed by Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad share their territory with their children. It is normal for a yearling to make claims on its parents’ territory.

The third part shows Mom and Dad scraping dirt in view of my dogs. Their display tells my dogs that Mom and Dad still claim the area. Near the end of that part, a rabbit in the upper left decides to take flight.

The first three parts were taken during October 2012. I last saw Mom and Dad in that particular area late in October. I looked for Mom and Dad almost every day during this November, not seeing them. It has been their habit each year to stop coming to that area in Fall, not to be seen there again until the following Spring.

The fourth part begins with what I assume is one of Mom and Dad’s yearlings, claiming the same spot as is typical. It isn’t a formidable coyote at eighteen months and asserts itself only with a stare, of sorts. Then, out in front of the yearling walks a formidable coyote that I had never seen before.

The fifth and last part shows the new coyote approaching my dogs. It has little interest in me. I later confirmed it is a female. I don’t think it looks a bit like Mom or Dad. She just couldn’t be a sibling I missed somehow?

My two dogs were leashed and tied off to a chain link fence separating us from the approaching coyote. She wrongly thought that it was alright to test my dogs. When she got close, my dogs having begun to ineffectually bark, I softly tossed a golf ball in her direction. She backed off immediately.

The new female and the yearling eventually left the area together. The yearling had kept the new female in sight at all times, and moved towards her when the new female started to leave the area. I judged the yearling to be dependent, or subordinate to the new female. The yearling didn’t seem to have the mettle for a territorial contest and was engrossed in the new female’s actions.

Ordinarily the yearling is, or has been, subordinate to just Mom and Dad. I haven’t been able to determine if the yearling is male or female. Yet by all appearances, the new female appears to have robbed the cradle where the yearling (male??) follows her around like a puppy! I could have never imagined such an eventuality! Then again, I may really just be imagining things. Nevertheless, I haven’t a clue as to how Mom and Dad coyote might feel about the apparent romance. If the new female isn’t a sibling I somehow missed, then neither do I have a clue about how Mom and Dad feel about having an unrelated female around who acts like part of their territory is now hers.

What Do Coyotes Do When It Rains?

where is all of this coming from?

I watched coyotes for 2-1/2 hours in the rain today. For over half that time the downpour was intense. The coyotes did not leave or seek cover — they remained out in the rain, lying down most of the time! The rest of the time was spent howling due to a dog, hunting, and fidgeting.

It had been raining steadily when I first heard distressed coyote howling in the early morning. I ran to the scene of the noise where my suspicions were confirmed: a dog had interfered and a coyote was complaining loudly. The owner finally leashed her dog, and they moved out of the picture. The coyote walked briskly to a rock that formed a bluff, where it continued its distressed howling. After each spurt of howling, the coyote stopped to look around. This continued for about three minutes. Meanwhile, in the distance, a second coyote appeared. This one did not seem concerned about the howling — it looked as if it had just ambled into the picture — it stayed in the distance.

The howling ended and this coyote walked briskly over to where the second one had appeared. They both lay down, about 50 feet apart. That is where they remained for an hour and a half in the pouring rain — it was really pouring hard during this time frame!  These are some of the images I took — you can’t really see the rain, possibly because I increased the contrast to make them clearer.

After an hour and a half, the first coyote got up, stretched and wandered off to begin hunting. The rain had let up a little bit. The second coyote watched.  The minute the first coyote stopped to explore a gopher hole, the other coyote hurried over to check it out. Nothing was there, but they both continued hunting in the field for about an hour, until the third dog and walker went by. That is when they headed for cover in the bushes — they didn’t emerge again. I wondered if they had hung out in the rain specifically waiting to hunt? If so, it did not pay off. I did not see them catch a single rodent. When any dogs and their owners went by — there were few because it was still raining — both coyotes would stop their activity to sit and watch. Not until the walkers were out of sight did they resume hunting.

The images show one of the coyotes during the pouring rain. I was absolutely sure that the rain would drive them to seek cover, but it did not. The first coyote lay down higher up on the hill and remained there with its head down, resting and sleeping the whole time. But the second one — the one depicted here — appeared fidgety, like a child anxious for activity to begin. At regular intervals he looked over at the first coyote, as if waiting for that one to initiate some activity. This second one also put its head down, resting and sleeping, but not the whole time. In addition, he reacted to the rain and the situation:  licked the water on his paws, looked around a lot, raised and lowered his head often, squinted frequently to avoid getting rain in his eyes, watched the rain overhead, played with a found item for several minutes, shook the water out of his coat several times, and stretched a number of times.

shaking it out, even as it continued raining

Not To Be Seen

watching someone pass from behind a tree

This coyote very deliberately and skillfully kept itself from being seen by anyone. It’s methods included moving slowly, waiting until the coast was clear, staying behind trees or bushes, and moving next to shrubbery.

Interview by Courtney Quirin

From the Field

Connecting with: Janet Kessler, “Coyote Lady”
Interview by Courtney Quirin

“Long-time San Francisco resident, Janet Kessler has become a pioneer in the photo documentation of the lives of urban coyotes, capturing the intimate lives of that city’s coyotes for six years”.

If you would like to read more about what I do, read Courtney’s interview in the October 25th issue of  Bay Nature Connections. Thank you Courtney for a really nice interview!

Monkeys, by Courtney Quirin

Courtney recently moved to San Francisco where she is pursuing her talents as an artist and writer.

She comes to the city after studying and traveling in Ireland, New Zealand and Ethiopia — this last where she studied the impact of baboons on local farmers.

She is also an All American runner!

Please visit her website at: Courtney Illustrates.


More Play: Tug of War at Dawn

These fellas are thoroughly enjoying a play session, even though it was only for a very short spurt of time. They’ve found a piece of trash — a plastic bag — perfect for a game of tug of war. Play is always initiated with a playful jump, the “rump up” posture, running past the other enticingly, or, in this case, simply picking up the trash bag and eyeing the other daringly. The game was on!  The fun lasted for less than a minute, but it was intense and lots of fun. Then it was over and they moved on. These fellas are “buddies”: playing affirms the strong bond between them.

The invitation to play is not always responded to. That can be sad to watch: you can actually see the initiating animal “deflate”. The anticipation and excitement of a possible game create an energy and stance that are very palpable, and this just seems to drain away — like with a punctured balloon — if the coyote is ignored by the companion coyote.


Mapping Trekking Behavior #2: In An Urban Park & Woods

I’ve been mapping some trekking behavior lately. Here is a second trekking map. The mapping allows me to describe a larger, yet delimited chunk of time and space: where do coyotes go and what do they do? This trek was two hours long and covered an area of about 1/3 mile — as the crow flies — in an urban park with surrounding woods.  There were two coyotes involved.

During this two hour trek I took about 300 photos. I culled these down to 100 — but, I thought, who’s going to look at 100 photos? So I cut them down to 50 photos — but who’s going to look at 50?  Well, I needed 50 because I’m using the photos this time to tell the story — without any additional text except this introduction. Hope it works and is interesting! In summary: the coyotes explored, sniffed, marked, hunted, constantly communicated between themselves, waited for the other, avoided human and dog activity except to watch it at a great distance, played, looked around, hid, spooked at times, were wary of cars, were in the street, drank water, caught a gopher, did not catch a squirrel they went after, had a dog encounter, followed a dog. These coyotes saw 5 dogs with their owners during this trek — two of the dogs & owners did not see the coyotes. The trek included a couple of “dips” into “people” areas.

There are 50 slides, 12 of which are referenced to the 12 points on the map, so you’ll know how they fit into the trek: photos 1, 3, 15, 26, 27, 29, 32, 38, 39, 47 and 50. The lower map may be clicked to enlarge it.

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Trekking Map #2 [click to enlarge]


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