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.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Knupp
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 20:25:39

    Interesting. So the youngster has maybe found a mate? Will they remove Mom and Dad from the territory or will Mom and Dad reclaim it? Wonder why Mom and Dad seem to relocate for the Winter? Here the soybeans are harvested and the coyote hunts for mice which are scurrying to gather the beans left after harvest. For the first time since Summer, the game camera caught a photo of 2 coyotes in the field. Still no sign of any coyote offspring altho last winter was mild and there should be plenty of food. However, I doubt if their den was on the farm. More likely, in my mind, is a large stretch of woods separated from the farm by a road and a tobacco field. For most of the year, there is very little human activity there. I think the farm is just part of a trek in the hunt for food.


  2. Charles Wood
    Nov 23, 2012 @ 22:37:59

    Hello Barbara – I’m happy to hear that your game camera captured two coyotes. I would enjoy seeing that picture if you have time to prepare a post for Coyote Yipps. I recently read God’s Dog by Hope Ryden, who studied coyotes in the 1970’s. In her book she mentions that coyotes will also use a hollow in a tree for a den. I had previously thought that coyotes always dug a den.

    Maybe the youngster has found a mate. Just maybe. Yet if true, the situation reminds me of an anecdote in Ms. Ryden’s book. There she recounts how a larger coyote female courted the smaller love of her life. She sat on him when he displayed a wandering eye! However, I don’t even know if my yearling is a male.

    The brushy area shown in the video is the den area. I saw Mom and Dad reclaim it in February 2012, posted here . Mom and Dad have used that den area for at least four years. All I can say for sure is that during late fall and through most of winter, I don’t see my coyotes at the den area. I’m only there watching from about an hour before sunset through dusk. They could be there and not care enough about my dogs to come out. They could come after I leave. They could be a few hundred yards away resting in cover or hiding in plain sight. They could be a quarter mile away doing something else.

    I just don’t know. My coyotes don’t let me follow them around like a puppy the way Janet’s do!


  3. Gail
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 04:15:55

    Love getting up close and personal with them in your pics and videos :)
    How would you interpret her behavior at the end? To the “untrained” she seemed in stalking mode. Just curious, maybe?


  4. Charles Wood
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 11:59:53

    Thank you Gail! I’ll try and answer your question. Keep in mind that I’m not an expert in coyote body language and don’t know the proper terms to use. My experience is limited and I may have missed something.

    You are correct that she was in the stalking mode. She moved directly at my dogs. Her head was slung low. She wasn’t crouched. My dogs saw the arch in her back and her strong shoulders. She looked formidable. She took deliberate steps. Her ears were full forward, keen on gathering every hint of motion from my dogs. Each step of hers could burst a reaction out of my dogs. She was ready to act quickly had they decided to move. She was focused on my dogs’ minds, their thoughts revealed by their movements. She used her determination and her movement to make them upset, that is, more likely to flee. She could read them by how they moved. Yet my dogs were tied off and couldn’t move naturally. They couldn’t run away from or toward her.

    Not shown in the short clip is that she halted her advance at intervals. When stopped, she ponded the situation. She wondered why those dogs hadn’t made their move, how could they take this pressure? She steeled herself and began again.

    As she got closer she yawned and then sped up and cut at an angle that would have brought her in parallel to the chain link fence separating us. My guess is that she intended to get closer and then run along them and past them. That didn’t happen because I softly tossed a golf ball in her direction and because my dogs were tied off. Had they not been tied off, I strongly suspect that they all would have run the fence.

    Over time I have learned that a coyote who approaches is a coyote that should always be encouraged to go away. Had I not been intent on videoing, I would have tossed the golf ball as soon as she got the idea to approach. Her idea of an approach was communicated with her first step in our direction. The fair act on my part would have been to answer that first step with some yelling and/or a golf ball. When she turned back, the fair act would have been for me to leave the area. My view is that it was not natural for me to wait to toss the golf ball and not natural for me to stick around once she turned to walk away.

    Lastly, no, I don’t think that coyote was curious or investigatory at all. A curious coyote would have completely different body language appropriate to its intent of satisfying that curiosity through altogether different looking stillness and motion.


  5. Gail
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 16:19:45

    >>”She wondered why those dogs hadn’t made their move, how could they take this pressure?”<<

    LOL! Then it seems she was full of herself! I question this because there are coyotes in my area which is mostly rural. I hear them quite often but have not seen one in years. We have 20 acres of woods/trails and I'd really like to have it ingrained what to do in the event of a meet up, esp if one or more decides to take the same position this "girl" did. Didn't do woodswalks much this past summer/fall because I have a cat who is determined he is going with me. I don't have to explain, I'm sure. He is big, though, at 22 lbs! And the "dog" everyone would love to have: Stays by my side and is perfectly obedient. Still, I don't want to take the risk. Maybe one of these days I'll get out there without him ;)


  6. Barbara Knupp
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 18:23:58

    Agree with Gail the female seemed quite serious. However, I keep thinking she would not want to take on a man and 2 dogs unless she had pups to protect – unlikely this time of year. Think it must be a bluff. Agree that she shouldn’t get away with it – wouldn’t want her to get a wrong idea.

    I know that coyotes and an occasional wild cat pass through our farm. For that matter, we have a couple of large bucks who hang out here. I don’t know if its the best plan, but I don’t walk near brush or woods at dwn or dusk. i have a photo of the bobcat walking down a farm path at 8 am!. When walking, I carry a loud whistle, a walking stick, and my cell phone. I keep a close eye on my dog to ensure he stays out of trouble. He’s very obedient – and is mild mannered – or I wouldn’t take him with me. For the most part, I try to be alert to my surroundings. I believe Janet wrote about a rolled up newspaper as a tool. I’ve wondered whether a large umbrella might be useful as well. The few times I’ve seen a coyote, it seemed most anxious to avoid me. Of course, there is always the chance to encounter one like the female – particularly if she has pups. I’ve been told if challenged to be big and loud. Not sure what the experts would think but that has been my plan.


    • yipps
      Nov 24, 2012 @ 23:58:59

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think the coyote had any intention of approaching too close to the human with his dogs. That would be considered aberrant behavior. Aberrant behavior is often caused by disease or a severe injury. The coyote had an eye injury which may have influenced how we perceived her in the video, but I don’t think the injury was bad enough to cause aberrant behavior. And I think curiosity might indeed have had a role in her behavior: “what the heck is going on here” could easily have been on the coyote’s mind: Her approach could have involved curiosity AND being guarded — this seems logical to me. I’m only speculating — I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t think we have enough information to form a definitive conclusion about what was going on. Behavior analysis should involve what happened before and what happens after it, and we don’t have this information. Charles will be making further observations and hopefully we’ll find out what her relationship to the other coyotes and to the situation is, along with her status in the pack, if, indeed, she is part of it. Janet

  7. Charles Wood
    Nov 25, 2012 @ 03:51:57

    I think she planned to come just close enough to get the dogs involved in running the fence. Running the fence is bluster and bluff. Her stalking behavior was also mostly bluff: if she wanted to fight she would have. Also, as Janet mentions, her hurt eye is a big factor to consider. Also, the youngster may have been her own child. She certainly acted like it was a child to protect. Something was going on that was not normal. I’ve never had an unfamiliar coyote react to me and my dogs the way she did. Another factor is that I didn’t just go away when I first saw her. Had I just left I’m convinced she wouldn’t have bothered to approach. In that I didn’t just immediately leave, the incident is contrived and is not natural.


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